Today is International Women’s Day. At Peace Dividend Trust (PDT) we’re celebrating by showcasing the female entrepreneurs that we work with everyday.
In Afghanistan over 70 representatives of women-owned businesses came out to our women’s business networking event in Kabul last week. Men and women sat down with buyers from the US military, UN agencies and several Afghan Government Ministries to pitch their businesses in the hope of winning potential contracts. Several leads were made. Many left hopeful that even under the toughest circumstances their enterprises would thrive. That is exactly what PDT is hoping all women are able to do, anytime, anywhere.
And we are hopeful. We’ve been wowed by the ideas and tenacity of women in Afghanistan, Haiti and Timor that have brought their entrepreneurial ideas to the marketplace. Perhaps you’ve heard of the women making soccer balls, the women making uniforms for the Afghan National Security Force or the women working as carpenters? It’s easy to presume that owning a business would be particularly difficult for women in Afghanistan, but 249 of them are doing just that with help from PDT.
In Haiti the number of registered women-owned businesses on our business portal is almost double the number in Afghanistan. Though prejudices against women in certain sectors of the economy are strong, Haitian women are holding their own and are even comparable to women in developed nations. In the U.S. in 2007, women owned 28.7 percent of all businesses, and in Haiti that number is 27 percent. However, Haitian women only make up 30 percent of the workforce, compared to U.S. women’s 47.3 percent. To help women take control of their economic futures, PDT in Haiti holds women-only training sessions regularly and is planning a larger women-only networking event on March 30. And we’re not the only ones paying attention to Haitian women entrepreneurs; Digicel honored two women for their Entrepreneurs of the Year 2010 award.
Then there’s Timor-Leste, where 914 businesses are registered as women-owned. These are women like Maria Carla Gonsalves Tilman, who registered her three businesses with us back in 2008. Three years later, Tilman employs 39 people and wins large, national and international construction contracts. Or there’s Josefina Vicente, who started a small business of selling cigarettes and gasoline in 2001. Now she owns a hotel and a construction company, which recently won a government tender worth $2.66 million.
Breaking down the barriers for women to reach economic success will always be a priority at PDT, but it’s the hardworking women who deserve the recognition— everyday.