Helping Women Become Innovative Entrepreneurs
With a focus in economic development in Africa, I decided to spend my summer interning with a nonprofit organization in Ghana. The organization addressed development issues from the aspect of women empowerment, by creating a global market for the goods produced by women entrepreneurs. They were seamstresses, bead makers, and batik makers; batik is an African fabric. As a capacity building intern, part of my duty was linked directly with the women.
I coordinated and facilitated trainings, workshops and focus groups. The focus groups were organized prior to every workshop, and the feedbacks which emphasized the women’s interests and needs were used to review and evaluate the training materials. The identification of a need/business hitch was the incentive for the women to attend the workshops. These workshops spread across topics in business e.g. costing and pricing, planning e.g. goal setting, professional skills e.g. basic mathematics, health and lots more.
Education wise, the trainees ranged from no education (were an interpreter was available) to bachelors degree holder and they were between the ages of 35 – 50 years. All workshops lasted for 2 hours and were divided into two sections i.e. lecture and group work; which gave them room to clarify the workshop topics in their native language. Follow ups were made after every workshop/training to assist these women in areas of difficulty and also reinforce the lessons gained from a workshop.
These trainings were very beneficial to the women because it kept them on track. For example, the smart goals workshop inspired the women to dream big and move out of their comfort zone. They believed more in themselves and in their businesses, and were ready to take on bigger projects. With constant motivation, and support, their plans, desires and dreams overtime will come to pass.
Aside from the barrier in direct communication, a major challenge was the lack of innovation. The cause of this lack is linked to so many things; lack of education, the dependency syndrome that most African women have; which is looking to others (especially the men) to solve their problem, and finally the thought system; that women should not be so empowered that she becomes a threat to the men. We addressed these issues during the follow up sessions and were successful to some extent to influence their thinking.
My perspective on the need for well trained women entrepreneurs is similar to that of the World Bank’s theory; countries which promote women's rights enjoy lower poverty rates, faster economic growth and less corruption than countries that do not. "The evidence shows that education, health, productivity, credit and governance work better when women are involved."
I believe that the most effective way for women to realize social and economic justice is to achieve economic independence through self-employment. Empowering women through income generation enhances both their self-esteem and their ability to participate in decisions that affect them within the home and community. Women who are presented economic opportunities ensure their basic survival and the survival of their children through increased access to food, housing, security, healthcare, education, and justice, which in turn reduces poverty.
Finally, in Kofi Annan’s words “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”.
This is the third in a series of blogs about Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship, produced by Pearson and The Global Business School Network (GBSN).
GBSN is a nonprofit organisation that works to address development challenges through management education. With 60 leading business school members on 6 continents, GBSN works with businesses, schools, governments and development agencies to strengthen the pool of business and management talent in the developing world. For more information visit gbsnonline.org and follow on Twitter (@gbsnonline)