Several innovative projects funded and created by the World Bank, non-governmental organizations and the private sector have made measurable progress in growing female entrepreneurship around the world. Successfully taking into account the lifestyle and economic needs of women business owners, these projects provide useful tools and resources to help women improve their businesses. The following are the best examples of programs driving business development services, access to finance and access to ICTs for women.
Business Development Success Stories
- Peru — Women's Micro-Enterprise Support Project (supported by the World Bank, UN Women, and the International Center for Research on Women) Approximately 680 women were trained in this pilot program, designed to improve the business capacity and economic status of female micro-entrepreneurs in urban Lima. Recruited through radio spots and flyers placed locally, the women received basic training in three areas—business development services like book-keeping and marketing; productivity enhancements that addressed customer care; and personal development skills to build self-confidence. Half of the women were given enhanced training with individualized assistance in each training area, along with digital literacy training and support in creating investment groups. Women who only received regular training were more likely to close struggling businesses. Those with enhanced training were more likely to plan and execute innovations, increase their association with business peers and use informal credit. Sales improved for all trainees, but entrepreneurs who received the enhanced training saw the highest increase, selling 19 percent more products in a normal month. Income gains were even greater for women with larger businesses.
- Tanzania — Virtual Business Incubator (supported by the World Bank, the Italian Association for Women in Development, and the Tanzania Gatsby Trust) The design of this incubator was heavily influenced by the advice of Tanzania’s businesswomen and local women’s groups, along with preliminary studies to identify local partners and the cities of focus, Dar es Salaam and Kibaha. Early research helped target assistance toward women owning enterprises in the textile, tailoring, handicrafts, poultry, processing, food vending, trade, and services sectors, who were willing to pay nominal fees for training and travel to training locations. Participants were offered two types of training—a basic program, providing entrepreneurship and product development training, and a technical assistance program, providing one-on-one assistance with coaching and mentoring delivered in small groups or at the women's place of business. Women in the technical assistance program were paired with experts who shared ideas on product development and design. All the women participated in sessions on domestic violence and HIV/AIDS, issues that were of particular concern to them, and all received project communications via text messaging.
While analysis of the project is ongoing, reports indicate that women significantly improved their average monthly sales and monthly profit from June 2009 to June 2012. More than 40 percent of the 100 women visited in June 2012 were in the process of registering or had registered their business during the program. Some businesses improved their premises per regulatory requirements, and others started keeping better books. More than 70 percent of women involved in the program have opened savings accounts or accessed loans through banks. Women acknowledged that improving their business made them feel more confident and earning a proper income gave them more power in the decision making process within the household.
Access to Finance Success Stories
- Indonesia — BII Women One (supported by the International Finance Corporation and PT Bank International Indonesia) In an Indonesian market where 90 percent of women use their own personal savings to grow their businesses, there is a savings product designed specifically with them in mind. PT Bank International Indonesia (BII) offers savings accounts for Indonesian women, providing insurance protection, bill payment services and no monthly fee. The bank also offers advisory services to women owning small and medium businesses. The product has been implemented in 286 branches all over Indonesia. BII will expand their services to include credit to women entrepreneurs as well.
- Uganda — Women in Business Program (supported by Development Finance Corporation Uganda and the International Finance Corporation) To address the collateral challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in Uganda, Development Finance Corporation Uganda (DFCU) created a land loan, enabling women in the program to purchase property that could eventually be used as collateral for a future business loan. Expanding other non-traditional loan options for women, DFCU created an investment club that also served as a savings scheme, allowing female entrepreneurs to raise funds together for future business investments and for use as collateral for business loans. Since the inception of the Women in Business Program, DFCU has lent over $16 million in term loans, mortgages, leases, and land loans to 300 women small business owners and trained over 400 in finance and business management skills. DFCU has opened more than 1,800 deposit accounts through the program, leading other banks in Uganda in demonstrating how to effectively cater to the needs of female entrepreneurs.
Access to ICT Success Stories
- Digital Green This India-based organization aims to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers across the developing world by linking farming villages through the use of communication technology, specifically through videos produced by farmers for farmers. This innovative use of ICT is community-based and distributes important agricultural information. Farm community representatives disseminate local videos, allowing for increased peer learning within communities and a connection to a network of villages. In the period between January 2012 and January 2013, Digital Green reached more than 11,800 viewers in 1,934 villages in India. The organization creates space for women to play an active role in creating videos and sharing information, while allowing them to speak freely in mixed groups.
- Telecentre.org In partnership with the International Telecommunication Union, Telecentre.org, an organization that builds telecenters worldwide, launched the Telecentre Women: Digital Literacy Campaign. The campaign aims to train one million women in digital literacy by the end of 2012. By April 2012, more than 500,000 had been trained. Through mentorship, the campaign assists women who work in telecenters, providing training and services, and women with little functional literacy who seek to use telecenter services.