The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu, is worried that government is not doing enough to assist women entrepreneurs find markets for their products.
Launching the Northern Women Exposition in Francistown last week, the minister said that government remains challenged in its efforts to search for more effective means through which women entrepreneurs can be helped to market their products.
“While the government is encouraged by the current positive trend regarding women entrepreneurship development, we remain challenged to continue our search for more effective means through which these women could be assisted to market their products. To this end, my ministry has taken a deliberate move to cast the net wider and conduct regional Women’s Exposition in order to offer more women entrepreneurs the opportunity to market their products as well as network to forge relationships,” said the minister.
He added that it is pleasing that the Women Exposition which was established in 1999 has grown in leaps and bounds from a modest 70 exhibitors at inception to a total of 220 in 2012.
The minister added that his ministry has decided to host two consecutive events in the south and the northern parts of the country.
“The first event was conducted in Gaborone on the 1 ÔÇô 6th of July this year at the Fairgrounds Holdings and attracted over 150 exhibitors from the southern part of Botswana. My ministry has decided to host the event in Francistown and it has attracted 150 exhibitors from Bobirwa, Chobe, North West and the North East regions,” he said.
Batshu said that the women exposition is one of the strategies that has been devised by government to offer women entrepreneurs the opportunity to network, forge partnerships as well as expose their products to the national, regional and international markets.
He explained that the strategy was initiated in response to the disparities that exist between women and men in the trade and economic spheres.
“If you put economic power in the hands of a woman, she will feed herself and many other people within her reach,” he said.
Addressing the theme of the exposition, “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs, Key to Sustainable Economic Development”, the minister said the theme signifies that women participation continues to be cardinal in sustainable economic development.
He added that harnessing and unleashing women’s full potential as significant players in the economy is imperative, adding that supporting women who have good business ideas that can be developed into viable business ventures should serve to prevent poverty and vulnerability to exploitation as well as to create untapped contribution to national economic growth.
“For the financial year 2012/2013, the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs funded a total of 47 women’s groups comprising 245 beneficiaries at a cost of P8, 168, 720. This amount excludes training and monitoring costs,” he added.
In addition the minister said that 15 Non-Governmental Organizations were also funded to the tune of P2, 362,905 to carry out support services, such as beneficiary training for technical skills, social development and the use of simple tools by entrepreneurs to capture vital information.
The minister also added that up to end of March this year, 1053 beneficiaries in 249 villages were financed by government at a total cost of P9, 849,502 to start income generating projects under the poverty eradication programme.
“As inspired by his Excellency President Ian Khama’s five D’s, human dignity is clearly restored for those who were unemployed, poor and compromised, but they are now reaping the benefits of their hard work as entrepreneurs and confident productive citizens of Botswana,” he said.
Neo Maruapula, a successful entrepreneur who was at the same event, encouraged women to take advantage of government programmes as a gateway out of poverty. She urged the women entrepreneurs to have a spirit of perseverance, patience and financial discipline in order to make it as successful entrepreneurs.
“For you to make it in business you should also manage your business well. You should be financially disciplined and you should have a spirit of perseverance,” Maruapula said.