Women entrepreneurs share their climb to success

A new UNCTAD publication looks at what it takes to boost women-led businesses in challenging times.

Mozambican native Yuniza Ali Isofo runs a construction business she founded to make progress in what is traditionally seen as a male-dominated industry.

Celebrating women’s entrepreneurship, UNCTAD launched on November 21 a publication entitled “Women in Business, Building Purposeful Enterprises Amidst Crises.”

It tells the story of 21 women from developing countries who have overcome countless challenges to create successful businesses and have been trained through UNCTAD’s flagship capacity building program, Empretec.

“I hope the stories of these 21 ‘Empretec Heroes’ and their ingenuity and resilience in the midst of crisis will be a source of inspiration for women and girls looking for role models and hope in these turbulent times,” said the UNCTAD Secretary-General. Rebecca Greenspan said.

Empretec has trained more than half a million entrepreneurs from developing countries since 1988. The program currently has 41 national business development centers around the world, with 40 international master trainers and 600 local certified trainers.

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Overcoming gender stereotypes

This publication shows that personal entrepreneurial competencies are key to expanding businesses and taking them in new directions.

“If you want to change the world, you must first change yourself,” said Yuniza Ali Issoufou, who founded ConsMoz, a dynamic construction company in Mozambique.

Family support is also important when starting and maintaining women entrepreneurs’ businesses.

Joyce Kyalma from Uganda owes her success to her father who provided her with a quality education. She has started a pumpkin business called JOSMAK International from scratch, helping rural women feed their families and increase their income.

Driven by social responsibility

These women entrepreneurs kept communities close to their hearts as they expanded their businesses.

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Rosana Marques, founder of Ouseuse, a lingerie company based in Juruaia, Brazil, wanted to create a business that would serve the community and create job opportunities.

Started as a two-person business in 1994, the company has grown exponentially, turning Juruaia into a lingerie capital with a large number of local women in its workforce.

Kayan Mutashav, an Indian biochemist, got into agribusiness because of his deep concern for food security.

His company, LivRite Foods, trains farmers to improve beekeeping techniques so they can make a year-round income.

Women support each other

With entrepreneurship in her DNA, Zambian Angelica Magdalen Ramsay founded Angel Bites, which started as a takeaway food delivery business and later blossomed into a multi-product store selling local produce.

Having overcome gender bias to achieve success, she is determined to pass on her knowledge to help nurture young women entrepreneurs.

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Fatou Gaye, who created the Gaye Njorro Skills Academy in Gambia, also supports young women entrepreneurs.

If a woman is supported, a nation is built. Because one woman will support another and anyone she meets, Ms. Gay said.

The world needs more women entrepreneurs

Despite some progress, women’s power in business is limited. Previous UNCTAD estimates showed that between 2010 and 2019, 68 percent of companies worldwide were not owned by women, while only 16 percent were.

Estimates show that such under-representation can reduce economic growth and decent employment, and lost income due to women’s inactivity in business can reach up to 30 percent of GDP in countries with wide gender gaps.


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