Gender Equity, Youth, and Social Inclusion

Our Approach

Global evidence demonstrates that discrimination and lack of access to opportunities can limit a person’s agency to fully participate in social and economic opportunities. NCBA CLUSA envisions a world where people have the knowledge, resources, and authority to build prosperity and well-being, for themselves and future generations. Therefore, inclusive development is crucial to ensuring all populations can fully access resources and programs that will lead to a better, longer, and healthier quality of life.

NCBA CLUSA recognizes that gender equality, youth empowerment, and inclusion of marginalized and underrepresented communities is essential for creating strong and effective international development programs. As such, NCBA CLUSA understands the critical importance of creating programs through an intersectional lens that empowers individuals, their families, and communities, regardless of identity, to transform their own societies and thus create sustainable and inclusive outcomes.

NCBA CLUSA plays a unique role in international development. For more than 65 years, NCBA CLUSA has worked in 100+ countries in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, building resilient communities, creating economic opportunities and strengthening cooperatives and producer organizations.

Our work empowers smallholder farmers, women and youth in the areas of food security and nutrition-led agriculture, climate-smart agriculture, market development, natural resources management, positive youth development, gender equality and enabling regulatory environments.

NCBA CLUSA is uniquely positioned to drive inclusive development around the world. In addition to serving as an international development organization, NCBA CLUSA is also the apex trade association for cooperative businesses in the United States. Cooperatives span all sectors of the economy and are guided by a set of universal principles and ethics. All cooperatives function under the ideals of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. NCBA CLUSA’s approach to international development is based on these values and principles of the cooperative identity. Our cooperative strategies and innovative local solutions catalyze economic and social development. We act as advocates for, and drivers of, inclusive economies.


Gender inequities can significantly impact development outcomes on an individual, family, and community level. Structural inequalities such as household gender dynamics, cultural norms, access to education and more can serve as barriers to self-reliance. NCBA CLUSA recognizes the critical importance of addressing gender dynamics in its work to empower individuals and families to reach their full potential.

NCBA CLUSA applies gender transformative approaches that emphasizes our clients as decision-makers when it comes to solving their communities’ most pressing needs. This community- led approach highlights the importance of collective action, shared values and a focus on process. NCBA CLUSA applies this approach to its work in gender integration and the way it addresses gender in building resilience, promoting economic growth, and supporting cooperative development. Advancing gender equality and empowerment is the responsibility of every staff member and community-based service provider in our projects. Individual agency and decision-making ability are a priority in all aspects of NCBA CLUSA’s work.

Beyond supporting gender integration to challenge inequitable norms and practices between women and men in its programming, NCBA CLUSA also recognizes the importance of addressing gender as part of its wider efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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Marginalized and Underrepresented Communities

In addition to engaging women and youth, NCBA CLUSA recognizes that inclusive programming must consider the needs of other historically underserved and marginalized populations as well, such as  indigenous communities and ethnic minorities, communities with high levels of migration, the LGBTQI+ community, people with disabilities, incarcerated people and returning citizens, among others. 

NCBA CLUSA’s approach to international development is based on the values and principles of the cooperative identity. These values include self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. The cooperative principles guide NCBA CLUSA’s work both domestically and internationally to support all populations in providing for themselves, their families, and communities. 

In the CDP project Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE), NCBA CLUSA is working closely with the Association of Friends of Lake Atitlán (AALA), an association of several groups of indigenous women living around the Lake Atitlán basin of Guatemala to promote effective management of recycling activities and reduce lake pollution, while also promoting women’s economic development. Over the past few years, these recycling groups have grown to 28 groups representing 965 women. 

NCBA CLUSA will support Atitlán Recicla in 2022 by helping the co-op develop a five-year strategic plan and providing additional training in cooperative governance and management. As the women embark on running and governing their own cooperative business, NCBA CLUSA aims to equip them with the necessary skills to help them sustain and grow their operations, contribute to their families’ and communities’ well-being, and protect their natural environment.

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NCBA CLUSA’s international work fosters healthy, productive and engaged youth through a Positive Youth Development (PYD) approach that builds youth assets, agency, access, contribution, engagement, and enabling environments. NCBA CLUSA primarily defines youth as aged 15 to 35, although we include an expanded definition to include children 10-14 for certain programs. 

Our expertise in entrepreneurship and enterprise development, improving livelihoods, agricultural value chains, access to finance, and cooperative development is applied with a youth lens to transform youth’s lives. We create economic opportunities for youth and strengthen communities’ resilience. In our current work, we promote: 

  • Youth leadership and engagement in civil society and local governance 
  • Youth employment and income generation 
  • Youth participation in cooperatives 

Our community-led development approach engages youth, their families, and their communities by creating a positive environment in which youth can thrive. Our programs empower youth and build their agency by providing leadership training and encouraging participation in local governance and community organizations such as cooperatives, associations, and producer organizations (POs).

NCBA CLUSA prepares youth for work and self-employment by building life and entrepreneurship skills through training and hands-on learning. We strengthen youth economic opportunities through financial literacy education, training for youth to establish their own savings and credit associations and cooperatives, and by enabling youth participation along value chains and systems.

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