Fri | Sep 24, 2021

Fund launched to support women business owners affected by COVID

Published:Sunday | November 29, 2020 | 2:53 PM
Ethnie Miller Simpson, president, Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean.

A fund has been launched to support female business owners affected by the continuing economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The partner plan-like facility called the Win-Win Partner Fund, has been designed by the Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean (WENC). It is targeted to the organisation's member-base of 150 women business owners. 

Although declining to  provide disbursement data, WENC said entrepreneurs have already accessed loans from the facility to stock their businesses; invest in e-commerce opportunities and to bring their businesses in line with COVID-19 norms. Financing for business start-ups has also been disbursed.    

In a release WENC described the fund as a hybrid of the traditional partner plan. 

"Yes, members are required to pay a monthly 'hand' and yes, they will receive funds when it is their turn; however that's perhaps where the similarity to the traditional partner ends," the organisation said. 

"This atypical hybrid is designed to have built-in mechanisms to facilitate sustainability and scalability. This is because the organisation is well-aware that its members will need support long after the world waves its final good-bye to COVID," it explained. 

Women more stressed by COVID

President, Ethnie Miller Simpson said the idea for the fund emerged from the frustrations women generally face. She argued that women have had to bear the brunt of the economic fallout from COVID-19 in Jamaica. 

"This developing trend has long-term implications for our community. We, therefore, need to ensure that we will have the capacity to support them beyond the crisis." said Miller Simpson.

She said women tend to earn less, have lower amounts of savings and are disproportionately represented in the informal economy and service sectors, which have been hard-hit by the pandemic. 

"These facts when added to the certain knowledge that the majority of single-parent households are led by women and that within two-parent homes women are more likely to be burdened with unpaid care and domestic work, it is astonishing that these factors have not sufficiently informed state relief packages nor private sector loans" she .

Although operational, WENC acknowledged that it is working on strengthening its model.  

"To ensure its long-term viability, the architects of this pioneering plan are exploring alternative credit scores and credit repair facilities that are suited to women-led MSMEs (micro small and medium enterprises)," the organisation said. It noted that its working with the Asian Development Bank identify suitable integration models. 

WENC is also looking at integrating digital payment options for the facility and to develop an app for the fund.

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