Women Enterprise Acceleration Program (WREAP)

Why do we need a Women Enterprise Acceleration Program (WREAP)?

The challenges and opportunities

Due to poverty, unemployment and governance issues, rural youth, making 32% of Nepal’s population, are losing hope and 1300 of them are leaving daily for low-paying jobs abroad. Some are running innovative Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs) but lack the enabling environment to grow their businesses.

The brunt of this national socio-economic crisis falls disproportionately on marginalized communities, most notably women. Even as mass out-migration of men have resulted in added economic pressure on women-led households, many women struggle to increase their visibility as entrepreneurs and grow their enterprises. In fact, only 10 percent of SMEs are owned by women in the South Asia region [1]. This unequal growth and visibility between men and women is a problem of national concern because inclusive growth is a key stepping stone toward overall poverty reduction and socio-economic prosperity [2] of Nepal.

Moreover, for government initiatives that are promoting entrepreneurship, assurance that their interventions reach to the right and capable beneficiaries has been a major challenge. Most programs and interventions focus on women’s microenterprises[3] and their impact have been mixed, at best[4]. High-growth women entrepreneurs are few in number and fewer, still, in national policy and intervention agendas.

However, women entrepreneurs with growth potential are the understated bedrock and untapped resource of Nepal’s economy. While few in number, high-growth women entrepreneurs create productivity gains for themselves and their communities, with national macroeconomic benefits, rather than merely meet basic necessities [5]. Women-led businesses also have a higher percentage of women employees, thus increasing access and opportunities for other women6. Promoting women entrepreneurship at the community level is critical for tackling the current socio-economic imbroglio in Nepal.

How do we plan to achieve the goal of promoting women entrepreneurship?

The theory of change

At Daayitwa, we have successfully used community-based approach to implement entrepreneurship development programs in several rural districts of Nepal. Our community-based approach to entrepreneurship aims to create meaningful economic and cultural ripple effects that will increase growth and visibility of women entrepreneurs and their enterprises in rural Nepal. By engaging key stakeholders such as government agencies, academia, banks, cooperatives and civic organizations to collaborate in identifying, empowering and accelerating the innovations of women-led SMEs, we ensure that women entrepreneurs have a symbiotic relationship with their communities. As more women visibly and systematically engage with key stakeholders and grow their enterprises, others will follow suit in a domino effect.

This community-based, ripple-effect approach addresses key barriers for women entrepreneurs. Women, more than men, are “necessity entrepreneurs” which means that they practice businesses in silos, with lower rates of return, lower capital, and in less profitable sectors than men do [7]. Crossover into more profitable sectors and product diversification are thus critical steps for women to increase their visibility as entrepreneurs and grow their enterprises. Crossover and diversification, in turn, are possible only when women gain, in addition to access to finance, community networks and role models.

By accelerating women-led SMEs and identifying women entrepreneurs as role models via a community-based approach, Daayitwa aims to build a national movement of young rural SMEs entrepreneurs who accelerate their innovations and nurture entrepreneurial communities for a thriving Nepal.

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