Giving Women’s 7th Annual Conference

Economic Autonomy for Women at the Bottom of the Pyramid



Every year Giving Women organises a conference which focusses on a particular theme. This year we decided that it is time to take a critical and deep look at livelihood creation for women at the bottom of the pyramid, identify the best practices and understand the reasons for the slow progress of women up the economic ladder. We will address issues such as the limitations and opportunities of vocational training leading to employment versus access to finance and enterprise development.

The Giving Women conference is a half-day event with an attendance of approximately 120- 150 participants from the philanthropic, business and development worlds.

The purpose of the conference is to address a broad audience and expose what is happening in the area of women’s livelihood creation, show best practices, and bring different actors together from UN and International organisations, NGOs, Civil Society and private sector to inform, share, reflect and act.




We’ll provide an overview of effective programmes addressing the economic empowerment of women in various contexts across the globe. How have women’s lives changed and how have their families and communities benefited? We will explore the challenges, opportunities and key learnings to transform vulnerable women at the bottom of the pyramid into economic actors. We will see how giving women economic autonomy can lead to significant improvements not just for themselves, but for their families and communities.



We’ll highlight some of the innovative and successful projects that have developed livelihoods for women. Our panellists will share stories from projects and women and try to distil key learnings from their work and suggest what they believe is needed to effectively empower women economically.



What else do women at the bottom of the pyramid require to engage in economic activity? Beyond technical support, financial services and markets, this panel will reveal some of the important obstacles that hold women back: e.g. their families, their self-confidence, appropriate infrastructure, access to healthcare and childcare, a voice in the political process, etc… How do we overcome these important barriers to truly emancipate women economically?



Following the break out panels the participants will reconvene for a short film followed by testimonials from women who have benefited from economic empowerment. We will hear about one organisation that ties in many of the key elements to support sustained improvements in the lives of those at the bottom of the pyramid.


Musimbi Kanyoro

President and CEO, Global Fund for Women


Orsola de Castro

Founder and Creative Director, Fashion Revolution

Xenya Cherny-Scanlon

Strategic Communications Partnership Committee Manager, UNOPS

Catia Cesari

Operating Partner, TAU Investment Management


Olga Miler

Managing Director, Global Program Architect, UBS


Leslie Johnston

Executive Director, C&A Foundation


Aruna Kashyap

Senior Counsel, Women's Rights Division, Human Rights Watch






Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro is President and CEO of Global Fund for Women. She is an activist for women and girls’ health and human rights, and passionate about using philanthropy and technology to drive social change.

Born in Kenya, Musimbi traces her passion for human rights, peace, and justice to her Quaker family and community. She is one of 10 children – every daughter given the same educational opportunities as the sons. “I want the same for every girl and woman, no exceptions,” Musimbi has said.
Musimbi’s early work focused on the self-determination of African peoples and the abolition of apartheid in South Africa. She was a national student leader who quickly took leadership on a wider stage, serving on United Nations and other International and Ecumenical Youth Forums, including an early role as an Executive Secretary for the Lutheran World Federation.In 1998, Musimbi was appointed general secretary (CEO) of the World YWCA, the first non-white woman to hold the role. She made the organization a go-to organization for young women’s leadership and for HIV prevention and care. She also transformed the World YWCA into a young-women-led organization, with young women under 30 making up 55% of the Global Board of trustees.Before joining Global Fund for Women as CEO, Musimbi was Director for Population and Reproductive Health at David and Lucile Packard Foundation, managing the $30 million grantmaking portfolio.

During her time at Global Fund for Women, Musimbi has seen the organization surpass $100 million in grantmaking and spearheaded a successful merger with another non-profit. She continues to expand the organization’s influence through her frequent contributions to major media outlets and many speaking engagements in prominent global forums.Musimbi has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Texas, Austin, and a doctorate in Feminist Theology from San Francisco Theological Seminary. In 2014, she was named one of the 21 women leaders for the 21st century by Women’s E-News. In 2015, Forbes magazine named her one of 10 women “power brands” working for gender equality.







Orsola de Castro is an internationally recognised opinion leader in sustainable fashion. Her career started as a designer with the pioneering upcycling label From Somewhere, which she launched in 1997 until 2014. 

