State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, says more can be done to increase business opportunities for female entrepreneurs in the Caribbean.
“We must do more to assist existing women-owned micro and small businesses in growing and becoming more competitive,” she said.
The Minister was addressing a graduation ceremony for the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) Training Session, held at the New Kingston offices of the Industry Ministry, on March 18, where a total of 46 persons successfully completed the course.
She said assistance can be realised through granting greater access to human capital, investments and other productive resources, as well as to markets.
“Thus, we must continue to build the capacity of the Caribbean SBDCs to provide the specialised counselling, training and mentorship programmes, that will guide women entrepreneurs in starting and formalising new enterprises,” Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said.
The SBDC Model focuses on promoting growth, innovation, productivity and revenue for small businesses through improvements in the administration of firms within the micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSME) sector.
The Minister said that in the Caribbean, women face a number of specific challenges, including: over-representation in the informal sectors of our economies; greater vulnerability to unemployment than males; lower pay for equal work; and disproportionate concentration in low-paying jobs.
She further noted that Caribbean women tend to be under-represented at the top of the job ladder and face gender inequality, particularly in terms of access to land, credit, and social protection.
The Minister said she was pleased that one of the key components of the SBDC model is to assist Caribbean women entrepreneurs.
“In the final analysis, however, all of us – both males and females – have a role to play in ensuring an effective, efficient and integrated regional Caribbean SBDC network to provide our micro, small and medium entrepreneurs with the high-value assistance, that will allow them to increase their sales, improve their competitiveness and create sustainable jobs,” she said.
Since December last year, small business counsellors and directors have been participating in training under the project: ‘Establishment of SBDCs in the CARICOM Member States (Caribbean SBDC Project)’. It seeks to address the shortcomings of small businesses by contributing to the development of MSME support institutions.
Training was undertaken by the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce in collaboration with the United States (US) Government, the University of Texas and San Antonio, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Caribbean Export Development Agency.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter