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Don't shy from starting your own businesses, women urged

By Lee Mwiti | Published Sun, March 6th 2016 at 00:00, Updated March 5th 2016 at 19:25 GMT +3

NAIROBI: Kenyan women have been urged by their Indian counterparts to take advantage of business opportunities coming their way.

At a women's conference on Friday at Strathmore Business School that coincided with the International Women's Day, the notion of women empowerment in business was discussed at length. The conference was dubbed 'Mitreeki 2016' – a combination of Maitreyi in Hindi and Urafiki in Swahili, both terms meaning friendship and symbolising partnership between Kenya and India.

It was organised by the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) in partnership with IPE Kenya, a branch of IPE Global, which is a world body that gives certification for businesses that meet certain international standards.

The key speaker was Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki. Women from Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda were represented, as the talks revolved around the problems women face in getting finance, training and the confidence to grow businesses.

KAWBO Chairperson Eva Muraya noted that 30 per cent of government tenders are reserved for women and the youth but still women don't engage in any form of procurement. She attributed this trend of women not engaging in the male dominated business field is general lack of confidence and training.

"To engage in entrepreneurship you need to grow a business from a small family ran enterprise, to a SME before graduating to a full corporate entity. This will need structures and an acumen that comes from training. It is want our women need, to empower themselves economically," Ms Muraya said.

Reading the key note speech on behalf of her boss, Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Principal Secretary Zeinab Hussein noted that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer another opportunity for global development.

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"The goal on gender has outlined aspirations for women to better themselves and they should not shy from taking advantage of opportunities they are given," Ms Zeinab said.

Victoria Kisyome, a representative from Uganda and the founder and Director of SELFINA, a Ugandan micro finance enterprise that advances credit to women explained how, because of lack of collateral, women in her country have been marginalised in business.

"We buy assets like milling machines, and the like which we lease to women. We even allow them to use these assets as collateral to get some funds to start businesses," Dr Kisyome said.

Leading the Indian delegation, Sunil Mitra, an entrepreneur in her country explained that for any society to grow, women cannot be detached from its socio-economic development. Both women from Kenya and those from India were called upon to create an online platform which will enable them learn from each other and create business opportunities for one another.

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