WED Cadre

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Today, more and more women entrepreneurs are starting businesses and they now account for a quarter to a third of all businesses in the formal economy worldwide. However, the great majority are very small or micro enterprises with little potential for growth. Otherwise, women entrepreneurs are under-represented in enterprises of all sizes, and the bigger the firm the less likely it is to be headed by a woman.

Societal attitudes and social beliefs inhibit some women from even considering starting a business, while systemic barriers mean that many women entrepreneurs stay confined to very small businesses often operating in the informal economy. This not only limits their ability to earn an income for themselves and their families but restricts their full potential to contribute to socio-economic development and job creation. The World Bank’s World Development Report 2011 suggests that productivity could increase by as much as 25% in some countries if discriminatory barriers against women were removed.

Removing these barriers, such as discriminatory property and inheritance laws, cultural practices, lack of access to formal financial institutions, and time constraints due to family and household responsibilities, will create greater opportunities for sustainable enterprises run by women. This in turn will contribute to women’s economic empowerment and gender equality as well as helping to generate sustainable growth and jobs.

While removing barriers is essential, investment is equally vital. Investing in women is one of the most effective means of increasing equality and promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Investments in women-specific programmes can have significant knock-on effects for development, since women generally spend more of their income on the health, education and well-being of their families and communities than men do. While targeted measures can bridge the gap for women, it is also essential to remove discriminatory aspects of economic and social policies and programmes that may impede women’s full participation in the economy and society.

Group of International Labour Organisation (ILO) women’s entrepreneurship development experts qualify

Nine experts in women’s entrepreneurship development were certified by International Labour Organisation in 2012.

All the experts are certified as competent by the International Labour Organization’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality- Southern Africa (WEDGE-SA) project, which was funded by the Norwegian Agency for development cooperation (Norad). This means that they have the capacity to train others and offer specialist technical advice in promoting women entrepreneurs and gender equality in small enterprise development.

Their certification is the culmination of two years of rigorous training and practice in subjects relevant to developing a conducive environment for women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and create decent jobs. Their areas of expertise include subjects such as ‘Action my Business Growth, Building Women Entrepreneurs’ Associations, Women Entrepreneur Capacity Building and Expand Your Business. The experts come from different support business organizations.

Grania Mackie the Chief Technical Advisor of the WEDGE-SA project suggests that this group of experts is unique in Southern Africa, if not the continent. ‘One challenge that we kept coming up against in Southern Africa is the argument that there is not National capacity in women’s entrepreneurship development. These experts now form a cohesive and technically excellent network that represent ten years of the ILO’s experience in women’s entrepreneurship development in Africa.’