ILO-WED Programme History

In 2008, the ILO Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Strategy was adopted by the ILO’s Governing Body. The strategy lays out a flexible and innovative response, based on local needs and circumstances, to supporting and promoting women’s entrepreneurship development in member states.

The strategy was built from the expertise developed since 2002 under Women's Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality (WEDGE) technical cooperation projects, funded by donors such as Irish Aid and NORAD. Building on local partnerships and experiences, WEDGE projects developed a series of tools and approaches to help support local partners and countries in unleashing the potential of women entrepreneurs as drivers of economic growth and job creation.

The Gender and Entrepreneurship Together (GET) Ahead training package for example, was first developed in 2002 for a project in Thailand. It was later used in other WED countries of intervention, and translated in languages such as Spanish, French, Chinese, and Arabic. It is a gender-sensitive business management training package aimed at semi-illiterate women entrepreneurs seeking to start or consolidate their micro and small businesses. The FAMOS (Female And Male Operated Small Enterprise) Check Guide and Method was developed in 2006 to help service providers and intermediaries identify gaps in their service provision to women and realistic means of overcoming these. Finally, the WED Capacity Building Guide was developed in 2009 and sought to build the capacity of service providers and other partners on what women’s entrepreneurship development is all about and what the ILO can provide to support it.

The approach of the WED programme is to also intervene at the policy level in order to promote women’s entrepreneurship development. The first of a series of requests in this area came in 2003, when the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania adopted a gender mainstreaming law in SMEs and asked ILO to verify its implementation. In terms of most recent achievements at the policy level, assessments of the situation of women’s entrepreneurship led to the adoption, in Montenegro, of a strategy for the development of women’s entrepreneurship for 2015-2020, and in El Salvador, to a better inclusion of women entrepreneurs by the National Commission for Micro and Small Enterprises. WED action plans were recently finalized in Uganda and Tanzania, while the National Women Economic Empowerment Strategy and Implementation Plan was adopted in Kenya in 2015. On-going efforts are also taking place in Tunisia and Egypt.

Finally, WED has also been mainstreaming disability into women’s entrepreneurship development since 2005, targeting women with disabilities and HIV/AIDS within its projects.

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