Supporting Ugandan Women entrepreneurs to improve business and export growth
Supporting Ugandan women entrepreneurs is crucial, as they face major obstacles when trying to develop their business and export their products. From 23rd to 25thNovember 2015, WOUGNET organized, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO), a workshop for women entrepreneurs on cross-border trade. 30 women entrepreneurs, with some members coming from remote areas of Uganda, took part in this training. The training aimed at:
- Raising awareness among women entrepreneurs on trade rules and regulations in the East African Community (EAC) in order to be able to export their goods or services;
- Helping women improve the design and marketing of their products in order to make them more attractive;
- Training women in the use of Information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the cross-border trade.
Among the participants, only two had already sold their goods abroad. According to them, the main obstacle for women entrepreneurs when doing cross-border trade is their lack of information on export rules and regulations. For example, one participant had once gotten her goods confiscated at the border, because she was not aware of the rules and regulations. Being on average less literate than men and less connected to the Internet, women often find it hard to access this type of information. This lack of information makes women entrepreneurs more likely to face corruption and harassment. The same participant said that an Immigration Officer had promised to return her confiscated goods if she agreed to spend the night with him. This brings out the challenges that women face during cross border trade including sexual harassment. Social and cultural factors also curtail women entrepreneurs’ capacity to develop their businesses, as they sometimes face negative attitudes from their spouses or communities. More generally, due to family obligations, women entrepreneurs have less time and energy to dedicate to their business than men, and most women have higher levels of business discontinuity.
However, creating small and growing businesses which are driving job creation and development in their communities, women entrepreneurs are major actors of progress and development in Uganda and in other developing and emerging economies. WOUGNET’s action to empower women entrepreneurs is therefore crucial. During this 3-day training, the participants learned about trading rules within the East African Community; promoting their products/services through ICTs; as well as improving the design of their products and developing marketing strategies. Sharing experiences and pieces of advice during the workshop, the participating women entrepreneurs were truly inspirational.
Compiled by Marion Dauvergne, WOUGNET Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy Programme – Volunteer
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