Every year, Atlas Network’s Templeton Freedom Award Prize Program, generously sponsored by the Templeton Religion Trust, honors and rewards think tanks around the world through six Regional Liberty Awards. Nkafu Policy Institute (Cameroon) is the winner of the 2022 Africa Liberty Award and will take home the US$7,000 prize. Their ongoing work helps lift women out of poverty by educating them on their property rights and challenging the cultural biases that discourage them from exercising those rights.
When Nkafu Policy Institute founded their Small Business and Entrepreneurship Center in 2016, they discovered that women face many more challenges to starting and operating a business than men do. Cultural norms often require that women get their husband’s approval before opening a bank account or registering a business, for example, even when these expectations are not in the law. These extra hurdles hurt women trying to support their families and are part of the reason many families remain in poverty.
Through several Atlas Network-supported projects and in collaboration with government ministries such as the Ministry of Women Empowerment, Nkafu Policy Institute has worked effectively over the past several years to eliminate policy and cultural barriers to women’s entrepreneurship. They have worked especially hard to increase women’s access to capital and the banking system. The institute has also helped bring to light the limitations of Cameroon’s small business support systems and helped identify plans for improvement. Their work has improved the livelihoods of thousands of Cameroonian women and made it easier for them to chart independent paths for their own lives.