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EDITORIAL - Making women full partners

Published:Monday | April 23, 2012 | 12:00 AM

A select group of Jamaican women entrepreneurs found themselves at the recent Spring Fair International in the United Kingdom. Sponsorship money from the Commonwealth Secretariat ensured that their locally produced ceramics, jewellery and skin-care products could be showcased before an international audience at Europe's largest buyers' fair, which was held in Birmingham.

"The fact that Jamaican women business owners secured four of the nine Commonwealth selections is an extremely significant achievement, and highlights the seriousness of Jamaican entrepreneurs," reasoned Berletta Henlon Forrester, JAMPRO's export promotions manager.

She added that the local products scored highly in critical areas such as international appeal and quality, functionality, value for money, scalability, and the potential to employ labour-intensive processes in the manufacturing sector.

Inspiring stories

The significance of such an event should not be lost on the local business sector. The participants benefited from exposure to international buyers and are reportedly following up expressions of interest with the aim of converting them into solid business partnerships. Hopefully, their experience will have a positive impact on other women entrepreneurs, spurring them to growth and success.

Hundreds of women currently own small or medium-size businesses in Jamaica. It is a fact that many of these businesses began on a wing and a prayer, with women taking a leap of faith by trying something new in the face of limited options for their survival. Through tenacity and hard work, many have overcome challenges and obstacles and have succeeded.

And even though too few of these women are able to access the necessary resources that would take them on the export highway, they continue to prove that women have strengths that could be ably employed in so many spheres of endeavour.

Our resilient women have proven that, given a chance, they could transform the business world from one dominated by men to one in which skills and business acumen are the requisite qualities to guarantee success.

Women's involvement in business is an empowering process, for it can do much to inspire other women to become involved in the country's economic and social destiny. While there is widespread acknowledgement that women are the pillars of our communities, they continue to face many challenges in business.

Collaborative effort

The acceleration of women-owned businesses has been assisted by international and local organisations. And growth is an essential ingredient in the sustainability of a business.

We note, for example, a commendable effort to harness the potential of women entrepreneurs through institutions like the Women Business Owners Jamaica Limited, which aims to mentor and assist in the growth of women-owned businesses. We hope this organisation will continue to thrive in its enabling mission.

For many women, the path to success has been paved with persistence. This persistence has been demonstrated in none other than our current prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, in her climb to occupy the highest seat of decision making in the land.

As head of Government, Mrs Simpson Miller is expected to lead a team that will fix the economic, health and education problems the country faces. Perhaps the dominant thought in the minds of women entrepreneurs is whether Mrs Simpson Miller is committed to helping women become full partners in the national economy by addressing the unique challenges they face as business owners.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.