Increasing women's participation in Colombia’s public procurement

The city of Palmira, in Colombia, has taken crucial steps to use public procurement to empower those who have been historically excluded from the economy, including women businesses and small and microbusinesses.


In one of Colombia’s largest agricultural regions, students were eating lentils imported from Canada at school, even as their own families were cultivating a local variety of nutritious, high-protein beans at home. That’s what Luz Adriana Vásquez, then in charge of Palmira’s government strategy and public procurement, found when evaluating the municipality’s school meal purchases in 2020.

To revamp the city’s food procurement with inclusion in mind, Luz Adriana led the implementation of an open contracting strategy. The approach promoted Palmira’s economic development, increased vendor diversity by attracting more local and women-led businesses in key sectors such as food procurement, and removed barriers to participation.

Read the full details about the four-step process developed on Open Contracting site.

Luz Adriana Vásquez, then in charge of Palmira’s government strategy and public procurement, picture in the middle, at the agriculture business round table with the community.
From a local strategy to a systemic change model

Through the open contracting strategy, the city of Palmira identified policy and process reforms to make procurement simpler, more transparent, and more data-driven and publicly reported on its progress. The reforms were part of a larger Colombian project run by Open Contracting Partnership with financing by the BHP Foundation and the UK Prosperity Programme, with additional support to document insights provided from Canada’s International Development Research Centre’s Open Data for Development program.

Local impact

Palmira is becoming the country’s reference for integrating local producers into public procurement. 

Now, the city is developing models to replicate their approach to promote the participation of women-led agricultural cooperatives in other regions.

Project's main impacts:

Country impact

Under the country-wide project, OCP worked in nine regions of Colombia to accelerate digital transformation, advance data-driven decision-making, implement gender-responsive procurement, and promote civic oversight of public procurement through hands-on technical assistance in open contracting strategies.

  • From 2018 to 2022, in target regions, the adoption of the country’s transactional electronic procurement system jumped from 15% to 94.5%. In other regions of the country, adoption was 23% in 2022 up from 8.8% in 2018.

  • Target regions also saw an increase in competition. During the project implementation, the value awarded through open processes went from 50% to 65% of total procurement spending. 

  • By the end of the program, target regions were awarding 64% more of their procurement spending through open processes than the rest of the country and the average number of bidders was 46% higher.

Broader impact

Colombia has taken important steps issuing a new law to foster entrepreneurship and a decree guiding its implementation. These legislative reforms provided for the first time a clear definition of “women-led” and “women-owned” businesses, and adopted technical measures to facilitate their participation in public tenders. For example, the 2020 law requires 30% of food to be acquired by local producers and has been a tool to promote a more sustainable and socially inclusive public market. 

The experience of Palmira and Colombia regulating, guiding and implementing inclusive and gender-responsive public procurement could serve as a model for other countries to advance greater inclusion and empowerment in global supply chains.


Open Contracting Partnership is supported by the BHP Foundation Natural Resource Governance program, a collaboration between international institutions, governments, civil society and business working across the natural resource value chain to enhance governance, reduce corruption and enable people to have agency and voice in decisions affecting them. Learn more.

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