NAWF Women Entrepreneurs
Empowerment through Entrepreneurship & Innovation
26 February 2015, Four Seasons Hotel - Beirut, Lebanon
Women entrepreneurs are becoming more economically empowered in the Arab world. 23% among them have an innovative product or service, as compared to 18% of men according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s latest report. This is ushering a new era where women entrepreneurs will play an increasingly active role in the economy of the Arab countries.
Against this background, the 7th New Arab Woman Forum was held under the theme of “Empowerment through Entrepreneurship & Innovation” and was devoted to discuss the potential of women entrepreneurs, the challenges they face in the Arab countries and the role they can play in innovation and fostering economic growth and employment.
The first session was an outcry against a set of negative factors impeding women’s capacities and abilities to move towards a world of equality and women entrepreneurship, hence the title “A New Era for Women Entrepreneurs in the Arab World”. Throughout the session, participants answered the first question pertaining to the underlying secrets behind the entrepreneurship boom in the Arab world despite multiple political and economic challenges. The experiences shared by women who were present in the room sparked optimism around a future where ladies would have a vital role in fostering economic growth, where every succeeding woman would hold her head up high saying “I made it, now up to you”.
Empowering women through entrepreneurship and innovation should imperatively be coupled with institutional mechanisms to bolster women’s work. Loans granted for women are the first step towards a successful private career involving the establishment of one’s own business or the contribution in production. Such an axis laid the first foundations supported by investment funds, which led to the second session entitled “Enhancing Access to Funds”.
There is no doubt that our world is faced with numerous problems, but it also bears witness to successful experiences of women who started their own businesses thanks to loans from banks on the one hand, and banks taking the initiative to offer facilities aiming at enhancing women’s role in entrepreneurship on the other. Banks had in fact realized that the future of the market will usher a new era where women would have a major role to play in the Arab and world economies.
Discussions of the NAWF’s third session revolved around the modern technologies and their role in eliminating the gender discrimination mentality largely dominating the Arab countries’ laws and practices. The session brought up two different points of view: the first one highlighted that the individual initiative is the main way forward, whereas the second pointed out that women needed an institutional coverage in order to have more room for flexibility and efficiency. Both perspectives relied on technology as proof, but participants in the forum kept on repeating traditional examples about discrimination reflected in the Arab countries laws and the prevailing male practices.
The forum concluded with its fourth session on the experiences of five Arab women who managed to turn what was once considered as crazy ideas in the community into a successful business. It was not an adventure for them, but rather a devotion to working long hours and a determination to explore local and foreign arenas, hence proving their capacities to strike a balance in the business world with men… Simply, it only took courage to turn the will into a way and willingness to invest in time.
NAWF has proved throughout seven years that it is the main platform for supporting Arab women in their ongoing struggle to break prejudices. They have achieved success despite funding barriers, overcome stereotypes in their communities, embarked on serving the economy albeit their household duties, and managed to preserve their roles in raising their families.