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Women for Resilient Cities

Status: Completed
  • Lead Organization

    The World Bank.




    IE Business School, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), Center for Mediterranean Integration.


    Countries Targeted


    Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia.



    • Managing disaster risks is one of the most complex development challenges in the MENA region. Floods, earthquakes, and droughts represent serious challenges to growth and stability in the region. Vulnerabilities have increased across the region, with risks particularly high in urban areas as a result of rapid urbanization, conflict, massive influx of refugees, population growth, unplanned urban development, scarce water resources and arid climates.
    • The MENA region has the highest gender inequalities in the world. Socially constructed gender roles contribute to differences in the vulnerability of women and men. Evidence shows that in societies where economic and social rights are equal for both men and women, disaster-related fatalities between both sexes do not differ significantly.


    Program Objective

    The Women for Resilience Program (W4R) aims at empowering women in tackling urban risk and building resilience in cities across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The Program selects high growth ventures-developing products and services that serve resilience goals- and helps them achieve financial sustainability and scalability by offering capital and advisory services. The Program also seeks to harnesses existing private sector actors as drivers and facilitators of change to support gender-informed resilience-building activities.


    Selected Results

    As part of its activities in the region, the Program has piloted a startup competition in Beirut, Cairo and Djibouti as of January 2015. The three cities were chosen based on their vulnerabilities and demand of DRM services from the stakeholders and decision makers. Women-led teams from the participating cities submitted start-up business solutions to an identified urban risk.

    • Innovative approaches and solutions generated: More than two hundred teams, including women and men, presented start-up proposals. After careful due diligence and selection, thirteen teams qualified for the semifinalist level. The semifinalists’ proposals tackled resilience challenges across various sectors including energy, waste management, informal settlements, transport, refugee management, water security and preventive healthcare. Projects that qualified for the semifinal include:
      • A social enterprise that provides sustainable, affordable and durable housing units for slum vulnerable dwellers.
      • A startup that provides biomass to be used as an alternative energy source for high fuel consuming industries such as cement factories.
    • Deepened knowledge: The semifinalist female team leaders attended a workshop in Resilience, Design Thinking and Lean Startup in June 2015. The workshop introduced the participants to the concept of resilience outlining key regional resilience challenges and opportunities that can be tackled through business solutions. The workshop was comprised of active learning activities on Design Thinking & Lean Startup with a supplementary resilience component to each activity.
    • Improved network or contacts with other experts: Participating early-stage female entrepreneurs benefited from networking and one-on-one advice from the professionals with experience in resilience issues and business. Using a gender lens, the program enabled exchange on resilience, business models challenges and solutions. It provided the participants with a gender focused peer-learning platform to voice their needs, learn from already successful female-led ventures and learn from mistakes.


    The semifinalists were matched with mentors who supported them in refining their business plans and provided further advice and direction on how to improve their products and services while rendering their city more resilient.


    Based on the results and the uptake of the ongoing pilot, in its Phase II, the Program will roll its activities over to more than ten cities in the region.