As part of Social Enablers celebration of female entrepreneurs who are making real difference in their communities, we are profiling one of the inspiring social entrepreneurs “Sana Afouaiz” who shared with us her inspiring journey on why she created Womenpreneur Initiative as a way to foster women’s economic participation in the MENA region.
Let’s listen to Sana on the social condition of her place which motivated her to start an NGO on women empowerment, “It is very common to hear about women in the MENA region as submissive, oppressed, and depicted to stay-at-home, also who are financially dependent on their male guardian, either a father a brother or husband.However the reality is more complex than it seems, as Moroccan woman it is disappointed to be viewed from that angle, although, social inequalities do exist in the region, and women are the first to suffer, but throughout the region, there are so many women from different backgrounds who are making real societal change.”
She continues, “For me, I’ve always appreciated the power of women, the fact that I ,myself, was raised by a strong rural woman, who worked so hard for me to get a decent education, pursing my dreams was my mother’s biggest achievement. My mother’s dedication was my ultimate inspiration to help out other women in the region because I know just like my mother, they would impact many lives.”
Sana has experience in working with women in more than 20 countries, which made her ask herself ‘how does one fight for women’s rights in a sustainable way?’ She found her answer inWomenpreneur, a non-for-profit organization that offers programs on women empowerment, entrepreneurship, and social business development.
In Sana’s research, she came to know that several types of research indicate that lack of role models, low self-confidence, lack of technical expertise, and limited access to appropriate networking and funding continue to be the main challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa. Gender equality has been addressed as a powerful economic tool by the contemporary world. Ensuring women access to business opportunities is critical to economic prosperity and sustainable development of communities.
Sana says, “I established Womenpreneur to support women grow scalable businesses, accompany them through the process of delivering their initiatives and to address the key challenges impacting on the growth of female led business initiatives. It has been determined that the unexploited potential of women is a lost opportunity for economic progress and development, especially in this region. Women’s economic participation promotes agricultural productivity, enterprise expansion at the micro and macro, small and medium enterprise levels, in addition to improving business management and returns on investments.”
She feels that there is a huge need to improve employment settings and access to social-aid support for women working in the informal sector and the black market, including those in the most susceptible categories such as rural workers, home-based and domestic workers.
Womenpreneur Initiative brings every year ten female entrepreneurs focusing on tackling a social impact through business innovation across the Middle East and North Africa. The ten brightest female entrepreneurs compete into solving a social issue through innovative business and empowering other women in their communities. The participants take part of the one-year competitive program and by the end of the program they pitch their projects, and two participants go home with a prize to change the lives of other women, which is called ‘Empowering circle’.
Sana’s mission doesn’t end here. She goes on, “My mission is identifying, promoting and providing support for women to be the agents of change and through Womenpreneur we make this possible. We shatter the negative stereotypes and demonstrate that the female mobility -even though may be difficult in some parts of the region- is strong, many women I met didn’t let cultural and societal challenges hinder their ambition to set up a business and take part of development. Womenpreneur supports the startup revolution and pushes into the frontline women’s enormous impact, potential and need for women’s economic empowerment in the region.”