Stimulating Opportunities for Women: UN Women South Africa hosts NAMA Women Advancement high-level mission
UN Women South Africa Multi-Country office hosted a high-level team from the NAMA Women Advancement, led by Her Excellency Reem bin Karam from 1-5 August 2022. Joining Her Excellency was Dr. Jemimah Njuki, UN Women’s Chief of Economic Empowerment from the HQ office in New York.
The Stimulating Equal Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs Flagship Programme (FPI) is generously funded by NAMA Women Advancement, a semi-governmental entity in Sharjah, UAE. The programme is undertaken at the global level, as well as in South Africa and United Arab Emirates (UAE). The overall goal is to foster women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship, with more women starting small and medium enterprises that create decent jobs and contribute to sustainable development using gender-responsive procurement as a strategic lever.
The programme is designed to maximize on the opportunity that both public and private procurement presents for women owned businesses, resulting in a strong SME support ecosystem, whilst encouraging a favorable regulatory environment responding to the gap in women’s access to procurement markets.
The high-level mission began with a briefing session hosted by the United Arab Emirates embassy at their offices in Pretoria. NAMA and UN Women teams were welcomed by the deputy ambassador of UAE to South Africa. The UN Women team briefed Her Excellency Reem bin Karam on UN Women’s Women Economic Empowerment, the impact on Preferential Procurement, as well as share on the progress the programme has had.
Afterwards, the delegation had a chance to interact and engage with beneficiary women enterprises and implementing partners who have been working on addressing the structural barriers faced by women in business. Implementing partners, Sinc Point, Commerce Edge-Buy from Women, e-Watchdog and the Tshwane University of Technology presented on the results they’ve achieved with the FPI in the sectors of women in transport, ICT access for women entrepreneurs, institutional capacity to address women entrepreneurship and women in construction, respectively. A cross section of women entrepreneurs from those sectors had a chance to share their stories with the NAMA and UN Women teams, highlighting the challenges they faced and how the various trainings they received benefited their businesses and their lives. At the end of the session, Her Excellency and Dr. Njuki toured a small exhibition set up by the women entrepreneurs to interact with them personally and get a better sense of the work they are doing.
On the second day of the mission, the delegation met with Women Empowerment Principles (WEP) signatories at the Ernst and Young (EY) offices in Sandton. Business Engage, a UN Women partner coordinating the WEP Community of Practice, gave an overview and spoke about the lessons they’ve learned. EY shared a case study on a mentorship program they’re running, including personal testimonies from staff members who have taken part in the program.
The UN Women SAMCO representative, Ms. Aleta Miller hosted the NAMA team for a dinner at her residence on the evening of the second day of the mission, giving the UN Women staff a chance to socialize and interact with the team.
On the third day of the mission, the delegation visited East London to meet with the Amathole District municipality. The session focused on the experience of the Amathole District Municipality and key pillars that have contributed to building the model as well ongoing work to sustain the intervention. It was a chance to showcase the Amathole District Municipality case study on the implementation of preferential procurement at local government level, to share impact of the entrepreneurship training and support to duty bearers and local women owned businesses and give the delegation a chance to interact with these beneficiaries. The beneficiaries shared heartwarming stories about how they were also able to help their communities because of the trainings. Speaking at the close of the session, Her Excellency Reem bin Karam thanked the beneficiaries for coming to meet with the team and welcoming them with song and dance. She lauded them for the resilience that they had showed through what they shared with the delegation.
On the fourth day of the mission, the delegation, joined by the Ambassador of the UAE to South Africa H.E Mahash Saeed Alhameli, met key government sector departments which are leading on operationalizing H.E President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pledge to promote 40% preferential procurement for women-owned businesses in both the public and private sector. The session highlighted achievements, lessons, and challenges in building a pipeline of women suppliers in different sectors. Her Excellency Reem bin Karam praised the government partners for the amazing work that they had showcased, saying it was an eye opener to see how much effort had gone into the programme so far. Dr. Jemimah Njuki applauded the UN Women SAMCO team and partners for creating impact and sustainability through the project and thanked Her Excellency and NAMA for playing their part in getting the program off the ground.
On the final day of the week-long mission, the delegation visited Sekhukhune District, Limpopo to meet UN Women partner in the Mentoring and Coaching Programme, Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) who provided an overview of the Coaching Programme. The Mentorship and Coaching Programme provides women entrepreneurs with handholding support on the different stages of enterprise development. The delegation observed a coaching session and visited 2 women-owned enterprises where they got a chance to see the direct and indirect benefits that the entrepreneurs derived from the trainings.
Commenting on the visit, Her Excellency Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said: "We are committed to promoting gender equality and empowering female entrepreneurs and business owners, by creating market opportunities for women-led businesses worldwide. Providing them with equal opportunities enables women entrepreneurs to grow and thrive as leaders, innovators, and high-impact changemakers.”