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Jun 23, 2015

Workshop for Women and Entrepreneurship

What is it like for women who are in business or thinking of starting a business in Belize? Well, like other women across the world, the playing field isn’t leveled. And women have a more difficult time to secure financing, while many others lack the technical skills needed to develop their products. And why is there a focus on women entrepreneurship? Well, Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis says that this initiative is a part of her twenty thousand strong movement to empower women. Today, at a workshop held with the IDB, business women from across the country had an opportunity to feed into the discourse and share their experiences. The expectation is that it will contribute to a clear plan of action to stimulate entrepreneurship for women in Belize. Andrea Polanco has this report:


Soley Evans, Stann Creek Women’s Producers

Soley Evans

“Well, me, I have six kids. I am a stay at home mom. The vinegar we making with the cooperative is a natural gourmet product. We use fruits from around the farm and we all work together. If we go gather the fruits, we do it together. We clean. We wash. We do everything together. We are all single mothers and we are here trying to work hard on this product. Yes. We would do good with a startup fund that would get us on a starting point yes.”


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

When it comes to catching up with their male counterparts, women have made great strides, but many sectors of society, will tell you that women still face many challenges, including financial, technical and educational. And that is why, the Special of Envoy of Women and Children partnered with the IDB to determine the needs of women entrepreneurs to find solutions:


Anneke Jessen

Anneke Jessen, Country REP, IDB

“What we are doing right now is to help with some technical assistance to map the needs at the country level, in terms of women entrepreneurship. For example, there are already a lot of ways in which young entrepreneurs and small women entrepreneurs are being supported in Belize. So, the question is, are they fully integrating women entrepreneurship in what they are offering.”


Kim Barrow, Special Envoy for Women & Children

Kim Barrow

“From what we’re seeing, a number of the gaps would include building of skills; skills training; access to micro financing, loans or grants; marketing the products. They might have the product but how do we get the product out in the market.”


Women like Aguida and Angela know just how difficult it is to grow their businesses. Like many others, their primary challenge is financing.


Angela Reneau

Angela Reneau, Entrepreneur

“One of my biggest dreams is to expand campus corner. Finance is one of my biggest problems. If you don’t have money to do it you can have all the dreams but if you don’t have the money you are at a standstill.”


Aguida Thompson, Member, Osh Mul Kah Group

“Osh Mul Kah Group. We have fourteen women that are working. When we started this group, we didn’t have not even a cent to start. I came with the idea to go to the bank to see if they can give us a small loan just to start. I came with the idea that we need that money but how e could do that. The women were interested that they want to work together. So, I came with the idea that I will do the loan person under my name. The one thousand dollar that I borrowed for the group, I paid it in a year and half because we couldn’t give a lot you know. Just a little bit that was coming. If they give us like grant for funds that is okay for us. We can do that but if to borrow loan at the bank, we can’t do that. We can’t afford it for right now.”


For the IDB, the project is in line with the work they do in this region. And from the preliminary ground work completed, the challenges and opportunities are very real:


Anneke Jessen

Aguida Thompson

“I think the IDB value comes in because the IDB does many entrepreneurship programs through-out the Latin America and the Caribbean. So, of course, our organization has been able to bring lessons learn from what we do in other countries; what works; what doesn’t work; how can you best support women and their companies.”


Andrea Polanco

“From what you’ve seen in Belize, would you say that the climate in Belize supports women entrepreneurs?”


Anneke Jessen

“Women entrepreneurs have a lot of challenges and also a lot of opportunities. I think institutions such as the small business association, Beltraide, BEST, YWCA, and a lot of other organizations that actually support entrepreneurship. I think the challenge is to actually build on the skills of those agencies and strengthen them so that they can strengthen women entrepreneurs.”


Entrepreneurs like this women’s group in Southern Belize. They have a fully fitted facility and are established in the arts and craft trade, but they need that extra push.


Rosenda Pop, Maya Women’s Group

“With the women group, we want to expand the building but we don’t have enough space to display our arts and craft because more of the women want to join the group and we can’t. We won’t be able to accept them because we don’t have enough space. Most of the people here in the village they don’t send their daughter to high school. But when the ladies get a job or they find somewhere to get the monies, they can send their daughter to school like what I am doing with my daughter because I didn’t went to high school.”


And that’s what it comes down to, says the Special Envoy. It is about self-empowerment that will help to build a better quality of life for Belizeans


Kim Barrow

“Well, we know that when we invest in our girls and women, we invest in a community and that’s true. I am hoping to see a stronger community. I am hoping to see stronger women. This is not to say that we work in isolation. I think one of the very important things is for us to know that we work alongside our men.

We made a commitment to help improve the lives of women and this is one of the ways that we are hoping to come out of this is our way forward in terms of where my office would then have a structure to either offer grants or loans to women entrepreneurship; whether or not they are just starting or whether or not they just need that little push.”


Andrea Polanco reporting for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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