Women entrepreneurs in the Caribbean are breaking through the walls (Credit: infoDev)
In the last few decades, women in the Caribbean have made impressive strides to break through the glass ceiling and obtain positions of power and responsibility. In governments throughout the region, we’ve seen women as national leaders including Janet Jagen (Guyana), Eugenia Charles (Dominica), Portia Simpson Miller (Jamaica) and Kamla Persad-Bissessar (Trinidad). In addition, the region’s women are attaining high levels of academic achievement, and now there are more female than male college graduates in total. While this is all extremely positive news for gender equality in the Caribbean, we shouldn’t rest on our laurels just yet. There is still one area of the playing field that remains to be leveled, and not just in the Caribbean, which is women succeeding as well as men as high growth entrepreneurs.
They had to do something different, something memorable, which would make people realize just how tough it is for small businesses in the Caribbean to survive, “So we held a funeral”. Rosalea Hamilton, the President of the Jamaica-based MSME Alliance explained that they staged a funeral to mourn for the death of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Jamaica. The objective was to draw attention to a petition presented to the Prime Minister on ways to support the sector. As the poster for the event underscored, if nothing changed to help Caribbean entrepreneurs, their ventures were as good as dead.
According to Rosalea, one of the top challenges facing businesses in Jamaica is the cripplingly high electricity costs, which can account for 25% of a business’s expenses. Jamaica, along with many other Caribbean countries, is highly dependent on foreign oil. This is in spite of numerous domestic natural resources that could be used to move away from fossil fuels, such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy, biofuels such as bagasse, and waste-to-energy systems. Given the high energy prices, start-ups developing alternative energy solutions should thrive in the Caribbean. But ask regional cleantech entrepreneurs, and a different story emerges.