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Women around the world are making moves

Through community building and social enterprises, Ford is driving human progress

What do a Nigerian shuttle service, an Indian job placement program, and a South African parent empowerment initiative have in common? They’re all social enterprises created and supported by women, and they are the inaugural grantees of Ford Motor Company’s SHE-MOVES (Strengthening Her: Mobilizing Ventures for Social Innovation), a new grant program that supports community ventures benefiting women and children in those respective countries.

It’s just the latest move Ford is making in their quest to drive human progress in the 21st century. In their latest Sustainability Report, Ford reflected on two decades of progress while committing to new aspirational goals for the future. One of those goals is developing innovations that make a positive contribution to society. “We are committed to having a positive impact on the planet and the communities where we live and operate,” says Kim Pittel, Ford’s Vice President of sustainability, environment, and safety engineering. These three grantees, profiled below, are dedicated to removing obstacles, breaking down barriers, and creating paths of progress.

Inside a Zaclon training session where women develop skills needed to become drivers and mechanics. Inside a past Zaclon training session; SHE-MOVES will help women develop the skills needed to become professional drivers and mechanics.

In regions of India, Zaclon will train more than 40 women to operate and maintain vehicles, along with job placement support and instruction in self-defense and personal safety. A recent study revealed that nearly 91% of urban women in India do not feel safe using public transportation. Without safe mobility, a woman cannot have a productive career and financial independence. “This is very important work because it presents opportunities for safer rides for women,” says Alessandra Carreon, a global sustainability specialist at Ford. “They are de-stigmatizing the presence of more women in male-dominated fields.” Ford is working to ensure these women can develop their own livelihood as drivers and mechanics, while also making the streets safer for all.

Shuttlers riders not only get a ride to work but also technical training and professional development. Shuttlers riders not only get a ride to work but also technical training and professional development.

Commute times in the dense and bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, can be as long as two hours. Enter Shuttlers: a specialized service founded by women that runs commuter shuttles and vans along frequently traveled routes. With Ford’s support, they will be deploying a woman-only shuttle service that will enable women to learn from each other and network with company executives, all while commuting to work. “These programs work with people who don’t always have opportunities like you and I do,” says Krissy Guzak, a policy engineer at Ford. “It opens the resources they have available.” The riders will also gain access to technology training, furthering their opportunities for professional success.

The Uhambo Foundation's programs help parents and caregivers develop the skills needed and provide resources to communities caring for children with disabilities. The Uhambo Foundation’s programs help parents and caregivers develop the skills needed and provides resources to communities caring for children with disabilities.

The Uhambo Foundation does outreach all over South Africa, but their work for SHE-MOVES will focus primarily on rural farming communities. Their parent and caregiver programs empower communities with the skills and resources needed to ensure all children with disabilities have rights and social support. There is still significant stigma and isolation for families with disabled children, and living in agricultural communities often exacerbates these challenges. Transport is among the biggest obstacles for these families, and that’s exactly what Ford’s SHE-MOVES is working to change. “What is most exciting about this project is the fact that we will not just be delivering training programs and services,” says one of Uhambo’s occupational therapists, “but…we will also be empowering mothers as community researchers, ensuring that their voices and experiences are captured.”

Ford is partnering with the nonprofit Global Water Challenge (GWC) to administer SHE-MOVES. GWC brings together leading organizations to create universal access to safe water and sanitation worldwide. Water access is a significant component of women’s empowerment; in developing nations, women are not only the backbone of their community, but they’re also responsible for collecting and providing water for their families. This innovative partnership will provide Whole Person Leadership development for women and youth, while also supporting these women-led social enterprises through professional education, child and maternal health services, disability support services, and more.

In their own words: Get to know the women behind SHE-MOVES

These three social enterprises are just the beginning of Ford’s aspirational goal to drive human progress by providing mobility and accessibility for all. Whether it’s a young woman learning to be a mechanic in India, or professional women networking on a Nigerian shuttle, or two mothers in South Africa meeting through a support program for disabled children, these women have no plans to slow down — and neither does Ford.