Since the inception of the National Women’s Exposition in 1999, Gender Affairs Department in the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs has financed 1 048 women businesses belonging to 3 725 individuals at the tune of P155 million.
Gender Affairs received a budget of P30 million from government and an additional P25 million from the alcohol levy to finance a mix of women businesses atleast for the past two years, Minister Dorcus Makgato told the media on Tuesday. In order to economically empower women, her ministry embarked on two key strategies; to finance poor women to start income generating activities and to facilitate them to access available markets.
“There is no reason whey we can’t have women running, medium, and even large enterprises, but the Department prioritises poor women,” she said. Makgato’s view is that the funded businesses should be able to grow and graduate from the programme to a point where they reach export level. The 2017 Expo graduated a total of 49 women entrepreneurs who were hand-held by the Department through the Expo for over four years. This year, the Department anticipates graduating about 20 women businesses.
“These women are able to independently and confidently battle on their own in the trade arena,” Makgato said. From Monday June 25 to Sunday July 1, some of the businesses will be exhibiting at the 19th National Women’s Exposition slated for Ditshupo Hall, under the theme, ‘Entrepreneurs Development: Key to Transforming Women’s Lives.’
For the first time this year, the Ministry has invited women entrepreneurs from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region including; South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. Minister Makgato says this will improve the quality of the Expo, as the countries were selected based on the various unique products produced by women from whom Batswana women could learn.
Though many of the businesses on exhibition will be those financed by Gender Affairs, Makgato says the Expo is open to all female entrepreneurs at all levels of business as well as those producing goods for subsistence or consumption. Women constitute 51 percent of Botswana’s population; with 55 percent heading households as compared to 45 percent of male-headed households.
“Women therefore remain the key drivers of our economy and it is critical that deliberate effort is made to economically empower them so that they contribute meaningfully to the economy,” Makgato said. The Expo is intended to; offer women entrepreneurs, organisations and individuals an opportunity to share experiences, exchange business ideas and skills; provide an opportunity to forge links for partnership with the formal sector, and networking among women entrepreneurs; and to expose women to new products from other regions and areas within the country and also through demonstrations, to learn how to produce them thereby diversifying their businesses using locally available materials and resources.
When it first started in 1999, the Expo had 70 exhibitors and has since grown to the current 350 including the Northern Women’s Expo. Botswana, as part of the United Nations, subscribes to the Sustainable Development Goals; of which Goal Five focuses on the Promotion of Gender Equality and Empowerment of all Women and Girls. Botswana also subscribes to the African Union Agenda 2063 on “The Africa we want” and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development.
Makgato says to actualise these Gender Instruments; government has infused gender in the National Vision 2036 aspiring for Botswana where women and men equally participate in the economic, political and cultural development of the nation. The National Development Plan 11 also provides for gender mainstreaming under government and the prevention and elimination of Gender Based violence under Safety and Security. Furthermore, the National Policy on Gender and Development priorities amongst others: Economic Development, Prosperity and Poverty Eradication, hence the Women’s Exposition.