In our series of blogs on the five key components for successful enterprise development, we put the spotlight on the importance of strengthening skills.
Women living in poverty often don’t have access to an education or lifelong learning opportunities, so building up their skills as they embark on their enterprise journey is essential. 67.8% of the women who participated in our global Women in Enterprise programme had either not completed any education or only up to primary school.
Women across the seven programme countries showed an intrinsic motivation to be trained. They recognize that skills are a source of independence and empowering themselves. Over 92% of women entrepreneurs said the training helped improve their businesses. Women also indicated a direct link between what they learn in training and an increase in their income.
A combination of developing business and soft skills was key. Business planning and financial literacy training were particularly important to the women, specifically training on managing cashflow and profit, separating household from business expenses and learning how to save. Training in life skills, such as decision-making, self-esteem and negotiation, was also highly valued.
Kirupalini Karunakaran, President of a Weaver’s Cooperative in Sri Lanka explains the value of training: “Before, I thought that all income was profit, but thanks to the training I learnt how to separate my income from my profit.” As well as receiving financial training, Kirupalini received training in public speaking, she explains: “I used to be afraid of talking in front of others, but now I have the confidence to speak out.” Her public speaking skills are now being put to good use as she has become President of the Pandiyankulam Weavers Cooperative and President of the Special Needs Society.
“Before I used to work in the hot sun in the paddy fields and now I’m happy in my work and I can buy what I want, when I want.”
Digital and social media marketing play an increasingly important role and women are keen on developing these skills and putting them into practice. A notable digital innovation in skills strengthening was seen in Peru, where they used an application on tablets, specifically developed for financial literacy training. Here, gamification to demonstrate how to manage your income, had a profoundly positive impact.
Women are also proud of sharing their skills with other women and the knock-on impact of training one woman can bring huge benefits to whole communities. Being in collectives, associations and groups is an enabler for women to access training and to train others. In several places, such as Jordan and West Africa, CARE has increased skills sharing by recruiting role models. Here, experienced business women go out into communities and share their knowledge, showing entrepreneurship as a viable route out of poverty. The message of: “If I did it, so can you” can be incredibly powerful.
Kirupalini, who has trained other women in her cooperative concludes: “I am father and mother to my son and now, thanks to my business, I can buy him what he needs. I have proved that a woman-headed household can have the same standard of living as a male-headed household.”