Ogbonna Onyinye Maryjane uses a persuasive analysis of African women entrepreneurs to develop their own businesses.
If you are a woman with a business dream, you need to read her essay and find inspiration.
Entrepreneurship is the willingness or ability to seek investment opportunity, mobilizing financial material and human resources to meet the needs in the area in order to manage a business to a successful end. Women entrepreneurship is a prerequisite for building a better nation. When women are entrepreneurial, society with stability is assured; her competencies in making decisions will surely influence her family’s behaviour and the society at large. Women empowerment is essential as their thought and value systems lead to the development of a good family, a good society and a strong nation.
There are certain characteristics women entrepreneurs should possess. Every business is an adventure, whether such business succeeds or fails will depend on the ability of the entrepreneur to effectively project positive qualities and restrain negative characteristics. Some positive characteristics like being imaginative which entails a well-planned approach in order to examine and identify entrepreneurial opportunities i.e. Women entrepreneurs should have association with knowledgeable people and should be able to contract the right organization offering support services for their business.
Further more, enterprising women have the ability to work hard; hard work is needed to build an enterprise; she has to put in a lot of physical and mental energy into the enterprise. Women entrepreneurs must have an intention to fulfill their dreams. They have to transform dreams into ideas for enterprise thus they need to work persistently. They should have the willingness and desire to take risk as well as the ability and proficiency to make forecast estimate and calculations. The woman should be innovative and think differently from others; she should look for gaps in the society and fill them. She must be aggressive in challenging environments, however must be courteous and full of drive. She must possess the ability to manage and organize operations, information’s and resources effectively.
One of the greatest characteristics, which the woman entrepreneur must possess, is self-confidence. She believes in herself and not on fate, sees obstacle as challenge that must be faced and conquered. She is not afraid of making decision and accepts responsibilities for them. A woman entrepreneur is a leader, motivator, manager and director. She guides people to accomplish goals and delegates’ duties, which encourage teamwork in the establishment. So many barriers to women entrepreneurship have restrained these positive characteristics.
Women’s entrepreneurship accounts for a substantial portion of developing countries economic production and trade. In both formal and informal sectors of economies, women entrepreneurs own a sizeable number of enterprises. It has been reported that women participation in rural businesses is accounting for over 1/3 of all entrepreneurship in the rural areas and formed the majority of businesses in the informal sector in African countries. Women entrepreneurial activities particularly in agriculture, services and industry empower them economically and enable them to contribute to the overall development of their region. Women play an important role in the entrepreneurial economy, both in their ability to create jobs for themselves and to generate employment for others. Annual estimates made by the international labor organization (2007) indicate that in the year 2006, 41% of the total employed women in Africa are self-employed. Self-employment therefore, represents one of the most important job alternative for women especially those in the African rural areas.
In some developed countries like Canada, Germany, Sweden, South Korea, United Kingdom and the United States where women entrepreneurship is being practiced have shown significant contribution of women entrepreneurship to their economy. In both formal and informal sector, women contribution to industrial development either small or medium scale production activities is substantial. This coupled with remunerative employment generating capacity enables women to fight poverty. Women entrepreneurship increase growth rate of savings by opening business bank accounts to keep their savings and their savings is likely to be applied for investment purposes across the country. Women entrepreneurship also makes contribution towards household expenditure from the proceeds of their business. This definitely would rub off well with the economy as more families now have more purchasing power to stabilize demand in the economy. Involvement of women in entrepreneurship has led to the formation of new business, which leads to increase in productivity as well as efficiency.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) survey (2007) in Vietnam showed that 12% of women entrepreneurs use all or most of their profit for savings or domestic consumption as compared to 6% of the male entrepreneurs. Thus it can be seen that women’s involvement in entrepreneurship positively impacts their families and their national economy. Women entrepreneurship brings asset to the global market, they create employment because any women owned business employs people to help out, they reduce rural-urban migration.
Women entrepreneurship especially in Africa has been a neglected topic, Women for many centuries has always been the underdog and invisible in the society. From a very young age, it’s instilled into the girl- child’s minds that her duty lies in providing services to her family. Domestic chores, siblings care and assisting the mother in household responsibilities, all this prepare her for the world of care and self sacrifice for others other than herself. Self-denial, putting others before oneself, self- effacement, gentleness, sacrifice, and other feminine qualities are encouraged in her upbringing. Decision-making, strength of expression, articulateness, opinion formation, future career planning etc., are not qualities which are promoted to develop her in her socialization process. She is for the most part confined to an inside world and not permitted to interact with the outside world of information, knowledge and accessing various resources. The psychological effect of this kind of socialization process becomes evident later in life as seen in her low level of confidence. Studies have shown that men have high level of confidence and women have medium level of confidence. Also, “the son preference and daughter neglect” syndrome has an extensive and deep-rooted physical and mental impact on the daughters who are discriminated against. Many socio-cultural factors have confined women to traditionally prescribed and socially acceptable roles; and without male approval, women’s so-called decisions become non- functional. In our society, marriage on the side of women looks like the greatest achievement and no matter how successful a woman is, she must aspire to be married. This mentality has caused women to do anything for marriage, even ending their career just to stay married. Also situations whereby educated women turn housewives just to get married or stay in marriages have become the order of the day.
