HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) —Hargeisa is among the top 15 most expensive cities in the world to start a business. Despite the challenges, women continue to be the main drivers of micro enterprise in the city, according to a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) study on the Role of Women in the Private Sector. This study was presented today at a stakeholder forum in Hargeisa.
The study shows that women have transcended traditional barriers to women’s representation and leadership in enterprises, as more educated Somali female entrepreneurs, local or originating from the diaspora, break into new sectors such as livestock, fishery and petroleum importation. Women are also serving on boards of Chambers of Commerce in the region.
“The Somaliland private sector is dominated by micro, small and medium enterprises, and women are the main drivers of especially the small business. However, they usually enter the sector as a coping mechanism and remain trapped due to a number of barriers that limit their abilities to fully participate in social and political life,” the study revealed.
The study highlights the importance of education and experience, often gained through international exposure, as determinant factors in shifting the role of women in the private sector, from their participation in traditional subsistence-based economy to leadership in non-traditional, business-oriented (at this time still typically male-headed and managed) enterprises. Nevertheless, women struggle to function in an environment where vital business information is still shared in a very informal manner and where strategic networks and strong clan connections, from which they tend to be excluded, persistently determine success.
The study further reveals that women are discriminated against in formal employment and this is most noticeable in both the financial and telecommunications sectors. While women make up roughly around a third of the clientele of banking institutions and 60% of large telecom companies, women hardly feature as employees. The percentage of women being employed in these two sectors was as low as 1 % in some companies, and reached a maximum of only 9%. Evidence suggests that women’s participation in wage labor in Somaliland is currently at 36% – mainly concentrated in the agriculture sector.
The study provided recommendations around three areas: 1) policy, 2) programme and 3) advocacy; with focus on issues related to ‘an enabling environment, capacity building of stakeholders, access to finance, pro-poor value chain development, and the establishment of small and medium enterprises.
Some of the study’s specific recommendations include: establishment and reform of legal and regulatory frameworks for the private, financial and energy sectors; shifting economic empowerment activities away from micro enterprises to ‘educated risk takers’, that is, women with more potential to grow their own businesses from subsistence to viable enterprises that can create jobs and contribute to overall economic growth in the country. The study also recommended providing comprehensive business development support services to women. Women’s further progression in the business sector, in Somaliland and elsewhere, also requires commitment for long-term support from donors and UNDP to individual women entrepreneurs, cooperatives and business associations/networks that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the private sector.
The full report will be published soon.
For additional information, please contact Victoria Nwogu, UNDP Gender Specialist: firstname.lastname@example.org,
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