UN Secretary-General s High-Level Panel on Women s Economic Empowerment Case Study Collection *

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1 UN Secretary-General s High-Level Panel on Women s Economic Empowerment Case Study Collection * Case Study Overview Case Study Title Implemented by Funded by Location Promoting Women Empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in the MENA Region United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) UNIDO: Regular Programme of Technical Cooperation & Government of Italy Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia (MENA region) Focus Areas 1. Legal barriers 2. Improving pay and conditions 3. Financial and/or digital inclusion 4. Women s entrepreneurship Budget EUR 972,000 (US$1.07 Million) Start Date Feb End date July 2016 Abstract The project Promoting Women Empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in the MENA region is seeking to enhance women s economic inclusion in six countries of the MENA region: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Palestine, through enhancing policy reform of business environment, expanding the capacity of women business associations to provide quality services to women entrepreneurs and promote investment and business partnership. Problems Being Addressed The MENA region exhibits the world s highest unemployment rate, with youth unemployment at approximately 25 per cent, and women unemployment of up to 40 per cent. In fact, even though almost all MENA countries have closed 90 per cent or more of the gender gap in education over the last decade, and while women in the region are now more likely than men to attend university 1, only 25.2 per cent of working-age women are part of the labor force, which is well below the worldwide average rate of 50 per cent 2. Concomitantly, the number of women entrepreneurs in the MENA region is far lower than in any other middle-income region, ranging from 12 to 15 per cent 3, compared to a mean average of 31 to 38 per cent in emerging markets 4. 1 World Bank (2010): Middle East and North Africa: Women in the Workforce. 2 World Bank (2013): Opening Doors: Gender equality and development in the Middle-East and North Africa. 3 World Bank (2010): Middle East and North Africa: Women in the Workforce. 4 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion and IFC (2011): Strengthening Access to Finance for Women-Owned SMEs in Developing Countries. 1

2 Besides the high barriers to doing business in the MENA region, particularly for smaller firms, women entrepreneurs in the region also face specific gender related constrains: Preconceptions and collective norms which expect women to shoulder the brunt of household responsibilities, are still weighing on women s career path choices and particularly entrepreneurship. Women creating or already managing a business encounter particular difficulties in terms of access to credit: women business owners who seek debt financing report difficulties in getting bank loans essentially because of lack of collaterals and credit history and dealing with lenders. In addition, women appear more reluctant to apply for loans and more likely to expect rejection. Because of this limited access to external financing, women-led SMEs grow slower than male-owned. They face a lack of education and training opportunities, difficulties in accessing business support services and networks. Research shows that many women do not have adequate connections for credible introductions to industry associations, chambers of commerce and other key business networks. Some business barriers to women entrepreneurship still lie in the regulatory and legal framework: property laws, inheritance rules and mobility restrictions in particular, which in some countries are still discriminatory. Approach and Implementation Approach: UNIDO offered its technical assistance in the form of a holistic project approach that has three levels of intervention: 1) Facilitating the policy dialogue between key stakeholders, with the objective to produce a set of recommendations for policy reforms promoting women entrepreneurship (outcome 1). 2) Strengthening the capacities of national business women s associations in providing better quality and demand-driven services to women entrepreneurs to create their own businesses (outcome 2). 3) Directly promoting about 200 promising women-led investments in the target countries through trainings and facilitation of business partnerships and access to finance (outcome 3). Challenges: At policy level (outcome 1), the main challenge was the delay in triggering the policy dialogue at national level. The project had foreseen the creation of task forces at national level led by the women business associations. The objective of the task forces was to enhance the policy dialogue between the government and the private sector and to build upon recommendations drawn from the assessment report as well as the regional dialogue initiated during the regional conference on women empowerment in the MENA region held at the Milan EXPO in October This should in turn have led to the identification of priority policy reforms and to promote women entrepreneurship at national level and strengthen the role of women s associations in the policy reform process. Each country organized at least one meeting of the task force, however, there has not yet been a clear indication of the leading role of the task forces in relation to the dialogue with respective governments, on policy reforms. The activities, seeking the reinforcement of the capacities of the women business associations to provide more efficient and tailored services to women entrepreneurs (outcome 2), were mostly carried out with success. A majority of the scheduled trainings were held, and their targets, in quantitative and qualitative terms, were generally met. Some even went beyond expectations, such as the trainings on strategic planning which resulted in the formulation of a strategic plan for the establishment of a 2

