On the afternoon of Tuesday, June 15, TechnoServe celebrated 1,000 women entrepreneurs who completed training in the Business Women Connect (BWC) program in Mozambique.
The event brought together donors, partners, embassy representatives, and government entities to honor the drive and hard work of the women in the program. These included the United States ambassador to Mozambique, a representative of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, and the Swiss Development Cooperation.
Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners
“During the last 20 years in Mozambique, TechnoServe has taken up the challenge of giving women an opportunity to raise their voices, be able to dream and pursue their aspirations,” said Jane Grob, country director for TechnoServe Mozambique, in her opening remarks. “Women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion have indeed been recognized as one of the most important pillars for the country’s economic and social growth. We are proud of the growth we have seen in our beneficiaries.”
In Mozambique, where 60% of the population lived in poverty as of 2019, the program works with women entrepreneurs to develop the skills and knowledge to grow their businesses and develop reliable sources of independent income.
The training curriculum includes:
- Financial management
- Gender equity
- Agency banking
- Stock and supplier management
- Customer service
- Business investing
“ExxonMobil is committed to empowering women globally. This program not only offers training, but it also supports the business owners in creating links to formal financial services, empowering themselves and providing opportunities in their respective communities,” said Jos Evens, general manager of ExxonMobil Moçambique, Limitada. “The partnership with TechnoServe builds on our shared vision on supporting businesses owned by women in Mozambique and strengthening communities.”
Over the years, TechnoServe has worked with small, women-owned businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, takeout shops, tailors, and beauty salons. The four-month long training is followed by bi-monthly coaching sessions designed to propel the graduates towards becoming market leaders in their sectors.
To promote the use of formal savings among trained women entrepreneurs, the program also partnered with financial institutions to identify and recruit women with potential to become mobile banking agents.
The U.S ambassador to Mozambique, Dennis Hearne, congratulated TechnoServe and ExxonMobil’s unique strategy focused on women micro-entrepreneurs increasing their own economic opportunities and improving their business skills.
“We applaud the inclusive and collaborative approach of TechnoServe and ExxonMobil as they attain inclusive economic development that sustainably helps women entrepreneurs gradually move to high-margin businesses and automatically reduce poverty among their family and communities,” he said.
Women Entrepreneurs Gain New Economic Opportunities
Following these remarks, guests heard testimonials from program ambassadors who were trained by the program.
“The exposure at Business Women Connect instilled in me the ability to advertise my products even in the formal setting from where I function. Meeting so many women who are running similar businesses enrolled in this program opened me up to realizing there are other ways to do things,” said Ester Langa, 50, who worked with TechnoServe to improve her groundnut powder business.
Before the program, Ester said, she wanted to grow her business but did not know which strategies to employ or how to handle her finances.
The training helped her raise her sales from $500 to $750 a month. Ester also registered her business and started selling her groundnut powders to a supermarket.
“I am now confident that I have the right tools and skills to penetrate new markets and make my business formal,” Ester said.
Now, she’s excited for the future as her daughters open their own businesses and Ester thinks about expanding her operations with new machinery and different products.
Isabel Dacalo, 46, owned a tailoring shop, but often ran out of supplies. The inconsistency made her customers wary despite the fact that she is an excellent seamstress.
“The program helped us think about our business more strategically,” said Isabel. “As entrepreneurs, mothers, and wives we get so caught up in the day-to-day operations that it is easy sometimes to lose track of the overall objective.”
Growing Women-Owned Businesses During COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic Isabel started making masks that were in high demand. She customizes them and is now selling her excess stock to a supplier in another province.
“I saw my sales rise from $50 USD to $170 USD and now I can even reach $300 USD a month thanks to valuable tips from the training,” Isabel said.
“Since I was a little girl I have always had a talent for sewing and I always liked to learn new things, so I received with open hands the opportunity that the program gave me.”
– Isabel Dacalo, seamstress
Isabel’s income has helped the family pay for home improvements, their daughter’s schooling, and other expenses. She hopes to expand into other provinces soon.
In April 2021, the ExxonMobil Foundation announced it will be supporting a fourth year of the BWC program in Mozambique.
In 2021, TechnoServe aims to train an additional 250 women. The program will continue to provide training on business investment, financial management, customer service, and marketing through digital channels while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place in order to ensure business continuity for micro-entrepreneurs.
While there’s still work ahead, the celebration of 1,000 women trained represents a huge milestone for the program and the Mozambican women finding success through business.
As Isabel said, she now wants to inspire “other women with my story of overcoming, so that they believe they can also change the story of their lives and run a successful business.”