A recent publication from the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves draws attention to the critical role that women play in scaling up the market for clean cooking solutions. GVEP’s experience in working with women-led businesses demonstrates that with the right support, tailored to their specific needs, the entrepreneurial spirit of women can be channelled into a thriving business.
In a newly published resource guide, The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves highlights the vital role that women play in scaling up the adoption of new clean cooking products and services, provided that a gender sensitive approach is used in integrating them in every step of the value chain. Their active participation to the business environment can in turn increase their bottom line, while providing health, environmental, and social impacts – state the authors.
In an effort to develop energy enterprises in East Africa, GVEP has worked, over the last five years, with 400 female-led businesses, from briquette producers and improved cookstoves retailers, to phone charging operators and distributors of solar products.
Women face significantly more barriers than men due to discriminatory cultural norms that limit their opportunity to receive formal education and business training, to move around freely and therefore to have access to networks of market actors. But perhaps one of the biggest barriers is accessing finance.
GVEP targeted this issue by creating a loan guarantee scheme that promotes lending by underwriting the risk for local financial institutions that are offering credit to micro and small energy businesses. The scheme allowed women under the DEEP programme to borrow necessary funds to invest into their businesses.
We found that women have better credit repayment records than men, as they tend to default less often. This is due to their experience with local savings schemes (the ‘merry-go-round scheme is an example), in which women borrow small amounts and support each other to make repayments. But also women tend to have a stronger commitment to using the loans for their intended purposes.
GVEP’s support to women-led businesses hasn’t been limited to securing financial availability. We have provided technical and business training, marketing and networking support, being mindful to arrange the meetings around women’s availability, encouraging the attendance of a male representative and of other members of the family to look after the children.
One of the programmes successes is Ms Fausta Ntara, a female entrepreneur in Mwanza, Tanzania, whose cook stove business continues to grow from strength to strength. She was given support and training by GVEP helping her acquire vital business skills, such as management, record-keeping, financial planning, as well as access to GVEP’s Loan Guarantee Fund.
“I have managed to apply and successfully secure two loans, which have boosted my business,” says Fausta.
With loans totaling $2,470, Fausta was able to purchase raw materials in bulk, a welding machine, a metal grinder and now also rents a workshop for her business. She has since been able to increase her total net profit to$250, which is a 50 % increase.
Using knowledge acquired from the Developing Energy Enterprises Project in working with women, GVEP has designed a new programme, which has a strong gender specific component. CARE2, features action plans with gender specific targets in each of the countries where it operates, ensuring specialised training on issues that concern women’s progression and development in business. Over the next three years CARE2 plans to recruit 1.500 entrepreneurs, of which 40% should be women.