Women Leading Paradigm Shift in West Africa: Women Empowerment

Agriculture is key to women’s livelihoods in rural West Africa and to the survival of the national economies. But despite the crucial work women do on farms, women’s rights to land ownership, control and access to land continue to be neglected.

The importance of African women farmers has been long recognized in international development since the famous study by Ester Boserup in 1970, a message that continues to be underlined in major reports such 2010-11 U.N. State of Food and Agriculture Report on “Women and Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development.”

Rural women were the subject of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2012. There are also numerous protocols and international agreements, including The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and The African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, or “Women’s Protocol.”

The African Women in Business Initiative responds to the African Development Bank’s Private Sector Development Strategy emphasis on the role of women in business as well as to calls to empower women entrepreneurs, in particular small and medium-sized entrepreneur, or SMEs, through better access to finance.

In this respect, the Private Sector and Microfinance Department has developed, under the initiative, integrated financing programs for women’s entrepreneurship development in order to:

• Contribute to a more equitable business environment for women entrepreneurs and enhance their contribution to economic development.
• DevelopSMEfinancing instruments and mechanisms to enhance the financial market and assist successful SMEs to grow their enterprises.

The new generation women across the world has overcome many negative notions and have proved themselves in all spheres of life, including the most intricate and cumbersome world of entrepreneurship.Top female entrepreneursincludeMelinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter,Sofia Vergara, Shakira Mebarak andSara Blakely, to name a few.

African Entrepreneur Collective accelerators partner with young entrepreneurs to build their skills, expand their networks and grow their businesses so that they may employ others.

Since launching in Rwanda in 2012,it has already been helped to create more than 700 jobs, providing gainful employment to local people while contributing to the country’s economic and social development.

Over the past 18 months, AEC has worked with more than 100 young African entrepreneurs to support them in growing their businesses and strengthening the local economy. African entrepreneurs come from all five provinces in Rwanda, work in over 15 industries and have created more than 700 jobs for their communities. AED has distributed over $243,000 in loans through a partnership with Kiva Microfundsto support our entrepreneurs.

Worldwide, at least 30 percent of women entrepreneurs in the non agricultural labor force are self-employed in the informal sector; in Africa, this figure is 63 percent. Women-owned businesses tend to be informal, home-based and concentrated in the areas of small-scale entrepreneurship and traditional sectors, which primarily include retail and service. Operating from the home allows women to satisfy competing demands for their time as they balance a disproportionate share of housework and childcare responsibilities. But social norms are at play as well. In societies where women are expected to stay in the home, or where traveling outside the home can be dangerous, women have no choice but to operate these types of businesses.

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