In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, utilizing all social and economic assets is crucial for success. Despite progress, women continue to confront discrimination, marginalization and exclusion.
Women entrepreneurs sign statements of commitment to the Women Empowerment Principle during the women in manufacturing forum held in Nairobi (Photo by UN Women/ Kennedy Okoth)
Ms Akinyi Odongo is a young Kenyan entrepreneur and the CEO of a start-up Textile company, in Kenya. She is passionate about empowering the youth has managed to cut a niche in the industry for herself and has employed five staff.
She and 120 other women were part of the third Women in manufacturing forum organized by UN Women Kenya and the Kenya Association of Manufactures (KIM) through the Women in manufacturing caucus held on the 26th September in Nairobi Kenya.
“Younger people have been the core of my agenda in my firm and I intend to empower more young people and especially girls to come out and conduct their business professionally and to empower the people around them; women and men equally.” Said Ms Odongo.
Led by her passion to empower the youth economically, Ms Odongo signed up for the Women Empowerment Principles (WEPS) with commitment to champion for the promotion of education training and professional development for women andaddress implementation of enterprise development, supply chain and market practices that empower women through principle four and five 5 respectively.
Unlike Ms Odongo, Ms Sarah Richson handles more than 800 employees; she is the Global HR Director at TECHNOBRAIN that deals with IT solutions. Through an impact sourcing model, Technobrain aims at empowering lives through technology through job creation that target women and youth.
The Kenya Association of Manufactures Chair Ms Florah Mutahi pointed out the need for women to scale up their businesses an initiative that the Women in manufacturing caucus has started through mapping out the sector to identify potential for more women to scale their businesses and ensure gender mainstreaming in the industry continues to be a key issue.
“Women own 48% of Medium and small Enterprises in Kenya but only contribute 20% to the Gross DP; there is need to scale up our businesses as women” Ms Mutahi pointed out
The same sentiments were echoed by the Gulf Africa bank, through their Head of Women Banking, Ms Najma Jabrias a signatory to the WEPs and champions of principle 5 that calls for implementation of enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women.
“We offer financial services tailored for women to upscale them into formal businesses through the Anisa programme that empowers, protect and educate women that are accompanied by financial inclusion programmes. Through the AGPO initiative, the bank also facilitate financing and offers tenders to women owned businesses in the country”she adds
The forum, which is the third one of the series saw 14 businesses ranging from micro, small to medium sized companies through their representatives commit to championing the women empowerment principles.
The WIM, targets women in Micro, Small and Medium businesses to provide them with networks, skills and knowledge to access bigger markets, expand their current businesses and venture into diverse sectors. Through this, WIM looks at bridging the gaps that make it impossible for the country to realize the industrialization vision and subsequently our economic goals and ultimately seeks to reinvigorate the local manufacturing sector that is currently weakened by a dire lack of skills.
The program also seeks to increase the presence of women in top leadership positions and significant roles in industry and undoubtedly impact the economy by ensuring equitable, broad – based and inclusive growth.
The WEPs are a joint initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact. Launched in 2010, after a yearlong international consultation with multiple stakeholders; the Seven Principles are clear and straightforward, offering guidance to business on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. Since the launch of the Women’s Empowerment Principles in 2010, 1534 companies from around the world have signed into the WEPs in support for gender equality and the guidance provided by the Principles. They are based on real-life company examples and provide a holistic framework for business action to advance women’s empowerment, covering topics from women in leadership, to access to child and dependent care, to sexual harassment, to networking and mentoring opportunities, to support for women’s entrepreneurship and community initiatives focused on the empowerment of women and girls.