|Panelists From right Olushoga, Chabalah, Sulimani, Kebbay,and Minard|
Women play a critical role in governments and with the help of leaders in the government and women's organizations, women's participation in the formal business sector will be recognized and supported. The panelists discussed that there is a direct linkage between women's economic development and womens political participation. Ms Kebbay from UN Women mentioned that we must not overlook the participation of women in the political realm and how it directly impacts economic policies. The importance of women's participation in government along their male counterparts will give more information, tools and resources that women need to enter into the formal market. Once there is proof to show governments on the major role women play in their economies they will be more inclined to provide resources to women including tax credit, loans etc to encourage more women business owners to participate in the formal business sector. Government's also play a major role in maintaining stability in their regions for markets to grow and for women to scale up their businesses. Countries such as Rwanda, Mozambique, South Africa and Uganda were said to have strong political participation of women in their governments and this in turn has impacted women's economic growth and enhancement of resources for women business owners in those societies. The importance of Non government organizations (NGO) participation was raised by Chabalah who stated that NGOs should work closely with governments to advocate for women. NGOs working for women's rights should work beyond gender ministries in the governments such as the ministry for gender affairs in-order to gain overall support for supporting women's economic development. In the past, women's organizations only engaged with the gender ministries in countries, but recently organizations such as UN women have been working in general across the board with various government machinery. This is important in-order to advocate for the recognition of women's economic involvement, push for more women in government, gain support on projects that increase women's economic stability.
How can we account for the contributions that women are making? It must go beyond anecdotal evidence and move towards tracking data of success stories of women and how they contribute to the overall GDP in their countries. Participants discussed the importance of using data as a means to show how women are contributing to the economy. Using data to prove that women do contribute to both the formal and informal market will strengthen the argument that women play a huge role in a country's economic development. Mary Olushoga founder of the African Women’s Power network an organization that tracks start up business owners and conducts interviews to tabulate how many women are contributing to the workforce, harped on the point that “Their success stories matter”. The trend of data being tracked was also echoed by other panelists as they mentioned that this is the only way one can begin to prove to governments that women’s contribution to the GDP is far beyond what they may think. An even more insightful look is to look at sex disaggregated data Ms Kebbay mentioned that this will help differentiate the various sectors women are contributing to. Ms Olushoga mentioned that we have to be able to show our work and one way her organization is looking to do this is the capture the stories of the women business owners from start up until 5 years later to measure success and growth of their businesses including an increase in employees, property ownership and other additional resources.
The issue of women's participation in the formal business market and in global market is one that is exciting for the African continent. As much as women have been doing this work in the informal sector it becomes a challenge and a matter of how confident they are to brave the wild of the new terrain.The panel ended in a hopeful and positive spirit and that women also need emotional support as they switch into the formal business sector. Thus women's organizations such as AWP, UN Women are working towards ensuring that women feel supported, that their contributions to the country's economy is tracked to enable the right supports rendered to them. Women are surely leading the way in contributing to their country's betterment and with the right advocates and leadership positions the next ten years on the continent is a sight we can't wait to see and experience!
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