Women Entrepreneurs = Half the Solution


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 Covering the G-20’s major new economic initiative with a focus on women business owners

The enormous potential of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to transform economies and lives will be fully realized when two critical missing links are connected: The first is capital. The second is an underappreciated, underutilized human resource making up the majority of the human resources in the developing world: women. The G-20 SME Finance Challenge is a cutting edge approach to finding and supporting the world’s best ideas for making capital available to SMEs. Among the solutions emerging are initiatives that advance women entrepreneurs.
Women entrepreneurs have benefited from the rise in micro-loan organizations. Their entry into the marketplace has raised income levels, improved the lives of their families, and helped stabilize their communities. Now those women-run start-ups need more financing to grow into larger enterprises, so that their positive social impact can grow too. But SMEs generally are shut out of formal banking options; women-led SMEs have even steeper challenges. That will start changing when the winners of the Challenge meet with G-20 leaders in Korea on November 11-12 and begin to receive significant G-20 financing to scale and replicate their solutions around the world.
Here are some potential angles and interviews for unique, interesting coverage of women-led businesses, for the G-20 Summit and beyond:
Women SME owners are proving they are a solid investment – Statistics show that women small business owners have a higher loan repayment rate than their male counterparts.Micro-lenders have known this for years and now they are taking the next step and adding financing products for the “missing middle” – the businesses that have grown too big for micro-lending but are not embraced by large banks and traditional investors. As with micro-finance, they are seeing the potential for profit while having a social impact as well.
  • Example: The Kashf Foundation, started by Ashoka Fellow Roshaneh Zafar of Pakistan, is the second-largest micro-lending institution in Pakistan with over 300,000 women customers. Since it was founded in 1996, Kashf has closed over $36 million in commercial deals with key local and international banks – all while maintaining an investment-worthy credit rating. A new SME financing program is underway.
Women-led SMEs change gender norms in their communities – When women take on new positions in economic life, their roles are often positively redefined: increased respect among men, a larger voice in family financial decisions, opportunities for further training and education. These are just a few of the changes that women-run businesses can spur.
  • Example: Leticia Brenyah of Ghana, who founded P.A.L.M.S., a Changemakers competition winner, spoke at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative about how simple technologies can have an impressive impact on women’s lives. Training women to use technologies that have been traditionally employed exclusively by men, has allowed women to work more efficiently and be more productive, thereby giving women more time and freedom to pursue other interests.
Women entrepreneurs help women --Women running business are often inclined to be especially supportive of women entering or in the workforce. In many cases, their companies are explicitly designed to increase women’s economic participation and power.
  • Example: Souktel is a mobile SMS job matching service designed to empower women with employment opportunities. Founded by Lana Hijazi in Palestine, Souktel was a finalist in a recent Changemakers competition.
Women entrepreneurs help entrepreneurs – Women entrepreneurs often know from experience how challenging it is to get attention and respect. They work hard for it and they have keen insights into how to highlight the work of other entrepreneurs struggling to be noticed by investors.
  • Example: AllWorldNetwork, co-founded by Anne Habiby drives high investment to high-potential SMEs with the goal of advancing the growth of every entrepreneur in the emerging world and to create one million jobs globally by 2015. AllWorld Network, a solution in the G-20 SME Finance Challenge, aims to fill an “information gap,” by identifying and vetting growing companies around the world that are not on investors’ radar and promoting them heavily on the Internet to get them noticed.
Women entrepreneurs transform society – When women take on roles traditionally held by men, such as owning and running businesses, the standing of all women rises. Their success serves as a model for girls and women throughout the culture and demonstrates possibilities never before imagined.
  • Example: Raquel Barros, founder of LuaNova in Brazil; Barros is building homes and repairing the self-esteem of the poorest women in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil and the Western Hemisphere. Confident women exercise their citizenship and become self-reliant and active members of society. Their inclusion breaks the cycle of poverty and family violence, and strengthens community ties. Barros is an Ashoka Fellow and was a winner in the Changemakers Women | Tools | Technology Challenge.
This is just a small fraction of the resources available through Ashoka and Changemakers. For further information and to access our global community of over 140,000 changemakers around the world, please contact:

Sarah Mintz
Community Manager
Josh Middleman
Community Mobilizer