De Beers and UN Women extend partnership to empower women entrepreneurs in southern Africa

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Luxury jeweler and diamond maker, De Beers Group has today announced a three year extension of its partnership with United Nations (UN) Women to empower women entrepreneurs in southern Africa.

Since 2017, the AWOME programme, which has been renamed EntreprenHER, has supported almost 2,500 women entrepreneurs of micro-enterprises in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to grow and formalise their businesses, create more jobs and generate more secure incomes.

Dignitaries at the event included Her Excellency Mrs Neo Jane Masisi , First Lady of the Republic of Botswana; Minister of Youth, Gender, Sports, Arts and Culture in Botswana, Honourable Tumiso Rakgare; Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Honourable Anna Maria Mokgethi; Deputy Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Republic of Namibia, Honourable Bennadette Jagger; UN Women Representative, South Africa Multi-Country Office, Aleta Miller; the UN Botswana Resident Coordinator, Zia Choudhury; De Beers Group Vice President Corporate Affairs Ms. Otsile Mabeo and Chairperson of the National Gender Commission, Mrs Joy Phumaphi.

The next phase of the programme will support an additional 1,500 women entrepreneurs across the three countries through capacity building in areas covering business and life skills, networking and mentoring. Building on learnings to date, the programme will now include a greater focus on digital literacy and will also introduce small grants and loans for eligible businesses, as access to finance was ranked a key barrier to growth by past participants.

There will also be an enhanced focus on engaging women business owners in traditionally male-dominated sectors, such as car mechanics, carpentry and plumbing, as well as supporting women farmers to adopt Climate Smart Agriculture technologies to improve productivity and resilience.

In Botswana and Namibia, the EntreprenHER programme is delivered in collaboration with each country’s gender ministries. Namibia’s First Lady, Monica Geingos, has praised the programme for its ability to empower grassroots women entrepreneurs.

Her Excellency, Mrs Neo Jane Masisi, First Lady of the Republic of Botswana, said: ” This initiative aims to support the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals 1 “ No Poverty” and 5 “Gender Equality” as well as the Government of Botswana’s focus on ensuring no one is left behind as we create a sustainable and inclusive economy. It is inspirational that the Government of Botswana, UN Women and De Beers collaborated to deliver an initiative that provides mentorship, business skills and a sustainable approach to develop women across various sectors.”

Al Cook, CEO, De Beers Group, said: “Women-owned micro-enterprises play a vital role in communities throughout Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. They represent diverse businesses ranging from farming to fashion design. But these businesses are often informal and can lack access to markets, finance and skills to reach their full potential. The EntreprenHER programme provides training to support women entrepreneurs to achieve their goals, while also creating employment opportunities in their local communities. We look forward to continuing to work with UN Women on this next phase of the programme, which forms part of De Beers’ broader commitment to support gender equality in our host countries.”

Aleta Miller, UN Women Representative for the South Africa Multi-Country Office, said: “If we are to achieve gender equality by 2030 as per the SDGs, women must be able to participate in the economy fully and meaningfully. UN Women is proud of the EntreprenHER programme with a key focus on accelerating women owned micro-entrepreneurs since 2018. By bringing valuable business management skills to women startup entrepreneurs in townships and rural communities, EntreprenHER ensures that no woman is left behind. UN Women is excited about the third phase of this partnership with De Beers, as we continue to build on the successes and lessons learned from Phase I and II. Phase III will incorporate fresh and new elements to the programme and equip women entrepreneurs in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, to start and run sustainable businesses that secure the livelihoods of their communities.”

The Honorable Tumiso MacDonald Rakgare, Botswana’s Minister of Youth, Gender, Sports and Culture, said: “As Government, we remain committed to gender equality and the empowerment of women. Our efforts date as far as the 1990s when Government made provision for technical and financial support to enable women to start small and medium enterprises. Over the years various financial packages were availed such as Financial Assistance Policy, the Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme, the Poverty Eradication Programme and Mabogo Dinku by the Citizens Entrepreneurial Development Agency. These initiatives have realised significant gains in improving the livelihoods of women and those that depend on them. Recently, Government adopted legislative frameworks such as the Economic Inclusion Act of 2021 which promotes the effective participation of citizens in the growth and development of the economy.”