Women entrepreneurs face gender-based barriers to starting and growing their businesses including discriminatory property, matrimonial and inheritance laws and/or cultural practices, limited mobility, voice and representation, and an unequal share of family and household responsibilities. These factors, combined with social exclusion based on sex mean that women entrepreneurs are in a less favourable position compared to men when it comes to accessing for example commercial credit from formal financial service providers, more lucrative markets, rather than the traditional local markets, technology and information to establish and grow their businesses, national incentives in small enterprise development through gender blind private sector development and fiscal policies and legislation and training and education for small enterprise development.
Women entrepreneurs are, however, not a homogenous group. Often treated as such, groups of women entrepreneurs with less power and voice are often overlooked in small enterprise development initiatives. Women entrepreneurs operating micro and small businesses in the informal economy make a strong contribution to the economic well-being of the family and communities. As they remain outside the scope of SME development policies and programmes, their changes of developing lucrative businesses remain slim.
Responding to these challenges, the WEDGE project follows a development and rights-based approach which aims to satisfy the practical needs of women entrepreneurs, to remove the socio-cultural, legal and political barriers for women entrepreneurship and to advocate for an enabling environment for business development and gender equality. This is being done through a three-pronged strategy aiming to:
- Create an enabling environment for women’s entrepreneurship development and gender equality,
- Build the institutional capacity of agencies involved in women’s entrepreneurship development and gender equality, and
- Develop tools and support services for women entrepreneurs.
Implemented within the framework of the ILO Decent Work Country Programme, in Asia, the WEDGE project is operational in Cambodia (since 2005), Lao PDR (since 2002) and Viet Nam (since 2009). It forms part of the global WEDGE programme, which is supported by the ILO-Irish Aid Partnership Programme.
Recent Project Activities
- From 14 to 16 June, a group of Business Development Service providers from the northern region of Viet Nam participated in an ILO training workshop on how to self-assess the extent and quality of their interaction with “female and male operated small and micro-enterprises” (FAMOS). The training served at the same time to raise their awareness about the importance to serve this target group which is often neglected by business service providers but which accounts for the bulk of job creation in Viet Nam. Participants learned how to evaluate their own services, capacity and outreach in relation to FAMOS, using the ILO’s participatory self-assessment tool. The training was the first time that the FAMOS Self-Check tool was used in Asia, after extensive experience with the tool in Eastern Africa, and was organized by the ILO Project on Promoting Women’s Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality (WEDGE) (www.ilo.org/wed).
- In Cambodia, two Ministries are in the final stages of conducting Participatory Gender Audits in selected units, with technical assistance from the ILO Project on Promoting Women’s Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality (WEDGE) (www.ilo.org/wed). In Siem Reap, the provincial Department of Industry, Mines and Energy and General Department of Water Supplier are assessing the extent to which they have implemented gender mainstreaming and how they could promote gender equality further. At the same time, in Phnom Penh the National Technical Training Institute of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training has voluntarily gone through the same participatory process under the guidance of the ILO WEDGE staff. Through using the ILO participatory methodology, both institutions hope to find out from their staff and their customers how they can improve their performance with regard to gender equality.
- WEDGE project partners in Lao PDR review good practices, February 2010
- Royal Cambodian Government increases its capacity on gender mainstreaming, February 2010
For further information please contact:
Ms Joni Simpson
Senior Specialist on Gender, Equality and Non-Discrimination