International Women’s Day

For International Women’s Day on March 8, Positive Planet is focusing on the empowerment of women through micro-entrepreneurship. With infographics and portraits of women journeying along an uncommon path, Positive Planet honors the courage and determination of women who choose to start their own businesses.

WHY EMPHASIZE WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY?

Today, the great majority of micro-entrepreneurs are women; of the 203 million microcredit beneficiaries in the world in 2014, 84% were women [1]. Every day, they fight to live in dignity and provide for their families by injecting 90% of their earned revenue back into their families or communities [2].

The predominance of women in micro-entrepreneurship is explained in two ways [3]:

  1. Women are more affected by poverty: 70% of the poor of the world are women
  2. Women are better at paying off their debts: collection rates are as high as 98% for institutional microfinance clients

Established by the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals put forth 17 global goals for 2030 that sketch out the basic components of sustainable development. It’s a huge ambition: the goals are designed to accomplish the work begun with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Promoting gender equality and empowering women are at the heart of the program.

According to the World Bank, improving women’s access to credit is one of the seven ways to succeed. The basic fact of having a bank account and being able to place savings in a secure location outside the home affords both men and women greater control over their finances and household income. In addition, access to savings and formal credit allows people to participate more fully in the economy, put money aside for emergencies, pay school fees for children, or take care of business expenses. It’s an effective starting point to get out of poverty and reduce vulnerability.

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT CONTRIBUTES TO ECONOMIC STABILITY

According to the World Bank [4], providing funds to women while promoting gender equality at home and in society has major effects on development. The increase in opportunities available to women in public works, agriculture, finance, and in other sectors has accelerated economic growth while lessening the effects of the current financial crisis and those yet to come.

[1] Microcredit Summit 2014

[2] UN Women

[3] International Labour Office Geneva 2008

[4] World Bank

PORTRAITS OF EXCEPTIONAL WOMEN

If you would like to be in contact with any of the women entrepreneurs featured here, please do not hesitate to contact us.

France // Madame Bouabsa

I succeeded on the strength of my own skills.

Contrary to popular belief, the impoverished French suburbs are overflowing with talented people who want to take the future into their own hands. City Priority Zones help support business creation at no charge. I am an entrepreneur supported by Planet ADAM (Network for the Identification and Support of Micro-entrepreneurs) which is nationally united by the Startups in the Suburbs program. This is my story.

I came to France in the late 1970s, where I was in tailoring for 12 years. After that I became a service agent and then a nanny. While working, I raised my five children.

Starting in 2011, I went through a long period of unemployment. I had trouble finding a job, most likely because of my age. Faced with these challenges, I said I was going to create my own job. That’s how I decided to open my own laundromat.

I was very excited at the beginning, but I didn’t immediately understand all the work that was going to go into it. At a forum for work and entrepreneurship, I met the Executive Director of Planet ADAM of Montreuil who was a huge help to me and who supported me in realizing my project. I had never gone through such a process before, explaining my business concept in front of banking professionals and lawyers! It took planning and drive to make my presentations. Today, I have my own laundromat in Bobigny, open seven days a week. Thanks to sheer drive, the support of knowledgeable people, and my network, my laundromat became a reality. It was a long and challenging road here, but I’m proud of the result!

Cameroon // Marie Crescence Ngobo
“Since the start of my business, peace and calm has come back to the family. Today, I can manage the household expenses without problems. I also improve the quality of life of my employees and the women I train. I’m confident in myself and others have confidence in me.”

In Cameroon, there is a high unemployment rate especially among women and youth. To counter financial insecurity, a lot of people want to start their own businesses. However, becoming an entrepreneur in Cameroon as a woman is a challenge. Launched in 2013, the “Women and Entrepreneurship” project promotes female entrepreneurship and the financial empowerment of women by providing access to financial education, training, and market opportunities. About 1,080 women entrepreneurs have been trained.

After her development studies in France, in 2009 Marie created her own agricultural transformation venture near Yaoundé. Her business, The Attic, fights food waste by salvaging production surpluses from regional farmers and transforming them into extended shelf life foods such as syrups, jam, and dried fruit which can be stored for up to two years. At the same time, she trained over 700 women to use transformation techniques for business production.

Madagascar // Rohintsoa Randriamefa

“‘Health is wealth,’ the motto of Harena cooperative, is a great reflection of what motivates me everyday on the job. In Madagascar, the majority of the population does not have access to this type of wealth. We want to bring it to the most people to improve quality of life and contribute to developing our island which is full of riches. Health is wealth but shouldn’t be a luxury!”

Today, 80% of the working Malagasy do not have access to social security coverage, over 70% of the Malagasy population must resort to self-medication, and 40% of the population lives more than five kilometers from a basic health care facility. Since 2012, Positive Planet has created three health cooperatives which have gained 4,600 members and 17,000 working recipients.

The Harena health cooperative, located in the heard of Antananarivo, allows micro-entrepreneurs and investors doing informal work (which represents 80% of the working population in Madagascar) to receive medical coverage for themselves and their families. Rohintsoa is the director of the Harena cooperative – she has brought the cooperative from its first days to now with the management team and support of Positive Planet. She is responsible for the technical, operational, and strategic development of the cooperative, making her everyone’s preferred representative.

Nepal // Sarita Joshi

“I started my business in the corner of my room. No one thought that it would be possible for my small decorations to meet my family’s needs and give jobs to 28 women in my community.”

In Nepal, 25% of the population lives below the poverty line. The April 2015 earthquakes had an enormous impact on the country. Most of the villages were destroyed or damaged. The access to life insurance is more necessary than ever to protect people from natural disasters and accidents.

Positive Planet has supported the Manushi microfinance organization for several years, allowing us to offer micro-insurance services (life insurance and social protection) for women clients of the IMF (microfinance institute).

Basically, access to microinsurance commodities designed for poor populations is limited or nonexistent in rural areas of Nepal. Insurance services are still in their infant stages; life insurance coverage has a penetration rate of less than 9%.

Over the last few years, the project has also offered services to over 15,000 women in rural areas.

The Manushi IMF and Positive Planet are supporting women entrepreneurs like Sarita Joshi in the creation of her business of decorative objects made from recycled materials. She currently employs 28 women and teaches Nepalese artisan skills to people in her community.