According to the International Labour Organization, entrepreneurs operating in micro-businesses contribute to the economic growth of countries all over the world. Investing in women entrepreneurs in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is one of the most effective means of promoting sustainable economic growth. Although progress has been made in terms of opening doors to education and health protection for women, concrete efforts should equally be made to ensure that women entrepreneurs, particularly those in rural communities, can make economic choices and transform their businesses into competitive enterprises, generating income and employment for themselves. In this context, rural women entrepreneurs play a particularly significant role because, as numerous studies have shown, they tend to invest directly in their families and communities at large. Thus, supporting rural women enterprises contributes to gender equality and employment creation and goes a long way in expanding the pool of human resources and talents, and reducing poverty!
In developing countries like Nigeria, the vast majority of informal sector businesses are run by women, and available statistics suggest that this sector accounts for almost half of the economic activities in the country.
Micro and small enterprises hold a lot of untapped potential and offer many advantages for rural women in particular: more flexible hours, location in or near women’s homes, ease of entry, and links with local markets. Sadly, many of these women face particular challenges entering new, lucrative markets and expanding their businesses. With few employment choices, rural women often start micro-businesses in highly saturated sectors in the informal economy, have minimal access to credit/banking facilities, lack adequate education, capital, and access to information technology, and have minimal social/ government protection. All of this only serves to hinder their budding entrepreneurial progress. While considerable research has been devoted to corporate women entrepreneurs, it cannot be denied that less attention has been paid to rural women. This is where organizations like Durian Nigeria come in.
When Opportunity Meets Dedication
A huge part of what we do at Durian centers around making the most of every opportunity and resource available to us in our bid to create more sustainable communities across Nigeria. We understand the immense power and untapped potential of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in our community, which is why we work tirelessly to create more opportunities, particularly for women, in everything from the agricultural sector to the retail industry. Our Food Processing Unit, for example, helps to empower these women to play a direct part in channeling food from farms to households and creating employment and income for themselves. Through our inclusive Cooperatives, we are constantly putting our heads together (with the community members) to figure out new and improved ways to boost the efforts and progress of these SMEs.
Our textile unit is equally vibrant and growing similarly. Here, the women are taught and trained to use the materials already available to them and turn these into brand new articles of clothing, nifty bags, wallets, and so forth. In doing so, we not only equip these women with a unique skill set but also do our best to ensure that they have the business knowledge that will enable them to sell the items they make. The same can be said for our skin care villa: where women are taught to use the natural resources that abound in the community (like cocoa) to produce body butter, soaps, and even lip balms for sale.
With the skills our bamboo crafts and carpentry women acquire at Durian, many of them now produce a wide range of items for various clients even outside the community! It is a great joy to see the women rise to the challenge of these new opportunities and step boldly into a world of possibilities, improving themselves despite their various backgrounds and obstacles. For these rural women, entrepreneurship is not only boosting their economic status but also transforming and empowering them.
Autonomy comes forth as a chief factor of happiness in rural women entrepreneurs: the choice of doing what a person wants to do and working with people of one’s choice without any social and familial pressure. Autonomy also refers to the ability to tackle various situations from a place of self-reliance. High independence in rural women entrepreneurs reveals their ability to choose the business of their interest and take their lives back into their own hands. A female entrepreneur tends to have a purpose in her life and a sense of directedness; she feels that life has meaning. Although there is still a long way to go in empowering these women and enhancing their efforts, it is a great honor to witness their growth and be a part of it.