UN Women in collaboration with the Joyful Women’s Organization (JoyWo), Turkana County Chapter and the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO) organized a sensitization and awareness raising forum for women, youth and persons with disability (PWD) – led enterprises from Turkana County on economic opportunities through public procurement. The forum was held at the Ekalees Centre in Lodwar on 5th November 2015 and was convened in the context of the inaugural Turkana Trade and Investors Forum held at the same venue from 5-7th November 2015.
The Turkana forum was undertaken as part of UN Women’s project on Empowering Women through Public Procurement. Established in 2012, the project aims to harness the potential of women entreprenuers to scale up and access domestic markets. However, while women-led businesses represent over 40 percent of Micro and Small Entreprises (MSEs) in Kenya, they are prevalent in less productive sectors and are laregly invisible and under-represented in the government supply chain. In Kenya, public procurement constitutes approximately 40 percent of the annual national budget, but women-owned enterprises receive only a tiny share of this market.
To address this gap, UN Women supports training and skills development of women entreprenuers on how to sell to the government. In addition UN Women conducts advocacy for inclusive public procurement policies and regulations, convenes dialogue platforms with financial institions and other key stakeholders to advance women’s participation in procurement and forums with buyers to mitigate demand side barriers.
The forum attracted 148 women traders drawn from various sectors such as agricultural, tourism, handicraft and services sector. The participants also belonged to women’s savings groups affiliated to JoyWo and MYWO. The main objective of the event was to connect and sensitize traders about market opportunities through the domestic public procurement sector. Specifically, the forum sought to create awareness about the Public Procurement Preference and Reservations Scheme of 2011 through which the government of Kenya has set -aside a minimum target of 30 percent of government expenditure through public procurement for the benefit of disadvantaged groups. This scheme is popularly known as Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO).
The forum was opened by UN Women Deputy Country Director, Ms. Karin Feug who reiterated UN Women’s commitment to promoting women in domestic, regional and international trade and business leadership including addressing gender related trade barriers.
During a vibrant and exciting session, three entrepreneurs from Nairobi County shared their personal experiences with regards to AGPO. They talked about how they started their businesses and how they have benefited from AGPO including the impact this unique opportunity has had on their lives and business growth. One of the entrepreneurs, Ms. Ruth Michoma who is a PWD encouraged the participants to grab the opportunities open to them through the 30 percent policy. She said: AGPO is real and encouraged the women- “If I could do it, so can you!” Overall, the live testimonies of women entrepreneurs about their personal experiences, success in winning tenders as well as challenges they encountered were a big eye opener for participants, many of whom believed that public procurement is the preserve of large, established and experienced enterprises.
The forum was a huge success in terms of creating awareness about public procurement opportunities given that majority of the participants had never heard about the preferential scheme and how to access government tenders.
For further information on this initiative please contact Banu Khan, Programme Analyst, UN Women Kenya; email: firstname.lastname@example.org