Women entrepreneurs

Better skills mean boosted profits for Somali women

The ILO is helping women in Somaliland develop successful enterprises by providing them with the right skills.

Article | 24 June 2014
Zaynab Ahmed Abdirahman
HARGEISA (ILO News) – Zaynab Ahmed Abdirahman is a Somaliland farmer who sells fruits and vegetables. She spent many years trying to develop her business, but had difficulties dealing with basic issues such as bookkeeping, packaging products or working together with other entrepreneurs.

There are many women like her in Somaliland, who have their own business but often lack the skills needed to develop a successful enterprise.

Last year, Zaynab and a group of 150 other women entrepreneurs signed up for an ILO EU-sponsored project on “Promoting gender equality and women's empowerment in Somalia.” The aim of the project was to provide the women with skills to help them run their businesses.

“We heard about the ILO project – so we filled out the forms. Later on, we were contacted to come for the training. We learnt a lot there. For example, how to manage, organize and market our businesses, record transactions, package and process our products, and how to join cooperatives,” Zaynab said.

Transferable skills

Participants were also given the opportunity to interact with successful women entrepreneurs who started a business from scratch and managed to make it successful.

Zaynab soon realized that her new skills quickly translated into more business transactions. “We gained new customers and made higher profits,” she said.

Once the training was completed, 50 of the women were invited to attend a trade fair in Hargeisa, Somaliland, organized by the ILO. The fair allowed them to showcase their products and sell them. Some of them managed to make profits of up to US$ 300 during the first day.

Products included toiletry, shampoos, home decorations, handbags, jewellery, furniture and traditional dresses.

Job creation: The peace dividend

Amina Farah Jire is another entrepreneur who attended the fair in Hargesia. She started a business as gas supplier and currently employs about 40 people, mostly part-time students interested in getting a first work experience.

“One of the objectives of my business is to have people use less charcoal, as deforestation rushes climate change and its negative consequences on livestock,” she explained. We need these kind of opportunities to show our products and we welcome the ILO who is helping us with this fair.”

Her enthusiasm is shared by Zahra Mohamed, who owns a small business at the Gobonimo market. “We sell cotton fabrics and women’s clothing. It is great to become better known through this trade fair,” she said.

“The project idea is to improve the self-employability of women through entrepreneurship training and skills,” explained ILO business counsellor Safia Tani.

“We set up a training that provides them with the basic principles of good management, so they can run a profitable business which in turn leads to job creation,” continued Tani.

The ILO activities are part of a broader project working on women’s economic empowerment in Somalia to support their crucial role in peace, stability and development.

“It is critical to further train and support women entrepreneurs,” explained the ILO’s Chief technical advisor for Somalia Paul Crook. ”People in Somaliland have managed to create a peaceable environment. They now want to press forward on economic development and employment creation, so they can reap the benefits of the peace.”

According to the ILO expert, southern Somalia is lagging behind in this process but “even there, women are emerging to play significant roles in the economy and become ever more influential in wider social and political affairs.”