There is no longer a debate about the critical role of women’s economic empowerment in terms of achieving just and stable societies and economies. With over 120 million women entrepreneurs worldwide, women-led enterprises are crucial drivers of global economic development. However, due to the fact that women are generally concentrated in low entry, low exit and low yield enterprises operating in the informal economy, they struggle to generate quality jobs. A number of barriers, many of them gender based and systemic barriers hinder their capacity to start, consolidate and grow businesses that generate decent work.
To address these challenges, policies and strategies exist to elevate women owned enterprises to the level that allows them to be economically viable and to provide decent working opportunities for women and men. These policies additionally contribute to the formalization process of many of these often informal businesses. Both governments and enterprises have a role to play in this respect. In order to contribute to their national development priorities, governments can put in place specific policies that support the development and growth of women’s owned enterprises, through e.g. women’s entrepreneurship training, business development services, access to finance, procurement , among others.
Further, measures such as increasing women-led business’ input into supply chains, establishing affirmative actions in procurement policies and greening of women-led business are examples of strategies government can put in place to increase women’s access to growth markets.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), its constituents and partners have been promoting women’s entrepreneurship development (WED) as a means to increasing job creation and gender equality for over ten years. ILO’s women’s entrepreneurship development and economic empowerment (WEDEE) programme is working to strengthen the capacity of local, national and international partners to support women to start and improve their businesses. The Programme provides a comprehensive package of tools, advisory services and capacity building through networks of local, national and international partners and consultants.
One of such women entrepreneurship development tool is the “Month of the Women Entrepreneur” (MOWE) tool which has been implemented in a number of countries (including Kenya). In Kenya the implementing partner has been the Federation of Women Entrepreneur Association (FEWA), which has consistently organized and run the MOWE activities over the last seven years, with support from ILO and other partners.
The Federation of Women Entrepreneur Associations (FEWA) is the umbrella body of all women in business, women entrepreneurs and their business associations. They exist to lobby and advocate for policy matters affecting women in business, provide capacity building and training on business development services, create linkages to markets and business development forums, provide business relevant information and offer opportunities for mentorship, all in a bid to create an enabling business environment for women in Kenya.
FEWA has been in operation in Kenya since 2008 and draws its membership from all over the country with a membership scope of over 250,000 individual business women active in all aspects of enterprise including but not limited to trade, services, agribusiness, building and construction, art and craft, manufacturing, research, development and engineering.
As the umbrella body, FEWA believes in and fosters partnerships and is aligns to key Government Ministries, The Private sector through representation and recognition in bodies such as KEPSA, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The Federation of Kenya Employers and the East African Business Council. Development partners such as the UNIFEM and ILO through the Gender Donor round table recognize our key role as does the IFC and World Bank- both at the local and International levels.
On the regional economic front, FEWA represents Kenya and sits on the board at FEMCOM, a COMESA instrument through which the critically acclaimed Africa’s 1st Ladies Round table is convened. We sit on the steering committee of the East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP) which is the gender arm of the East African Business Council (EABC). FEWA is also the World Bank partner association in EAWEExN – a network of Women Entrepreneurs from all the Eastern African countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan.
MOWE 2014 Activities
This year, the Month of the Woman Entrepreneur was observed in November. A number of activities were identified that would bring to the fore innovations and successes by women entrepreneurs, provide for policy and programme discussions targeted at creating more opportunities for women entrepreneurship to thrive and flourish as well as take advantage of the regional trading blocs such as the East African Community common market. The theme for this year was “Accessing EAC Markets through Integration of Women Entrepreneurs to Supply and Value Chains”.
The main activity during MOWE 2014 was the Business Conference for Women in Business on the thematic area, and thereafter a Gala Dinner and Award Ceremony.