Capacity Building for Women-led Enterprises in Lesotho

#Her_Empire: Empowering Women and Capacitating Women - led Enterprises in Lesotho.

June 3, 2022
#Her_Empire Graduation Ceremony

Her_Empire Graduation Ceremony

Photo: UNDP Lesotho

Remarks by the UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Betty Wabunoha at the Graduation Ceremony of the 'Capacity Building Training for Women-led enterprises in Lesotho'.

On behalf of UNDP, I am honored to welcome you all to this groundbreaking event to close the training of our first cohort of women entrepreneurs and women-led organizations – themed ‘Her Empire’.

When we look at the fact that women are disproportionately more likely to be the caregivers in a family of not only children, but also elderly relatives and the fact that when you lift up the economic status of women, you lift up the economic status of families; then, focusing on women led small businesses becomes purposeful and intentional as we think about economic recovery and growth.

Inclusion of women is also the cornerstone of more sustainable economic models. We see positive dividends when we prioritize women, their contributions and leadership in the economy and so that is the lens through which we look at this two week training and  its possible impact not only to the trainees but also  to our community and society. Empowering women is simply smart policy.

The UNDP Strategic Plan 2022-2025 emphasizes that we will work together with our partners to deliver what’s required of us in these extraordinary times. This bold and ambitious plan gives a clear framework indicating we will work with countries to expand people’s choices for a fairer, sustainable future, helping to get us back on track to deliver on the SDGs. In doing better, we must support our small businesses; looking to see what it means for them to do what they do each day; make sure that within the infrastructure available they keep growing as we are supporting with policy , with knowledge ,  with access to  equal opportunities and to resources.

In doing this I would like to highlight two areas of focus: Women’s empowerment and gender equality; and alleviating youth demographic pressures and creating economic opportunity for youth and in this case young women. Women’s empowerment is at the heart of UNDP’s  strategic plan and so ‘Her Empire’ is part of our response to ensuring that women are integrated into  supply chains as economic agents and equal competitors for emerging economic opportunities.  Stronger and more competitive women – led enterprises are needed, for both economic and social benefits.

Studies reveal that women-owned enterprises make 70% of total population of micro and small business enterprises in Lesotho, and their practicality  and enterprising community practices dominate the social economy in their associations, social clubs and cooperatives, saving and lending groups, making these the highest driver for financial inclusion among women. The diversity of businesses among the women in this cohort, is evidence of the influence that women have in the domestic economy. However, women are missing in the leadership and formal business spheres. We realize that  women-led businesses are seldom found competing in the procurement for technical or consumer goods and services at UN/UNDP.

In this two-week training and boot-camp, the women’s capacities and techniques on business and business management, finance and markets were refined to enhance sustainability and resilience of their enterprises and were introduced to the UNDP’s procurement policy and requirements, as prospective vendors, to become more aware and responsive to potential opportunities for growth. With the Her Empire’ Programme, we have taken a deliberate and strategic decision to enhance women’s competitiveness in  procurement bidding processes. At UNDP we will do our part to  make this possible and so as entrepreneurs you should also do yours.  We look forward to a time when this will be a norm for all public and private procurement processes.

Mainstream economic analysis assumes that economic opportunity and outcome are equally and evenly distributed across social segments, including the gender.  The reality differs from this. In this group, we have agribusiness and processing, retailers and restauranteurs, legal clinics, beauty and health clinics, as individuals, companies or associations. Although there are many untapped opportunities, there are also various factors that inhibit growth and diversity potential of women entrepreneurs, that include limited capacities and empowerment, economic policy and social biases. We note that women representation in high technology, engineering and other technical sectors is highly limited. Gender inequality and biases remain a serious concern to achieving inclusive economic growth and development, and largely affects women. This can be solved to a great extent through inclusive policy regimes and affirmative action that favors marginalized population groups, and promotes equitable distribution of economic benefits, groom and encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment.

Achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development may not be possible without deliberate action for women. The efforts toward ending poverty and other deprivations must go together with strategies to improve health and education, reduce inequality, and in turn spur economic growth. Many women-led and founded enterprises were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and some have not been able to reopen, this may be a reflection of other long-term issues such as lack financial safety-nets, innovation or supply chain constraints. As part of the recovery agenda, our respective responsibility today, is to ensure resilience of these enterprises, to withstand similar challenges and shocks, and put a spotlight on possible policy solution that may stimulate economic recovery and foster appropriate private sector responses.

Evidence has shown that supporting youth and women with financing, technical capacity building, and enabling the integration of technology can unlock opportunities to sustain job creation to earn them a dignified living for themselves and for their families. In conclusion, I would like to commend these women in this cohort, for taking the decision and steps to grow their enterprises and brands. As a first cohort in this series, your experiences and insights will assist in shaping this Programme as we journey together to change the face of Lesotho’s business. The mentorship Programme should assist you to bridge gaps and stabilize your enterprises and we look forward to lessons from this exercise. We believe that this training has equipped you with the necessary skills that will transform your enterprises into Empires, Your Empires – ‘Her Empire’ – Congratulations!

I also acknowledge the collaboration and support received to shape this Programme from our partner; the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Ministry of Small Business Development, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Lesotho Revenue Authority and the Standard Lesotho Bank. I believe we will continue to collaborate for the transformation of Lesotho’s economy, and importantly, in scaling this Programme, and in the advocacy for inclusive public and corporate policies that advance women’s participation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you!

Khotso!!! Pula!!! Nala!!!

As part of the recovery agenda, our respective responsibility today, is to ensure resilience of these enterprises, to withstand similar challenges and shocks, and put a spotlight on possible policy solution that may stimulate economic recovery and foster appropriate private sector responses.
Betty Wabunoha, UNDP Lesotho Resident Representative