“Women Arise!” That’s the slogan of the upcoming International Labour Organisation (ILO) “Month of the Woman Entrepreneur” (MOWE) seminar to be held in August in Lesotho.
The theme for the meeting is “Empowering women entrepreneurs to transform their communities”.
The International Labour Organisation has been active in the field of developing entrepreneurs under its Small Enterprise Development programme (SEED) for many years.
After realising the unique challenges that women including those with disabilities face in starting and running their businesses, it formed another programme, Women’s Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality (WEDGE) which started in 2001.
MOWE which falls under WEDGE is already running every year in a number of African countries including South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
The MOWE celebration involves numerous national events such as media campaigns, workshops, exhibitions, gala dinners and business clinics.
Realising the important role that the private sector has to play in women’s entrepreneurship development, ILO has structured MOWE in a way that involves the sector in a big way.
The organising committee has representatives from both the private and public sectors and one of the key activities underway is to engage corporates to become partners in the activities scheduled for MOWE.
Women form a huge and important customer base for local companies in financial services, telecommunications and retail especially food and clothing.
Research also shows that customers, especially women form emotional attachments with certain brands and can stick with them even when other brands appear cheaper.
In my view these attachments can be strengthened in innovative ways which create a win-win situation for the woman and the company involved.
MOWE presents such an opportunity for innovation in a way in which the local private sector can engage with women during the August MOWE celebrations.
One cost effective way could be for a bank to run a training workshop for its small to medium-sized business clients which are women owned.
The ILO has a long list of training packages which select independent individuals who are certified to train in various programmes and these range from Start Your Business (SYB) to Improve Your Exhibition Skills (IYES) and many more.
Service providers can also participate in the business clinic, a day on which they book a stand and can be easily accessible to women. Companies can also simply schedule other pre-planned activities to run in August and be part of MOWE.
I think engaging existing and aspiring women entrepreneurs in this way is already in line with some of the local companies’ group policies.
In South Africa Nedbank and FNB hold workshops for women entrepreneurs throughout the country.
FNB is particularly active in the Global Entrepreneurship Week held in South Africa in November each year.
Another private sector corporate that is active in developing entrepreneurs is South African Breweries (SAB) with its KickStart programme for the youth now in its 15th year in South Africa.
Others with good ideas include SANLAM which on June 9, has arranged for entrepreneurs to hear and learn from top speakers at their Entrepreneur of the Year Business Workshop Series to be held at Monte Casino.
MOWE in Lesotho has five objectives, including “Renewing the commitment of stakeholders towards the promotion of women entrepreneurship development” and “Showcasing women entrepreneurs as role models.”
The campaign is scheduled to run on radio, television and in print from June until the end of August.
The last couple of years have seen a renewed interest in women and their issues by both the private and public sectors in Lesotho, taking the form of events and other business opportunities.
There is potential to take this commitment to another level and ILO/MOWE presents such an opportunity.
Women only need rise to this call for action to transform themselves and their communities.
R J Khoza, in his book Let Africa Lead, summed it up quite nicely, when he wrote:
“If not us then who?
If not from Africa, then where?
If not now, then when?
If not for Africa and humanity, why not?
Let us rise to this challenge.
It is our date with destiny.”
More information on ILO/MOWE can be obtained from the coordinator on email@example.com or ILO/WEDGE on firstname.lastname@example.org