The implementation of a programme with integrated gender-specific components is allowing female entrepreneurs to break the mould in business areas that are notoriously impenetrable for women.
Through extensive project experience and research on gender issues in entrepreneurship under the CARE2 initiative, GVEP is aware of the difficulties that women face when starting or becoming involved in energy businesses. To try to alleviate some of these barriers, GVEP has implemented country specific gender actions plans directed at equipping women with the skills and knowledge required to progress in these markets. This tailored support plays a vital part in achieving GVEP’S gender equity goal of reaching equal numbers of men-led and women-led energy businesses.
Nyamasaria is a Kenyan women’s group that has benefitted from support and guidance (mentoring) under GVEP’S gender programme. The group started producing cook stove liners in 2010, from skills they had learnt through a training organized by the Ministry of Agriculture. Although they had the basic foundations of an enterprise, they lacked direction and a business plan to take them forward and faced some significant setbacks due to their lack of experience. Furthermore, cook stove businesses are traditionally dominated by men, and although there are roles for women, most are limited to producing liners or other parts rather than assembling the entire product.
Since GVEP started working with the group, the business has taken off. Technology and business mentors have worked with all members of the group in one to one mentoring capacities. The training schedule is specifically designed to fit around the women’s family and domestic commitments; women can bring a friend or relative to the training sites to look after their children and the sessions finish early so women can return home, as well as conducting the trainings in the local village to avoid lengthy journeys or transport problems.
During the mentoring sessions, a strong focus was put on finance and economic skills. This is a common problem area for many clean energy entrepreneurs, not just women. There is little awareness of the options on loan and credit options available. The members of the Nyamasaria group have been trained on basic business financing, costing and pricing. The success of the training has enabled the women to form a savings group; they have been able to accumulate an amount which allows members to use as short term loans.
Another area that has made a significant impact on the progression of the enterprise is in marketing and visibility. Although the group were producing high quality parts for cook stoves, they didn’t have the means or knowledge on how to reach and integrate their products into the market. After guidance and advice from GVEP, the Nyamasaria women’s group have succeed in increasing their average monthly sales from 57,900KES (USD $659) to 101,200KES (USD $1152) in less than a year. Additionally, they now produce all components of clean cook stoves and have been able to recruit an additional 17 full time and 6 part time employees to add to their team.
The women now feel confident in the direction the business is heading and by continuing to work alongside GVEP they plan to expand their production spaceso as to have the to increase their capacity to produce more cook stoves and in turn further increase their income.
GVEP continues to recruit and support more female-led businesses under the programme. The CARE2 initiative is a three year programme funded by the Swedish government whose main objective is to upscale energy enterprises in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda with a focus to improve energy access in households and also help women entrepreneurs’ deliver this benefit.