Furthermore, Double roles and responsibilities limit women’s responsibilities and involvement in activities outside of the household, this is because it is traditionally perceived that women’s primary role is as a housewife or mother and men are supposed to be involved in outside activities including income generation. Another barrier to women entrepreneurship is the low value given to women’s work. Whatever tasks women perform are frequently not even considered work. If it is work, then it is not seen as worthwhile work. It is only supplementary, part- time, ad hoc and frivolous work. These prevailing social values, culture and perception tend to work as a restraint on the growth of women entrepreneurship in the African society.
In addition, there exists a strong connection between the presence of role models and the emergence of entrepreneurs and women had historically not been present as entrepreneurs perhaps due to lack of close role models. Role models are persons that by their attitudes, behaviors and actions establish the desirability and credibility of a choice for an individual. That is an individual will be more influenced by another individual of the same sex, as one’s aspirations tend to be more influenced by persons of the same sex.
A prerequisite for starting a firm is to have capital in terms of financial assets and in terms of relevant knowledge assets. The restraining factors listed above have led to Women’s lack of asset in both these aspects. The constraints of family obligation make it even harder for women to take on full time jobs or engage in a career. This in turn decreases the range of possible work opportunities for women, leading to jobs in lower paid sectors or becoming part-time workers with low pay.
Most of these barriers to women entrepreneurship in Africa are humanistic in nature and can be avoided to a remarkable extent by spirited efforts. Some appropriate actions are needs to pull down these barriers. Their implementation will obviously encourage both practicing and nascent women entrepreneurs.
In order to encourage women entrepreneurship in Africa, policies that encourage gradual change of belief systems through better education and information with emphasis on gender empowerment measures (GEM), encouragement of policies/ programs that prepare rural women to be entrepreneurs, improve gender awareness and establish gender sensitive industrial policies should be implemented. Continent wide orientation and awareness campaigns, sensitization of women in the society, equitable consideration and unbiased entrepreneurial opportunities between men and women. Family-friendly policy to allow women to manage their time more friendly and still participate in active entrepreneurial activity.
Behavioural modification and change of attitude to embrace entrepreneurial pattern of behaviour and attributes. Reinforce self-confidence in women entrepreneurs through sensitization workshops and seminars and also assigning challenging tasks.
Dissemination of information on entrepreneurship and its economic importance targeted to women. Business and technology information to be made available to support for dissemination of information through network of rural NGOs, CBO and CSOs.
Encouragement of women to form groups and association in the rural areas in order to strengthen their positions in villages and undertake development projects. Cooperation with existing entrepreneurial associations. Promotion and development of institutions for support services of technical kind, establishment of special outreach in rural areas.
Entrepreneurship makes the women to be economically, socially and politically empowered thereby promoting sustainable development. Women entrepreneurship can be developed in the following ways so as to ensure greater participation in entrepreneurial activities:
- Consider women as a specific target group for all developmental programmers
- Better educational facilities and schemes should be extended to women folk from government
- Encourage women’s participation in decision making
- Vocational training to be extended to women
- Skill development to be done in universities and higher
- Counseling through the aid of committed NGOs, psychologists, managerial experts and technical personnel should be provided to existing and emerging women entrepreneurs
- Ministry of women affairs should assist widows and single mothers in their trade and provide business
- Women training programme should be organized and taught to encourage more passive women
- More governmental schemes to motivate women entrepreneurs to engage in small scale and large-scale business
- Financial institutions should permit by statute to extend purely trade related finance to women
- Training in entrepreneurial attitudes should start at the higher institutional level through well-designed courses, which build confidence in women.
- Repeated gender sensitization programs should be held to train financiers to treat women with dignity and respect as persons with their own
- To encourage more passive women entrepreneurs, the women-training programme should be organized and taught to recognize the women psychological needs.
- Training on professional competence and leadership skill to be extended to women
Entrepreneurship is important in so many ways both to individuals and the society. It leads to actualization of new ideas and creativity that leads to economic development, industrialization of nations through its participation in private driven economy, it solves unemployment problems by creating employment as well as decentralizing and diversification of business in suitable areas including rural areas.
In Africa, given that the percentage of women is greater than that of men, if women are included and given the opportunities for entrepreneurship, there will be a tremendous change in the economy of the continent. The inclusion of women will lead to increase in capital formation and investment. They could become role models for other people to copy.
Women are known as organizers, coordinators and planners in the family and if such energy is channeled towards entrepreneurship I believe will make for a stronger, richer and more independent African continent.
Ogbonna Onyinye Maryjane
I am OGBONNA ONYINYE MARYJANE from Nigeria. I am a third year student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka studying Combined Biochemistry/Plant Science and Biotechnology.
Some of my friends call me feminist but I just believe in girl power and that women can change the world.
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