Women and finance: ILO closes gap

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THE week of November 14-20, 2011 is Global Entrepreneurship Week and about 120 countries all over the world will be holding hundreds of events to mark the occasion.

Started in 2008 by the former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the Kauffman Foundation (www.unleashingideas.org) it has grown into a global powerhouse of celebrating people who put ideas into action and create jobs.

South Africa is one of the few African countries which hold events during that week and each year corporate partners team up with official hosts Endeavour SA (www.endeavor.co.za) to promote entrepreneurship.

In Maseru, to coincide with this important week, the International Labour Organisation will be hosting a one day event to address the challenges women face in accessing credit or insurance.

Scheduled for November 17, the event titled, Women and Finance will allow women to access information from financial service providers in the insurance, banking and micro-finance sectors.

The stands will be open to the general public so men will be able to benefit from the information access too.

However because the main focus for ILO is women’s entrepreneurship development, there will be a closed workshop in the morning finishing off with lunch during which women will interact with service providers on issues such as how to put together a bankable proposal.

Opening up the lines of communication between women and service providers such as Nedbank Lesotho, Metropolitan Lesotho and Moliko Finance will do two important things.

It will not only demystify the process of accessing some of the financial products but it will enable the service providers to appreciate the issues facing women entrepreneurs and tailor their business strategies accordingly.

The adjustments need not involve a totally different product for women at all.

Rather, it is a different way of approaching this untapped segment by getting to know where to find these women, where they are currently getting funding, if any and what is happening in their businesses.

The need for alternative sources of finance in business cannot be overemphasised.

I will use the example of a woman I have come to know over the last few months.

Having worked in a hairdressing salon for over 10 years she realised that she had accumulated the skills and the client base to start her own business.

Furthermore she hoped that she would be able to earn more than what she was getting as an employee.

She opened her own salon early this year, with the little furniture she could put together.

However even her above-average optimism in the face of challenges has been sorely tested in the last few months.

The need to generate enough money to buy chemicals for relaxing hair, pay rent and have enough left over for her monthly needs and those of her family has been the most challenging.

After a few months, circumstances forced her to downgrade from her own room to sharing one with someone else at half the amount she used to pay.

But she is still facing challenges with regard to finance for buying the chemicals, without which she can’t service the higher paying clients.

Being in an area with an oversupply of hairdressing businesses her clients simply go elsewhere and it’s  a matter of time before business grinds to a halt for want of working capital support.

What is tragic is that the amounts required to inject life into such a business are not big figures.

About M1 000 would see her able to pay rent, buy chemicals and get a breather for one month during which she would generate income and start rebuilding her client base.

This type of business is more suited to the micro-lender such as Moliko Finance Trust which makes personal visits to such businesses and forms borrowers into groups which exercise peer pressure to ensure repayment by members.

Growth-oriented women entrepreneurs (known as GOWEs) with registered businesses who are more likely to require banking and insurance services are the main target of the ILO and will form the majority of women at Women and Finance.

 

For women wishing to register for the event, which is free of charge, please sms your name to 63 209 894 or email mf.wedge@gmail.com or afrikarizma@gmail.com.

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