Investing in Women is Simply Smart Economics
Publication21 December 2020
By Hilary Barry, Founder & Secretary General of LadyAgri
My name is Hilary Barry and I am founder and Secretary General of the LadyAgri Impact Investment Hub, a non-profit association focused on supporting women in agriculture in Africa and Small Island Developing States. Originally from Cork and living in Brussels for fifteen years, I am an Irish-European but I have an African heart. Why? Ever since my first experiences in Ghana, West Africa in 1993-1994, I decided to dedicate my career to the design and implementation of social impact programmes, a career that began the same year of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 1995, the anniversaries of which we celebrate this year. This was the first International UN Summit where a real focus was put on the systemic inequalities between women and men and their uneven access to resources.
From my different professional assignments, over 20 years of working in Africa Caribbean and Pacific, it became very clear to me that even the smallest investment in women had the most far reaching and sustainable impact. Yet, I also observed that, despite women being the backbone of agri-value chains from ‘farm to fork’, our voice is often overheard in decision-making; we rarely hold leadership roles and gender bias in many countries means we struggle to advance due to lack of access to the necessary tools, finance, and support systems. I started to ask - “why was more not being done for these women who constitute the ‘invisible’ driving force behind agri-value chains and food systems? “
In 2016, these inequalities spurred me on to start exploring avenues whereby I could create an organisation that would provide the holistic support necessary for women to thrive. By mobilising other likeminded women and men, the LadyAgri Impact Investment Hub started to materialise and take form. On 12 October 2018, my idea became reality and I launched LadyAgri with my two co-founders Ayélé Sikavi Gabiam, Togo and Aida Bakri, Ethiopian-Swiss. LadyAgri is not an ‘all woman’ group; on the contrary the strength of the association is in our diversity of gender, culture and skilled expertise all dedicated to women empowerment in agri-value chains. The LadyAgri headquarters in Brussels was inaugurated on 23rd January 2020 by Ambassador Helena Nolan. LadyAgri was also privileged to be invited to participate in the Irish Embassy’s #VisibleWomen2020 launch at BOZAR in February 2020 and to showcase some of our projects.
COVID-19 has further underlined for me that women are phenomenal ‘agents of change’ and the pillars who hold up our agri-supply chains and food systems. Therefore, by supporting them, we impact so many other issues like peace and stability, food security, child labour, girl’s education, as well as environmental protection and the fight against climate change. These key issues were also central to Ireland’s recent successful campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council. When women advance, they create a ‘rising tide’ for other women in their agri-value chains. I am very proud that LadyAgri supports women entrepreneurs who run socially responsible agri-businesses that are the cornerstones of their communities and drivers of rural development.
LadyAgri aims to change the common mind-set on how society views women in developing countries. We aim to break away from the ‘miserable’ impoverished image of women in agriculture. Instead, LadyAgri puts the emphasis on the strength and resilience of women, our innovation and our ‘never give up’ attitude! This is captured in the latest LadyAgri video: “Look through our lens”.
If you would like to know more about LadyAgri you can also visit our website If you would like to support our LadyAgri projects you can make a donation via the Friends of LadyAgri fund, kindly managed by the King Baudouin Foundation Belgium.