Celebrating International Women’s Day
On March 8, a strong group of 26 women entrepreneurs gathered at the EDC headquarters in Addis Ababa to commemorate International Women’s Day under the 2018 theme #PressforProgress. The women entrepreneurs came from various industries such as leather, printing press, daycare and hospital to services and even construction – a mostly male dominated industry.
The discussion was led by 2 successful women entrepreneurs: Meron Seid, Leather Exotica; winner of the Global Entrepreneurship Week Ethiopia 2017 Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Fetlework Tsegaye, Injera Production Company. Meron and Fetlework had the opportunity to share their motivations for starting a business with the other women. They also spoke about the challenges they encountered in the past as an eye opener for the women that are at the start-up phase of their business. Meron was quoted as saying “as women entrepreneurs, we should share our experiences, especially our challenges so that other women entrepreneurs do not have to experience the same hardship that we went through.”
Under the #PressforProgress theme the discussion leaders were asked to define what progress means to them. Both entrepreneurs shared a common definition of progress which is to achieve a desired goal. For Meron, it was designing and producing her first bag which served as a launch pad for her career. For Fetlework, it was going against her family’s advice to start an injera production business in her home. Now both women have created employment opportunities for men and women in their community and serve as role models for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
The women in the room took the opportunity to share some of their negative experiences that they faced being a women entrepreneur. The conversation brought to light that no matter how successful or persistent you are; the entrepreneurship climate is a challenging environment for women to navigate. Many of the women that spoke about their past negative experiences are determined and continue to push for success. They understand the important role they are playing in their society as change makers and the contribution they have to the economic development of the country.
Entrepreneurship in Ethiopia is evolving. The opportunities are widening and the competition is getting fiercer. Through this all, both men and women are facing challenges when it comes to the survival of their business. Therefore, it is imperative that woman support each other and serve as each other’s backbone. They must form strong networks and build trust among each other and serve as each other best resource. As these support systems strengthen, so will the progress that we continue to strive for.