Women entrepreneurs in developing countries face challenges in the business world (en)

15 September 2014
ITC News
Improving business prospects for women can help make a difference, says Ethiopia’s First Lady

Women in developing countries have less access than men to productive resources, services and opportunities, putting them at a disadvantage in participating in and contributing to socio-economic growth.

The First Lady of Ethiopia, Roman Tesfaye Abneh, made this point in her address to delegates at the Fifth Senior Executive Roundtable on Sourcing from Women Vendors. The event, organised by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Kigali, Rwanda, on 15 September 2014, brought together more than 200 women entrepreneurs from around the world to discuss opportunities and challenges in trade development, including access to public procurement contracts.

The First Lady said that while Ethiopian women initiate new businesses at twice the rate of men, they find it harder to expand their enterprises because they operate largely in the informal sector. She stated that women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face difficulties in getting access to finance and land, have poor managerial skills and limited opportunities for business development training and networking.

‘The restricted movement of women due to the assignment of the reproductive role to women, high workload and unpaid labour, lack of decision-making in the household and subordination has kept most Ethiopian women trapped in poverty,’ said Ms Abneh.

‘Economic empowerment of women plays a pivotal role in ensuring their right to equality and to an adequate standard of living, and it should be the prime agenda in every development discourse.’

The First Lady said the government of Ethiopia, in collaboration with the private sector and development partners, has been taking measures to address the inequality and discrimination faced by women entrepreneurs. This includes the establishment of micro and small enterprise agencies to support and enhance entrepreneurship and production capacity of these enterprises which will benefit women who often start their businesses on a small scale.

Ms Abneh said she is a strong supporter of the Centre for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) in Addis Ababa which aims to connect 1500 women to the export market by assisting them in developing marketable skills and creating sustainable employment opportunities. CAWEE is a partner of the ITC’s Women and Trade programme to promote the economic empowerment of women.