Empower women entrepreneurs in times of pandemic
To help Malaysian women entrepreneurs survive and thrive during the pandemic and grow their businesses, the second cycle of the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) was recently launched.
Launched by US Ambassador to Malaysia Brian D McFeeters in collaboration with the Association of Malaysian Women Entrepreneurs Network (WENA), AWE’s second cycle will involve 50 participants from Klang Valley, Terengganu , Penang, Sabah and Sarawak.
AWE is a business development program that empowers women to become independent and confident entrepreneurs through capacity building, networking and mentoring opportunities.
Created by the United States Department of State as part of the White House-led Global Prosperity and Development Initiative (W-GDP), AWE supports the growth of women entrepreneurs around the world through a partnership with the Thunderbird Arizona State University School of Global (ASU). Management. Participants will complete ASU’s Dreambuilder, an online learning program that will equip them with the knowledge and tools to start and grow their own businesses, raise capital, and effectively network with other business owners.
WENA President Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin said: “The AWE program has been a rewarding experience for WENA. It gave us the opportunity to work with so many amazing women. We are happy and proud to see how the first cohort of September 2020 developed as entrepreneurs and survived the pandemic. We look forward to working with the next cohort.
Throughout the program, AWE participants will have mentors to guide them and the opportunity to interact with female business leaders. They will also receive training in areas such as public speaking, civic responsibility, and receive guidance on building and operating an ecosystem of support for women. Upon completion, WENA will introduce a micro-finance program, where selected participants will receive a loan of RM 1,000 to help boost their business growth.
“Many women micro-entrepreneurs were severely affected because they could not operate their businesses during the movement control order,” says Nuraizah, adding that the two main issues women entrepreneurs face were cash flow and mental health.
“One of the things the program does is help women have better cash flow and capital for their businesses. We provide a loan of RM 1,000 to help participants start their businesses.
“Some people need more capital, so we are working with our partners such as Bank Islam to help them get larger loans of RM 10,000 to 20,000,” she said.
“Many women also face mental health issues from the combined stress of being at home and having to be a mother, teacher and businesswoman all at the same time,” she adds.
Nuraizah, herself a technopreneur who runs a startup focused on mobile technology and lifestyle apps, stresses the importance of a good support network to help women in this field. They have a WhatsApp group for women to discuss any issues they face and get support and advice.
“When you’re home alone, things can seem like a huge burden. But when you’re with a group of like-minded women, it really helps, ”she says.
AWE is part of the U.S. Embassy’s Wanita Empowered Campaign, which aims to promote women’s economic empowerment through three pillars: improving access to education, advancing economic parity and removing barriers. to equality.
U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia Brian D McFeeters expresses the U.S. Embassy’s commitment to the AWE program, which is supported and sponsored by the Embassy.
“AWE reflects the importance we place on promoting equality, opportunities and supporting the economic empowerment of women. “
“The meaningful economic participation of women is integral to building greater security and stability in the world. When women are economically empowered, they invest in their families and communities, spurring economic growth and creating more stable societies, ”says McFeeters.
“US President Joe Biden has also appointed a female vice president and a diverse cabinet that includes a record number of women in leadership positions, of which approximately 45% are women,” McFeeters added, stressing the important role women play. women in society.
Nuraizah says the AWE program also analyzes what every woman’s business needs to thrive.
For some, it’s technology.
“We’re looking at whether technology can help the businesses of these women entrepreneurs and whether automation can help them get things done on a larger scale,” she says.
For others, the barrier they face is telecommunications.
“Last year, we bought data lines for several women in Sabah so that they could connect to the internet,” she said, adding that some of the participants had to go to a neighbor’s house or climb a tree just. to connect to the Internet.
According to Nuraizah, in the future, they hope to engage with local authorities like the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and providers to seek to improve the telecommunications infrastructure to address these issues.
The launch also celebrates the success of the program’s 30 undergraduate participants who explain how AWE has helped them develop greater self-confidence as entrepreneurs and pivot their businesses online during the pandemic.
AWE First Cohort participant Zainab Syed Hassan from Kelantan says: Thanks to the program, I improved my vision and people management skills. Now I know how to make the perfect business plan and maintain the image of my business. A useful aspect of the program is when we get together online and everyone shares the challenges they face. We can learn from each other and help each other grow.
Nuraizah expresses her high regard for the women entrepreneurs who have been successful in running their businesses during the pandemic.
“I am so proud to see that all of our women entrepreneurs have not only survived, but thrived. They did their best to maneuver their businesses through the tough times when many businesses were not allowed to operate and thrive, ”she said.
“While things may not return to what they were before Covid-19, the only thing that remains intact is the human spirit to persevere and triumph, which is evident in these women,” she concludes.