The overarching theme of the Women’s Innovation Trade Fair is: ‘Igniting economic opportunities for women.’ However, there are pertinent factors that stand in the way of this outcome, and collaborative dialogue with key experts addressing these issues will be a large focus of the fair.
The WITF Showcase addresses issues around:
Entrepreneurship and what it takes to thrive.
“As the global economy slowly regains ground following the worldwide recession, entrepreneurship is increasingly recognized as thebroad-based driver of economic growth and societal well-being. Both high impact and small-scale entrepreneurs are garnering the increased attention of educators, policymakers and practitioners. The spotlight on these
entrepreneurs has revealed that much more can be done throughout the world to build local ecosystems in which they can better thrive.”- Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women’s Report.
Women’s economic empowerment is a critical factor for establishing equality between women and men. Also, women’s economic empowerment is crucial to the development of any country. Women have the capacity to break the cycle of poverty through the use of their financial means, not only to improve their own lives, but also the lives of people around them. Nonetheless, women in South Africa are over-represented in the informal economy and under-represented in the formal economy. Entrepreneurship plays an important part in women’s economic empowerment.
Women in South Africa meet many obstacles as aspiring and established entrepreneurs: Existing gender stereotypes in a male dominated area is one obstacle, women having fewer personal finances to start off with is another one. There is a lack of support for women entrepreneurs and the socio-cultural attitudes can be negative. Female entrepreneurs do not tend to mobilise, they often miss out on information that entails good opportunities, and they often need mentorship and further training. This is the tendency, despite the rising number of supporting actors for female entrepreneurs in South Africa. These and many more unfavourable circumstances result in South African women establishing fewer and inferior businesses to South African men.
The WITF Showcase has an important role to play in South Africa. The fair will create a platform for promotion, training, mentorship, networking, mobilisation and much more. With support, women are set up for success to develop and maintain prosperous enterprises to better their lives and the lives of those in their communities.
Know your rights and responsibilities
A lack of social justice implies an uneven distribution of advantages and disadvantages that create obstacles for people to live productive lives, that in turn leads to positive developments for themselves and the societies they live in. Social injustice is greatly visible in South Africa and that social injustice hits women particularly hard.
“The economic empowerment of women is fundamentally a human rights and social justice issue. But it is also important for poverty reduction, economic growth and human development. Policies and interventions aimed at promoting women’s economic empowerment work towards the full recognition and realization of women’s economic rights. The economic empowerment of women contributes to poverty reduction for all; especially in low-income households, it is vital for household survival. In addition, promoting women’s economic empowerment facilitates the achievement of other important public policy goals such as economic growth, improved human development, and reduced violence.” - Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), 2009.
The WITF Showcase’s fair host, Mhani Gingi - Social Entrepreneurial Network, has a steadfast commitment to social responsibility and “giving back”. This is what really separates Mhani Gingi from any other entrepreneurial network. The organisation, in a joint effort with network members, is constantly giving back to the community in which they work at every level and every phase, and creating new opportunities for women that positively impact the broader community. It is recognised that women will give differently and at varying levels, depending on the phase of business they are in, but consistent giving is the key. Building this practice early on will lend to developing a sense of social responsibility within each woman’s business, and it also creates a stronger culture of a supportive community. As the fair host, Mhani Gingi’s model has shaped the whole focus of The WITF Showcase.
The WITF Showcase creates an opportunity for female entrepreneurs to meet and discuss with each other - at the same level. It’s not bottom-up, nor grassroots, like much of what is currently offered. It’s about inclusion. It’s a space for women of all cultures, classes and ages to feel welcomed and inspired. The WITF Showcase does not talk about women not having space, and the need for space – The WITF Showcase creates the space. It’s about seeing potential and creating the stage for it. We walk our talk every step of the way. Do you?
Education - an enabler
"Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process." – International Conference onPopulation and Development, (ICPD) Programme of Action, paragraph 4.2.
Education opens up doors to people and is a crucial element in the positive developments of societies. Even though education is vital to anyone, it is particularly import for girls and women. Girls and women who are educated will have a much better understanding of their rights and responsibilities and how to stand by them. Educating girls and women is also seen as a highly efficient way of reducing poverty levels; when girls and women receive education, it often creates a positive effect on their families’ developments as well, and this effect can carry on for generations to come.
The WITF Showcase understands the issues that arise when South African girls and women lack education, on both a micro and a macro level; among other things, The WITF Showcase highlights the importance of skills training, particularly mentoring and coaching – a much needed addition for female entrepreneurs. A woman who has a good support network, and who has been educated with financial skills as well as the technicalities of trade, is far more capable of establishing a productive business, which will enable her to be self-sufficient and independent in the future. The fair also focuses on early learning centres that enable women to work and become resourceful participants in society.