Female entrepreneurship is on the rise throughout Guyana today, spurred by government-backed initiatives. In this article, we look at the rise of female-led industry throughout the country, focusing on collaborations between the government and companies like GBTI that encourage and support women in business.
The Women’s Empowerment Project
In 2019, Cerulean Inc collaborated with Courts Guyana Inc, launching a $4-million women’s business training program. The initiative benefitted 20 female Guyanese entrepreneurs, providing them with vital skills and training needed to succeed in business. Initially implemented as a pilot program, the Women’s Empowerment Project is intended to form the basis of similar subsequent initiatives.
At the program’s launch, Managing Director of Courts Guyana Limited, Clyde DeHaas, explained that the vision was to give back at a grassroots level in order to achieve the biggest impact. DeHaas explained that since women are the backbone of small business in Guyana, his company is committed to helping female entrepreneurs rise above adversities commonly experienced by women in business.
Lyndell Danie-Black, Managing Director of Cerulean Inc, explained that the training element of the program lasts approximately three months. The 20 female participants are taught about various aspects of business, including market research and financial management.
She said that the program was intended to tackle specific issues commonly encountered by female entrepreneurs. Women interested in participating applied to join via an online advertising campaign, with the most promising respondents offered a place on the program.
Lyndell Danie-Black explained that the program essentially consists of night classes, since the entrepreneurs are busy with their own businesses during the day. Participants benefit from knowledge, training, and practical skills imparted via the Women’s Empowerment Project, as well as being offered the opportunity to work as interns at private companies.
GBTI’s Women of Worth Program
As Guyana’s oldest commercial bank, GBTI enjoys a successful history in the country dating back to colonial times. Comprising a network of 12 branches, the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Ltd provides a comprehensive range of innovative financial solutions to meet the diverse needs of its corporate and private clients.
GBTI champions the rights of female entrepreneurs, providing vital funding to help them to establish and expand their business ventures. Through its Women of Worth program, the Bank supports single female parents by providing them with microloans to start and grow their businesses, become self-sufficient, and support their families. In 2010, GBTI committed $2.4 million to fund the initiative. The Women of Worth program provides access to up to $1,200 in funding without the need to put up collateral.
To qualify for a loan under the Women of Worth program, entrants must be single parents between the ages of 18 and 60 who earn less than $195 per month. In addition, they need to be registered with the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, the body responsible for administering Women of Worth loans. When the initiative was launched in 2010, approximately 300,000 single parents, most of whom were women, were registered with the Ministry.
A Women of Worth Success Story
In October 2014, BBC News published a feature on Bhimwattie Sahid, a Guyanese farmer who participated in the Women of Worth Program. Mrs. Sahid grew sweet peppers, a sought-after component of Guyanese cuisine that command high prices domestically. Following the death of her husband in 2003, Bhimwattie Sahid struggled to bring up her two daughters.
The Women of Worth initiative, a collaboration implemented by GBTI and the Guyanese government, provided Mrs. Sahid with small loans. After applying for the Women of Worth initiative, she experienced a rapid transformation in fortune. It enabled her to move beyond a “hand to mouth” existence, giving her the opportunity to buy more land and run her venture as a commercial enterprise. After borrowing and repaying two loans under the Women of Worth program, Bhimwattie Sahid was able to not only extend her smallholding, but diversify the crops that she grows.
With the profit generated through her enterprise, Mrs. Sahid bought a more comfortable property for her family to live in, and was able to help her daughters financially. Bhimwattie Sahid explained she was very proud of her enterprise. She admitted that she did not know what would have happened to her family without the Women of Worth initiative.
GBTI’s Women of Worth program is open to widows, divorcees, unmarried teenage mothers, and women who have escaped domestic violence and abuse. Guyana’s Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Jennifer Webster, told the BBC that the initiative doesn’t just benefit single women and their families. It facilitates upward mobility, entrepreneurship, and innovation, bolstering entire communities.
For participants such as Bhimwattie Sahid, the Women of Worth microloan program has had a transformational effect on their lives. It helps them grow their own ventures from the ground up; enhance their livelihoods; and ultimately create better opportunities and prospects for themselves and their families.