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JM | Jan 9, 2022

Olivia Grange | There are systemic and institutional barriers to women’s economic empowerment

/ Our Today

administrator
Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Minister of Gender and Culture, speaking as the specially invited guest at the launch of the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative hosted on Friday, January 7. (Photo contributed)

Women entrepreneurs and those aspiring to climb the corporate ladder just can’t catch a break with the system rigged against them.

So said Jamaica’s Minister of Culture and Gender, Olivia “Babsy” Grange at the launch of the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative (SWI) held at the AC Marriot Hotel in Kingston.

Below is her full address: 

“It is indeed a pleasure to join you today for this launch ceremony for what I agree is a major move forward by Scotiabank for the advancement of women in this country. 

We consider the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative (SWI) of utmost significance against the reality of the situation for women who desire to be entrepreneurs in the Caribbean and Latin America. I believe that this platform will promote a culture of women-centred entrepreneurship to produce gender-transformative outcomes.

Let us recall the case of Shawneil Bailey, Founder and Managing Director of People Management Service company, Zarabelle Limited whose entrepreneurial journey was published on November 4, 2018, in The Gleaner.

Although being rejected at least five times by financial institutions, she persevered and was successful in pursuing her dream. I’m sure that, like me, you are aware of women who, like Ms Bailey, valiantly overcame the challenges and are now among the ‘trail blazers’ in the respective sectors.

Despite Jamaica being a country where women are likely to become managers; there are systemic and institutional barriers which pose significant threats to women’s economic empowerment and the achievement of gender equality. 

In fact, a study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported that a majority of institutions in Jamaica providing micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) with financing and business development services, did not consider the specific needs of women entrepreneurs.

A recommendation from that ILO study was that with [the] COVID-19 pandemic still with us, now was the time to close the gaps to transition women-owned enterprises from informality to formality. To develop and offer female-friendly business financial services; and increase access to export markets for women entrepreneurs.

For the entire Caribbean and Latin America region, other recent studies have shown that only one per cent of female entrepreneurs have access to angel investors, seed capital and venture capital funds which are the three sources of funding that can enable a business idea to become a reality. 

By contrast, seven per cent of men have access to this type of capital. While women tend to fund their startups with personal resources or funding from family and friends, men tend to access more diverse sources.

Men in the ‘grey suits’ in most instances get the breaks.

On the other hand, the studies show that investments in startups that have at least one woman in the founding team performed 63 per cent higher than those led only by men.

If we want to change this situation for would-be female entrepreneurs, we need to increase and diversify women’s access to funding and also promote relationship building with mentors, private investors and business networks.

What Scotiabank is starting, with the launch of its SWI here today, heralds what will be its contribution to reduce the anomalies which exist in the funding of female entrepreneurs in not just Jamaica but in the Caribbean and Latin America in general.

The Government too is alert to the existing situation and has not been idle in its effort to address it. To this end, the Gender Portfolio of my ministry has been working with other ministries, departments, agencies and representatives of the private sector and civil society to facilitate inter-sectoral linkages to find solutions. 

On November 1, 2017, the former Minister of Industry and Commerce Karl Samuda and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding in keeping with the Implementation Plan of the Updated MSME & Entrepreneurship Policy. I later launched Phase One of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Support (WES) project with the current minister Audley Shaw. 

Since then, the WES has been implemented in two phases to achieve the following objectives:

  •  Graduate women’s income-generating activities from survival level to strong and viable businesses;
  • Provide business development support through capacity building for female entrepreneurs;
  • Present social entrepreneurship as a viable means of income generation for women in Jamaica.

In keeping with the MOU, four women in medium, small and micro enterprises received grants valued at J$250,000 each to assist with sustainability and expansion of their businesses.

Anya Schnoor, Executive Vice President of Scotiabank Caribbean, Central America and Uruguay in conversation with Audrey Tugwell-Henry, Scotiabank Jamaica President during Friday’s Scotiabank Women’s Initiative (SWI) launch at the AC Marriot Hotel. Also pictured are Gender and Culture Minister Olivia Grange and President of Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Diane Edwards. (Photo contributed)

Under Phase Two, ten women received grants of J$100,000 each. In addition, they were given the opportunity to attend two training workshops conducted by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC). 

Again, I congratulate the Bank for bringing into being the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative. 

Very happy that Jamaica was the first country outside of Canada to launch the initiative. You are leading the way at no better time than now – the beginning of a new year, our Diamond Jubilee Year, and during this pandemic time which has had a negative, almost devastating impact, particularly on our women. 

The National Policy for Gender Equality promotes support to women’s empowerment. 

I am pleased to announce here today that the ministry plans to honour 60 women in March this year to mark the observance of International Women’s Day and to coincide with the observance of Jamaica 60.

The women who will be drawn from various sectors and groups to represent a wide cross-section of the Jamaican population, are ones who have broken the glass ceiling, survived and excelled.

I repeat my greeting, all the best for the New Year!”

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