Connecting women entrepreneurs to global opportunities
In India, a non-profit organisation is enhancing the links between women-owned businesses and global supply chains. The aim is to eventually roll out a data platform that serves and promotes women entrepreneurs from 17 other countries.
Across South Asia, women are far less likely to be employed than men, with less than a third of women holding or looking for a job, compared with 80% of men. According to the International Labour Organization, women’s labour force participation rates in India actually declined in recent years, from about 37% in 2004-05 to 31% seven years later.
As in many developing countries, Indians who are employed are more likely to work in the informal sector, where income is low and benefits and protections scarcely exist. Empowering more women to succeed as entrepreneurs is one way to address the persistent gender gap in employment and incomes.
WEConnect International is a non-profit organisation that connects women-owned businesses with international buyers, tapping a growing number of multinational firms that have committed to using their purchasing power to support women’s economic empowerment. The organisation has already played a key role in promoting women entrepreneurs in nearly 20 major markets.
In India, it identifies, educates, registers and certifies enterprises that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more women. WEConnect provides direct support to small businesses operated by women through its eNetwork, outreach events, training, networking and mentoring.
“There are so many opportunities for women entrepreneurs and business owners around the world,” says Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO and co-founder of WEConnect, “if only we can find these women and give them access to knowledge and the networks to expand their businesses from a start-up in the informal sector into something where they can create jobs for others and for their communities.”
To strengthen WEConnect’s data gathering and analysis on female-owned enterprises in India, Canada’s International Development Research Centre is supporting the organisation’s efforts to enhance women’s links to global supply chains. In a pilot initiative, WEConnect will strengthen its global brokering model with a searchable database, initially serving more than 500 micro- to medium-sized businesses in India, owned and managed by women. The IDRC support “will help build the ecosystem that women-owned businesses require for sustainable and inclusive growth,” Vazquez says. The aim is to eventually roll out a data platform that serves and promotes women entrepreneurs from 17 other countries.
Besides generating opportunities for women entrepreneurs, the project will produce new data and knowledge about women’s economic empowerment and women’s business growth in India. It will strengthen research capacities, foster peer exchange, and build a supply chain brokerage model that empowers women and can be duplicated around the world.
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