By Wendy Teleki, Head of We-Fi Secretariat
I am pleased to share our first Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) newsletter with you. Through this newsletter we intend to share some of the amazing things happening with women entrepreneurs around the world, both through We-Fi’s own programs and those of our broader stakeholder community.
Since joining the We-Fi Secretariat in May, nothing has been more fulfilling than meeting the women entrepreneurs who inspire us every day with their drive, persistence and creativity. Maheen Adamjee, co-founder of Dot&Line, is just such an inspiration. Her online tutoring startup in Pakistan has created jobs for about 140 women who deliver math and science tutoring classes to girls and boys in Pakistan, preparing them for future success. Dina El-Shenoufy is another inspiration. As Chief Investment Officer of Flat6Labs, an Egypt-based accelerator and VC fund that has received IFC and We-Fi funding, Dina is taking the lead to expand investments in women-led businesses. They were joined on stage by Kenyan entrepreneur and furniture manufacturer Ciiru Waweru Waithaka and featured at a packed We-Fi / IFC event at the last World Bank annual meetings in Washington DC (Oct 17-20). It is the strength of our platform that through our Implementing Partners we can engage with a wide array of innovators like Flat6 Labs that are seeking to deliver solutions to women-owned businesses like Maheen’s.
With We-Fi moving into its second year of operations, we are starting to see a widening array of We-Fi-supported SMEs and women entrepreneurs across the globe. We hope to introduce many of them through this newsletter and our website. As featured in this issue, while visiting our partners at the Islamic Development Bank in Riyadh, I had the chance to learn about its path-breaking We-Fi project supporting women entrepreneurs in war-torn Yemen. Women are starting businesses under the most difficult of circumstances, often as the sole breadwinners of their households. While in Asia, I attended the launch of Malayan Insurance’s We Women Program which received IFC and We-Fi support to improve women’s ability to manage intertwined household and business risks in the Philippines. The Asian Development Bank’s successes under their We-Fi program in Sri Lanka was featured at the G20 Summit in Osaka in July. And at the World Bank, a series of We-Fi funded projects supporting women’s access to e-commerce and global value chains have been launched in countries across Africa, MENA and in Bangladesh.
In all of this, I am encouraged by the formidable ecosystem that is developing to advance women’s economic empowerment. At our Fall Governing Committee meeting, donors considered how We-Fi can continue to address the greatest gaps and opportunities in future funding allocations. They also endorsed a second We-Fi Regional Summit to be held in Dubai on February 16-17, 2020 – watch this space for more information about that! This will build on what promises to be interesting discussions at the Global Gender Summit, co-hosted by the Government of Rwanda and the African Development Bank in Kigali late November, and inform our thinking around the UN Women-led Generation Equality Forum events in Mexico City and Paris later in 2020.
Please do not hesitate to contact the secretariat with any questions or feedback, and I look forward to sharing more details about women’s entrepreneurship initiatives in the next issue of the We-Fi newsletter.