INCLUDE Platform

Policy making and programming on women’s entrepreneurship development needs to focus on improving the equality of opportunities between women and men and on reducing the gender bias and the gendered risks and vulnerabilities that women entrepreneurs face. This is the main recommendation from the new paper ‘Gender-Aware Women’s Entrepreneurship Development for Inclusive Development in Sub-Saharan Africa’ by Saskia Vossenberg for INCLUDE.

Policies that take into account the specific constraints on, and requirements of, women entrepreneurs will support women entrepreneurs to be drivers of inclusive development, says Vossenberg. ‘Promotion strategies for women’s business growth, increased income and improved productivity need to be systematically integrated with strategies that reduce women’s vulnerability to poverty, redistribute resources, and combat inequality, violence and exclusion.’

Policy, therefore, has to be based on the ‘practical and strategic needs and aspirations’ of women entrepreneurs. For this, policy-makers need to be more aware of ‘the socially- and historically-constructed identities, roles, power relations and modes of action assigned to men and women’, writes Vossenberg. Also important is investment in women’s business associations.

In another recent paper on women and inclusive development for INCLUDE, ‘Making Social Protection Gender Sensitive for Inclusive Development in Sub-Saharan Africa’, Julie Newton argues that it is also necessary to apply a gender lens to social protection policies to reduce inequality between men and women and make development more inclusive.

You can download the paper ‘Gender-Aware Women’s Entrepreneurship Development for Inclusive Development in Sub-Saharan Africa’ by clicking on the link below.

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Maggie Kigozi

2016-03-29 12:03


I have been working since the year 2000 on encouraging women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and other women to start businesses to earn an income. I was at this time the Executive Director of the Uganda Investment Authority, a government institution whose role is to promote, facilitate and advocate for investment in Uganda. By informing, building capacity and entrepreneurship skills and networking the women we made some progress. What was limiting our success was failure to recognise the complex gender dimension for women in Africa trying to do business.

This paper by Saskia Vossenberg has clearly looked at WIB by questioning and talking to actual WIB in Africa. Saskia also went ahead to look at existing studies for relevant information. She brought in work from the gender dimension which had never been studied before in relation to business. She was then able to make some reccommendations for the sustainable development of WIB.

The recognition that some women own small businesses (survival entrepreneurs) and do not plan to grow is important. The failure to recognize this large percentage of WIB in the informal sector and the reasons why they cannot grow their businesses has reduced the impact of our gender blind traditional solutions of providing Individual BDS. The study advises’Developing women’s entrepreneurship as a driver of inclusive development requires a gender lens leading to integrated strategies that promote enterprise development and combat inequality and exclusion with well targeted instruments that conform to the needs and wants of women entrepreneurs’. The study looks at inclusivity, gender and importantly the needs of the WIB.

Although much research work has been done in this area of women economic empowerment none before has linked economic empowerment with women’s rights. In my paper presented at the INCLUDE knowledge platform meeting I identified that WIB lack information, have limited access to land and property and fail to network largely because of cultural gender roles and responsibilities. This research has been able to study this and bring out issues over and above the traditional policy reforms, Financing, BDS and market access.

Gender has been defined according to West and Zimmerman 1987. Gender can be seen as a powerful ideological device, a structure that shapes, defines, limits and legitimizes the choices, behavior and roles assigned to men and women. It is different for different communities.

The study shows that entrepreneurs are socially embedded human beings who have a gender, body, class, age, family, religion and ethnicity and live within specific historical, social, economic or geographical context. WIB support must therefore apply a gender lens to identify and disclose inequalities and to address them. A number have been identified including motherhood, home care work, work home balance, the feminization of responsibility and obligation, domestic violence etc. WIB operate in patriarchal societies which are biased towards men. Surprisingly even formal institutions which are the political and economy related frameworks and informal institutions which are the norms, values and attitudes of communities prescribe expected and appropriate behavior, duties and tasks for men and women. When I took over as CEO of the Uganda Investment Authority there were no Women investors. I had to insist and form the UIA Women Entrepreneurs Network to encourage women to license their businesses and benefit from a government institution supposed to support them.

That was part of Gender Aware policy making and programming responding to the needs of the WIB.
The study also recognizes WIB are not homogeneous and one needs to ask what works for whom. I worked mostly with the gazelles who responded very well to information, entrepreneurship skills, financial literacy and networking. The very poor need more and therefore tailored solutions like cooperatives work well for them. WIB associations are also beneficial providing support and opportunities for them.

Technology as a tool for WIB needs more study as it opens new doors that are gender friendly for the time short WIB and the slow bureaucratic government business support institutions.

The four recommendations to put gender aware policy making and programming for entrepreneurship development into action, if put into action by all players, will achieve the fast economic empowerment of WIB that the SDG’s have promised by 2030.

The research recognizes the need for more research on this complex area. The need to be more targeted has been stressed through out the study but this brings more challenges to policy makers and implementers.

This study on Gender Aware Entrepreneurship Development has brought to the Economic Empowerment agenda the inclusion of women’s rights and discriminatory gender effects on WIB. A gender lens must be used while developing strategies, policies and programs.

I thank the researcher Saskia Vossenberg, the INCLUDE Platform, the Gender Resource Facility and the Ministry of foreign affairs.

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