3 regional consortium that the women business associations intend to create in the coming months in the framework of the project. The tools and methodologies provided, in particular COMFAR Lite (UNIDO s online software for project financial analysis and appraisal) for business plan formulation, and UNIDO s investment promotion methodology were considered helpful by the associations to strengthen their capacities to identify and support the creation of women led businesses in their respective countries (outcome 3). As for the investment promotion component of the project (outcome 3): The identification of women-led businesses has been successfully undertaken. The business contacts, established during the B2B organized at the occasion of the Milan EXPO conference have resulted in a number of business negotiations. The coaching activities foreseen by the projects were somehow delayed due to a delay in the COMFAR Lite certification process. Overcoming challenges: At organizational level, several internal meetings (in addition to three regional steering committees) with the associations were organized to trigger ownership and commitment to the project s objectives. At the implementation level: Outcome 1: the level and regional outreach of the policy dialogue has been increased through the established cooperation with the Union for the Mediterranean, which labelled the project in November Besides, the regional conference on women empowerment in the MENA region was held in Milan in October 2015 and a second regional conference on women economic empowerment was organized in Amman on 20 July The regional conferences gathered ministerial representatives, women business associations, women entrepreneurs and other private sector representatives, to support an increased policy dialogue among relevant stakeholders, showcase women entrepreneur success cases, and boost networking of women entrepreneurs at regional level. Also the women associations targeted by the project have been invited to take part in the UfM working group on women empowerment, which took place in Amman on 19 July Outcome 2 and 3: flexibility in activities was adopted as much as possible in the implementation of the project, so as to provide a tailored technical assistance during the project cycle. For instance, some foreseen trainings were replaced by others and some activities were added to overcome major challenges. Key partnerships: The main project counterparts are the Ministries of Industries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia, and the six National Women Associations of the MENA region: Egypt: Association for Women s Total Advancement and Development (AWTAD); Jordan: Business & Professional Women Amman (BPW A); Lebanon: Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB); Morocco: Association des Femmes Chefs d'entreprises du Maroc (AFEM); Palestine: Business Women Forum (BWF); Tunisia: Femme and Leadership (F&L). Further partners included: the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the Italian NGO No Peace Without Justice, the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR) and Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini. 3

4 Size, duration and costs of program: The project s implementation started in February 2015 and will end on the 31 July The total budget is EUR 972,000 (approx. US$ 1.07 million at July 2016 rate) and the donors are the Regular Programme of Technical Cooperation and the Government of Italy. Results Outputs: The policy dialogue between the various stakeholders has been supported and stimulated through: The organization of two regional conferences on women economic empowerment in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia, first in Milan (Italy) on 14 October 2016 and in Amman (Jordan) on 20 July Both conferences registered the participation of several highlevel personalities, including at ministerial level, international organizations (such as UN WOMEN), women entrepreneurs, and representatives of national and international financial institutions. These two conferences triggered the exchange of good practices and experiences and resulted in the formulation of recommendations and action points to promote women entrepreneurship in the six target countries that were shared with the relevant stakeholders, including UfM. An improved knowledge of the reality of female entrepreneurship in the targeted region and the identification of the best practices for its promotion: two research studies were carried out, aiming to support the identification of targeted and effective policy reforms to promote women entrepreneurship at national level. An assessment report of the situation and challenges of women entrepreneurship in the region helped to identify specific challenges, perceptions and expectations of women entrepreneurs in each country through a desk review and a survey carried out among women entrepreneurs in the target countries. In addition, a benchmarking analysis with Australia, Italy, and Turkey, selected for their good policy practices in promoting female entrepreneurship, served to identify effective replicable measures to boost women entrepreneurship in the region. The results of both research studies facilitated the identification of advocacy priorities, endorsed by women business associations that are partners in the project, at national level. The capacities of these women business associations have been reinforced in several fields, in order for them to offer more adequate business development services to women entrepreneurs, and to contribute more efficiently to the policy dialogue on women economic empowerment at national and regional level. Entrepreneurship development coaching capacities: Identification and promotion of business opportunities: the associations were trained on UNIDO s investment promotional methodology and were offered additional coaching/assistance throughout an on-the-job practice performed in the framework of the investment promotion component of the project (outcome 3). The methodology has been adopted by the associations and applied to identify and formulate 91 women-led projects to be promoted (outcome 3). Business plan formulation and access to finance. Training sessions have been organized for all six target countries, during which 100 participants, selected by the national women business associations (including representatives from other associations, BDS providers, Banks), have acquired literacy in conducting financial appraisal of investment projects together with the application of UNIDO s COMFAR Lite online software. Amongst those participants 22 were nominated by the associations to undertake individual coaching provided by UNIDO and leading to certification. By end of June 2016, four trainers were certified and five others are still in the 4

