Entrepreneurs are changing the world from the bottom up. Entrepreneurship is extremely important in order to create jobs, value for society, and economic growth. Today development organizations, governments, and NGOs are focusing more of their efforts on supporting entrepreneurs in developing countries realizing that this generates results far bigger than the resources invested. Entrepreneurship provides income, knowledge and skills, and empowerment to many people around the world who are providing needed goods and services to their communities.
As the Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme Officer at Youth Challenge Guyana, I have been coordinating a networking initiative for female entrepreneurs over the past two months. The objective of the program is to train and support 50 female entrepreneurs, empower them to become leaders in their communities, and foster an entrepreneurial environment in Guyana. We hope to create a network of female entrepreneurs who will work together to improve their lives, empower others, and make a difference in the community.
Guyana is one of the four non-Spanish speaking South American countries; however it is distinctly Caribbean with a mix of many different ethnic backgrounds. It is a country with only 765,000 people and like many of the Caribbean countries Guyana experiences significant brain drain causing the population to shrink by approximately 0.5% each year. High unemployment rates are one of the main problems in Guyana, especially among youth. Women face numerous challenges as well including lack of education and skills, low self-esteem, domestic violence, and a sense of powerlessness that often prevent them from participating in economic activities which will enhance their livelihoods. I am very excited to be working with Youth Challenge Guyana to address this issue and provide a network to support and empower female entrepreneurs.
The programme officially launched three weeks ago on May 14th with an initial training workshop that covered an introduction to entrepreneurship and basic business management including strategic planning, record keeping, costing and pricing, and marketing and sales. We had a total of 50 participants with a wide range of businesses from salons, variety shops, and restaurants to fashion designers, recording studios, and event planners. The training was extremely successful and it was so exciting to hear the appreciation and satisfaction that the women expressed. The specific outcomes observed included increased levels of self-confidence and inter-personal skills, increased business knowledge and skills, and an established network of committed female entrepreneurs. We now have a Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme Committee which meets twice monthly to plan monthly workshops and networking events while developing the programme further.
Last weekend there was a new women’s exposition in Guyana to promote women’s talents, skills, and entrepreneurship. We had 15 female entrepreneurs from the programme participating in the exposition where they promoted and sold their products and services. All participants had very creative and attractive displays with their own business cards, banners, flyers, packages and promotions that they had specifically prepared for the expo after the training. It was so exciting to see all of the women in action gaining exposure, obtaining new customers, gaining valuable experience interacting with customers, and managing their operations. In my opinion, the biggest improvement that I have seen over the past 3 weeks among all of the women is their increased self-confidence ☺
Over the next 6 months our committee and I will be organizing monthly workshops and networking events while each member of the programme will receive additional support from a mentor and me. I also hope to work with other NGOs and the government to develop a strategy for entrepreneurship and employment in Guyana which is critical for development.
Overall, the past 2 months have been an incredible learning experience and I am so happy that I have this incredible opportunity to work with Youth Challenge International and Youth Challenge Guyana on such a phenomenal initiative. You can check out my blog at www.amandasaraha.blogspot.com for more updates on my life and work in Guyana. I can’t wait for another 6 ½ months!
– Amanda Armstrong, IYIP Intern, Guyana 2011
Amanda was recently featured on the Ivey Business School Website for her work in Guyana.
For more International Youth Internship Program (IYIP) blogs, check out our IYIP section.