Women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia are disadvantaged from the start. They have less access to the finance, networks, and education which help their male counterparts advance. They face regular discrimination and harassment from society--sometimes even from their own families and communities. The challenges a woman entrepreneur in Ethiopia faces in growing her business are overwhelming.
According the World Bank’s latest report on the state of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research in Africa, African researchers produce only 1 percent of the world’s research.
As shown in this video, unlocking the talent of women and girls could improve the quality and quantity of scientific research and tech innovation in Africa.
A multi-disciplinary art exhibition on the topic of gender based violence (GBV) is opening today at the World Bank in Washington, DC. The exhibition is entitled “1 in 3,” since an estimated one in three women worldwide will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. “1 in 3” includes art from around the world - photographs, paintings, drawings, sculpture; films and videos; posters from advertising campaigns against GBV, and performing art.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to the world’s highest female entrepreneurial activity, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report. Approximately 27% of African women are engaged in some form of entrepreneurial venture. Among these women is Kate Mahugu, cofounder of Shopsoko.com.
According to the World Bank report, "Women and Trade in Africa: Realizing the Potential", eliminating gender-specific barriers can help boost trade and increase productivity in Africa. Behind the research for this report were women who shared their personal stories of how they overcame gender discrimination at work in order to realize their potential.
- Be African or of African descent
- Be within one or two years of completing their Ph.D.
- Be enrolled in an academic institution and returning to university after the program
- Be below 32 years of age
- Have an excellent command of English (both written and verbal)
- Possess strong quantitative and analytical skills
Participation in the program may start at any time during the year. Fellows receive round-trip air travel to Washington, D.C. from their university, and remuneration during their fellowship. Throughout their Fellowship, students will be able to use their access to World Bank facilities, information and staff to enhance their doctoral research. After completing six months of the fellowship, high performers will be offered an additional six months to continue their work with the Bank.
In the Kenyan village of Naro Moro in the foothills of Mount Kenya near lush forests, I recently met Josephine Wanjiru and other members of a women’s group she leads. The transformation in their lives in the past two years has been remarkable. By planting trees and collecting previously discarded tree seeds during their vegetable crop low season, they have been able to use the seeds to make commercial products like bio-pesticides, soil conditioners, and moisturizers like the Cape Chestnut oil I brought home from my trip.
Josephine’s village is the home of Kenya’s growing biodiesel business run by the Help Self Help Centre (HSHC), a non-governmental organization supported by the Africa Energy Unit at the World Bank since 2010 as part of their Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa (BEIA). Through this initiative, we hope to demonstrate the feasibility of “social biofuels” – meaning small in scale, and both produced and consumed locally.
As our sturdy Land Cruiser inched its way down a precipitous dirt track, trying to descend from a high ridge into the Rift Valley, I wondered what might happen if we had an accident here in the heart of Kenya’s remote Samburu County. Mobile signals had faded soon after we left the town of Maralal several hours before. We could have tried to walk back, but would have been very unlikely to make it before nightfall. Luckily, after a few mishaps and some serious jolting, we arrived at our destination in the valley—lonely Suyan manyata, whose distant circular outline we had seen from the ridge.
Talking to some of the women in the manyata, I realized that the ground that we had covered to get to them was nothing. We had done it in good health in a vehicle built for difficult terrain. As they told us what life was like in their village, my heart quailed at the thought of enduring a bumpy ride in a run-down van if one were pregnant or in labor with complications—if at all transport could be obtained. Just a few days ago, a child had died here of malaria, the women said. How did they usually get help, I asked. “We send our fastest runner 18 kilometers to the nearest dispensary,” said Ma Toraeli, a grandmother in the village. “From there someone comes to help us”. Health workers also visited the village from time to time, she said, to immunize babies and perform other routine checks.
Immunization seemed high on people’s minds in Samburu. Later that day, we visited Barsaloi, a larger village with its own government dispensary and another run by Catholic nuns. The two stood side by side, with a well-worn path between them. There I met another grandmother, Agnes, who had brought an infant girl, Salini, to be immunized, although her record showed that she was early and didn’t need this service yet. But while Stephen, the clinical officer at the government dispensary, was examining the baby and we were on the subject of immunization, the district head nurse showed us how vaccines were stored at the required temperature in the two-room government dispensary without power supply.
Working in development, there are some faces you never forget because they come back to you at the end of a long day, time and again. As we recognize International Day of Action for Women, I’ve been thinking about some of these faces from a recent trip to Sudan. Faces of young women who are doing community work that is so important, it is really in a league of its own. I’d like to dedicate this “day” to these women of action, the young graduates of village midwife schools in eastern Sudan.
The doorway to the midwives school in Kassala, a town close to the Red Sea, leads you into a small courtyard crowded with beds, belongings, and cooking utensils gently baking under the desert sun. Passing through this open air dormitory, another door opens into a classroom, in which a group of about twenty young women dressed in soft white are listening to a lecture that involves plenty of gesticulating and a plastic model lying on a bed. These students have already qualified as midwives and are now in town to learn more advanced skills that they can take back to their villages in a few months.
I met Roselynd Laubhouet in 2004 when, as a recent graduate, she accepted an assignment as a Junior Professional Associate with the World Bank's Africa Region in Washington, D.C. From day one, it was evident that Roselynd was special. Being an entrepreneur at heart, she was filled with dreams, aspirations, and a passion for her home country of Senegal (and her continent) that set her apart.
When Roselynd and I reconnected in Abidjan last December, eight years after our first meeting, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only had she moved home to Senegal, but she had also started a successful international business. The journey from bureaucrat to entrepreneur was not easy, but it was clear that--having returned home--Roselynd was realizing her dreams.
I was curious to learn the secrets of her success, to understand the challenges facing returnees, and gather any advice for other Africans in the Diaspora considering a return. Roselynd was kind enough to share her experiences with me in the hopes that other young women in the Diaspora might be inspired to follow in her footsteps.