5 training process. In addition, the national associations were granted access to the software and established as national exclusive hubs in terms of access to COMFAR Lite in their respective countries. Advocacy, communication and networking capacities: The national associations have been supported in their intent to create a regional consortium of women business associations. To this end, UNIDO provided a first introductory training on strategic planning in June 2015 followed by a three day workshop in Jordan in May 2016, which resulted in drafting the consortium s strategic plan. The visibility and communication of the WE AM consortium (for Women Entrepreneurs Associations of the Mediterranean) will be ensured, as a first step, through the website designed for this purpose in the framework of the project ( In addition to the above, 13 representatives of the national women business associations participated in thematic technical tours in Northern Italy. Three sectorial tours were proposed: agroindustry, textile and jewellery. All three included technical seminars and field visits to selected companies, resulting in new opportunities to develop cooperation with Italian companies, women associations, chambers of commerce and universities. 24 representatives of the women business associations were trained on communication for advocacy with the objective of increasing the efficiency of their advocating activities for a more conducive environment to women entrepreneurship. As for the investment promotion component of the project implemented in close partnership with the national women business associations, the achievements have been as follows: 192 women entrepreneurs assisted in the formulation of their business proposals in the manufacturing and service sectors. 91 projects selected and formulated in view of promotion: 40 per cent in the agro-industry sector, 12 per cent handicrafts, and 12 per cent services. 61 women coached throughout their business creation/growth processes together with a formulation of business plans. 294 B2B meetings between 65 MENA entrepreneurs and associations on one side and 45 Italian companies on the other side were held in Milan on 15 October 2015: 3 partnerships were concluded to date, and 17 are currently under negotiation. 49 MENA entrepreneurs participated to thematic technical tours in Italy (textile, agro-food and jewellery). Outcomes: The project has grown to become a regional platform for exchange of good practices and knowledge in the area of women economic empowerment, in particular since it has been labelled by UfM in November The labelling has not only enhanced the cooperation with UfM on women empowerment and more broadly on job creation for youth and women in the Mediterranean, but has also increased the visibility of the project and the opportunities to coordinate complementarities and share experiences with other major stakeholders in the region, including governments. As a matter of fact, UNIDO is part of UfM s regional dialogue on women empowerment, in quality of co-chair of the working group Raise women s participation in the economic life established in preparation of the fourth UfM Ministerial Conference on strengthening the role of women in society to be held during the first quarter of This is contributing to increase the impact and outreach of the policy dialogue efforts carried out within the framework of the project, since its recommendations will be included in 5

6 the general recommendations to be presented at the upcoming EUROMED ministerial conference on strengthening the role of women in society. At meso level, and as a result of the capacity reinforcement program provided by UNIDO, the supported MENA women business associations decided to create a regional consortium. The consortium is designed with the mandate to: 1) Support business women in developing their capacities and growing their businesses by expanding market opportunities, mobilizing available financing, and offering innovative digital solutions; 2) Strengthen the business women associations by disseminating best practices, methods and business models; 3) Advocate for a conducive entrepreneurship ecosystem to advance women inclusive and sustainable economic empowerment, able to represent and defend the interests of women entrepreneurs in the MENA region. In addition, each association has endorsed, at national level, an advocacy priority based on the assessment of the situation of women entrepreneurship in the six target countries. At micro level and in collaboration with the women business associations, the project is directly supporting the creation of women-led businesses in the six target countries, including facilitating access to finance and business partnerships (20 negotiations are ongoing with European companies) within the region. More than 60 women entrepreneurs are currently working at the creation/expansion of their businesses with the support provided within the project. Who benefited and how: The project s direct beneficiaries are the women business associations, which capacities in providing business development services to women entrepreneurs and advocating power are reinforced, as well as the women entrepreneurs themselves, who benefit from more accessible and efficient services for creating/growing their businesses, access to regional and international best practices and opportunities for business partnerships, and ultimately from a more conducive business environment. Tracking changes: Tracking changes is scheduled to take place before launching the second phase, so after 18 months from the beginning of the project. Potential for scale or replication: An extended project proposal of EUR 4,525,000 including the ongoing project as a pilot phase and entailing the replication on a larger scale of the project s activities has been labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean in November The label means unanimous endorsement of the project s rationale and objectives by UfM s 43 members and brings larger awareness and visibility, as well as further support and new opportunities in mobilizing partners. The label entails in particular UfM s continuous support towards ensuring the implementation of the project by facilitating the policy dialogue, providing networking opportunities (in particular with European women associations), and joint identification of issues and solutions. In this framework UfM is facilitating the establishment of synergies with other ongoing projects, as well as access and participation to larger platforms of policy dialogue. Moreover, UfM is supporting UNIDO in raising additional funds by providing access to its strong network of donors and financial institutions (EBRD, WB, AfDB). In this framework, a request for extension of EUR 442,000 until March 2017 has been submitted to the Government of Italy and approval is expected. As for the remaining 3 million Euros fund raising 6

7 activities are ongoing and a discussion has been opened with several donors and potential technical partners, in particular UN Women. Links for Further Information Ms Monica Carcò, Senior Industrial Development Officer and Project Manager of Promoting women empowerment for inclusive and industrial sustainable development o address: o Phone number: Office for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women: o Tel: (+43-1) * Disclaimer: The case studies are written by implementing organizations. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Panel members. 7

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