Her designer collaborations include collections for Jigsaw, Tesco, Speedo, and 4 best selling capsule collections for Topshop from 2012 to 2014.In 2006, she co-founded the British Fashion Council initiative Estethica at London Fashion Week, which she curated until 2014. 

In 2013, with Carry Somers, she founded Fashion Revolution, a global campaign with participation in over 100 countries around the world. Orsola is a regular key note speaker and mentor, Associate Lecturer at UAL, as well as Central Saint Martins Visiting Fellow.






Having earned her Master’s Degree in International Relations at Moscow’s MGIMO University, Xenya has worked for over 12 years with major international organisations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and WWF, across three continents — in Australia, Kenya, Russia and Switzerland — on promoting greener ways of living.  A seasoned communicator with a thorough knowledge of sustainability and CSR issues, she has managed global communications campaigns, developed internal and external sustainability initiatives, advised CEOs on institutional risks and opportunities, and reported for a major news agency. Xenya is now bringing together her two passions — fashion and sustainability — in her blog, which has a vision of "putting glam into green”. She serves as a sustainable luxury and fashion expert, writer and researcher. Her recent paper on the contribution of wildlife to the luxury industry was included in the first-ever academic publication on this subject entitled “Sustainable Luxury: Managing Social and Environmental Performance in Iconic Brands” (Greenleaf Publishing, October 2014).






As Operating Partner of TAU Europe, based in Geneva, Catia is focused on deal origination, due diligence, and post-investment transformation improvements of TAU’s European investments. A fashion, beauty, and luxury industry professional, Catia contributes a unique combination of Direct Investment, Sustainability, and Change Management expertise spanning over 20 years, within GE, Gucci Group, JAB Holding, and Private Equity across US, Europe, Japan, and China. She strongly believes in sustainability, ESG transparency and responsibility as a catalyser and a cultural pillar to foster innovation.




Olga is a global marketing expert working on the edge of innovation. She has been with UBS for nine years in Global Ultra High Net Worth Philanthropy and later in Wealth Management Marketing, where she led the European marketing function. She has over 15 years’ experience in strategic change, client experience and digital innovation. Olga has been recognized for her transformational achievements with the UBS ‘Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Award’ and ‘Innovator of the Year 2016 Award’. After graduating from University of St. Gallen, she held international leadership roles in PricewaterhouseCoopers and Nestlé before joining UBS.
Olga is one of the founding members and global program manager of the UBS Wealth Management female program, ‘UBS Unique’. This five-year change program aspires to enhance UBS Wealth Management services for female clients globally, increase the financial confidence of one million women by 2021 and drive change across the industry to make financial services more accessible for women. ( #ChangingFaceOfWealth).







Leslie Johnston joined C&A Foundation as its first Executive Director in late 2013 and brings over 20 years of management experience across multiple sectors, including smallholder agribusiness, entrepreneurship and corporate philanthropy. At C&A Foundation, Leslie led the development of the foundation’s first global vision, mission, and strategy, anchored on making fashion a force for good. She oversees team of over 50 people in nine countries and a grant budget of over EUR 50 million, working to improve lives and livelihoods across the foundation’s five signature programmes.

Prior to this role, she managed the Swiss-based Argidius and COFRA Foundations, committed to helping enterprising people to help themselves. As the Deputy Director for TechnoServe in West and Southern Africa, she co-managed a $20 million portfolio and a diverse team. She also has top-tier management consulting experience, having worked for McKinsey & Company in DC and South Africa. She holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a double Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy and French from University of California at Berkeley.

Leslie currently serves on the boards of Fashion for Good B.V., COFRA Foundation, GoodWeave International, CottonConnect, and the Organic Cotton Accelerator.



Aruna Kashyap is a lawyer who works as senior counsel for the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. Her work focuses on women’s labor and economic rights and violence against women, as well as on corporate accountability and labor rights in global supply chains, with a focus on the apparel industry. Previously, she researched and litigated in India with a leading legal aid nonprofit, India Center for Human Rights and Law. There, she worked on juvenile justice, sexual abuse, and children’s rights to education and food. Kashyap has a law degree from National Law School of India University, Bangalore.