Women Involved in Business Initiatives Are Thriving

Closing the economic gaps between genders will help the world economy.

Gender Road Project in Cameroon. (Courtesy UN Women)

Globalization has made the world smaller in many ways. People and trade are all interconnected by way of the internet and this has paved the way for small grassroots entrepreneurs in under resourced  areas to thrive.

Many of these ventures are headed by women for women. Globalization has given them the tools to succeed in countries where women have traditionally been an untapped resource in societies that prioritize education for boys.

While 16 million girls never go to school, the Council on Foreign Relations said that providing a secondary level and beyond education allows women to compete in the job market and helps close the gender gap and helps women, their families and their communities.

In a globalized economy,  a post on Medium from UN Women stresses that the gender gap has to be closed and that to bring economic progress for all, investing in women's economic progress (through education, job training, and financial investment) is a must.

The UN reaches out to women across the globe to promote the economic empowerment of women. Here are some of these pioneering women entrepreneurs:

Mereng Alima Bessela

Bessela, 50,  is a successful entrepreneur cocoa farmer, restaurant owner, as well as a fish farm owner from Ntui in Cameroon according to a UN Women news release. This is very unusual as cocoa is typically farmed by men.

Bessela said in the news release, "My husband was chasing other women, so I divorced him. I have four girls and one boy, and I am sending them all to school. I am a fighter and I do everything I need to. The most important thing is that my children finish school and find good jobs."

She tried various business ventures that included opening a restaurant and a fish-pond enterprise, but she had several setbacks. Bessela said that she learned the skills she needed to improve her fish- pond from training sessions given by UN Women. 

"I have learned how to build the reservoir, how to breed and multiply the fish stock and how to feed the fish using local and natural food that’s organic and less costly. I have learned business management skills, which helped me grow my business."

Bessela is also a farmer and after her divorce she bought forested land that she cleared to start her own cocoa farm. Her dream is to close her restaurant and live off her cocoa farm.

Like so many  other women in Cameroon, Bessela did not have access to training and financing to start her own business until she participated in a UN Women project funded by The Development Bank of Central African States that provides these needs for communities that are on the route of a new road being built through three townships. This "Gender Road Project" plans on empowering at least 20,000 women.

Mereng Alima Bessela (Courtesy UN Women)

Menna Cooperatives

In Lebanon, women are earning a living and at the same time preserving their culture and tradition by creating the Menna Shop cooperative bread making enterprise. MENNA means made from us or made by our own hands in Arabic and more than 650 rural and refugee women participate in these types of cooperatives.

Daed Ismaiel, a women's cooperative leader said in a UN Women Youtube video, "We are the bakers of Mallet El Smid. No other village produces this bread." She explained that the recipe comes from an ancient tradition energy and is made from local agriculture. The cooperative was started by 12 women and grew to 23. They are working to allow more women to join.

The benefits of the cooperative, Ismaiel said, are more than just financial, they have formed a strong family-like community. What started as a village enterprise has grown and now the bread is distributed in other Menna shops.

The role of women in Lebanon is more equal according to UN Women due to the efforts of these women entrepreneurs who are part of these cooperatives. 

Daed Ismaiel (Courtesy UN Women)