Belarus is attributing significant role in sustainable economic development to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
Small businesses create new jobs for local populations, support infrastructure and services development, attract youth and ultimately increase living standards. However, SMEs accounted only for 24.6% of GDP in 2018 and are poorly presented in Belarus’ regions.
Private business growth rates are far slower in Belarus’ towns and rural areas than in six regional centers and Minsk. This can be explained by high rates of the internal labour migration to urban areas. Today only 20% of Belarusians live outside cities.
The slow pace of small business development in the regions is attributed to disparity in men and women roles in Belarus’ private sector and individual, social, economic and cultural barriers that affect economic behavior and career choices of women:
- lack of confidence and fear of failure nourished by women’s responsibilities as a family’s primary caregiver for children and aging family members,
- domestic workload,
- limited access to business knowledge, information about entrepreneurial opportunities and new business models in small towns and villages,
- lack of support networks and mentoring,
- challenges in ensuring business and family life balance.
The entrepreneurial potential of the women in regions is huge. Together with the UK Embassy in Belarus, UNICEF and UNFPA, UNDP in Belarus looks into finding solutions to break down these barriers and foster women entrepreneurs by encouraging and supporting them to build their business, market their products and prepare them to join the entrepreneurial community.
In January-February 2020, 141 women from small towns and rural areas attended the series of expert-led workshops centered around business marketing, HR management, new business knowledge and access to finances. The workshops welcomed the women with collaborative environment and offered upskilling and motivation sessions.
Around 15% of participants owns an entrepreneurial venture. Most of them tend to be small, employ few people and generate modest revenues. Women in small towns and villages are economically active by operating mostly across sectors such as beauty and style, design services, crafts, trade, catering, tourism and agriculture. Their business ambitions and desire to grow are fueled by the necessity to improve their household livelihoods, raise children with a better standard of living, be economically independent and secured. Women-entrepreneurs came to the workshops to get more business knowledge, do networking and prepare themselves to the next chapter of their business agendas.
For those who came with business ideas only in their minds, the trainings helped to identify their core skills, get business purpose and guidance for turning their entrepreneurship plans into real endeavors.
With all these pursuits women need greater access to business knowledge, networking, financial services, HR management and communication skills, access to digital technologies and online knowledge sharing platforms.
By brining business knowledge to women in the districts, we facilitate creation of local business networks that help ideas and business behaviors spread fast across the community. The networks also help women become aware of the local resources available, possibilities for collaboration and resource sharing, which they can utilise to scale-up their businesses or start new ones.
Business networking for women remain one of the most powerful ways to stimulate local economic growth and give the districts a real chance to catch up with the capitals.
Video stories from women in buisness on our YouTube Channel (UNDP Belarus).