The majority of the women taking part in the “Victory is Hers” programme already run businesses and are survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). The programme was designed to support GBV survivors towards meaningful, economic participation through entrepreneurship. There are aspiring entrepreneurs in the current cohort for whom the programme offers an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship

In March 2023, 39 women and members from the LGBTQI community based in and around Soweto began a journey towards independence through entrepreneurship. This is the first of two groups who will take part in the “Victory is Hers” programme delivered by the GIBS Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA). The programme will be implemented in Gauteng over three years. Two cohorts will be developed in the first two years while year three will result in tangible research and practitioner outputs.

In South Africa and many other societies around the world, gender-based violence (GBV) has been linked to the limited participation of women in economic activities. Hence, one of the main goals of this programme is to increase the financial independence of women and LGBTQI community who are survivors of GBV by teaching them how to start, manage and run successful businesses. 

“This is a pilot programme located in a large township community to facilitate economic access to women who have been impacted by gender-based violence. It is generally recognised and documented that GBV affects women in economically marginalised communities, hence the focus on a township community,” explains Miranda Hosking, the managing executive of social education at the EDA.

The conveners are well aware of the lingering effects of violence on survivors and have put in place measures to ensure that participants are cushioned accordingly through psycho-social support in the form of counselling, coaching and mentoring. Participants were selected following a closed call for applications circulated into the GIBS EDA social partner network and NGOs such as People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa). The decision not to have a public open call for participation was to protect the dignity of the participants.

Teach a woman to fish

A large number of women in South Africa are considered to be economically inactive, at least in the informal sector. The South African Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the second quarter of 2023 puts that number at 46.1% of women between the ages of 15 and 64. One of the solutions that has been identified in creating employment opportunities for women and young people is entrepreneurship. Women in general remain underrepresented as entrepreneurs, and so facilitating their economic participation through entrepreneurship has been identified as an important pathway to enhancing their empowerment.

The majority of the women taking part in the “Victory is Hers” programme already run businesses and are survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). The programme was designed to support GBV survivors towards meaningful, economic participation through entrepreneurship.  There are aspiring entrepreneurs in the current cohort for whom the programme offers and opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship and gain confidence to take the next step towards running a business. 

GIBS EDA has partnered with key stakeholders to develop a robust programme that focuses on developing outstanding business leadership and management skills in a highly entrepreneurial context. The programme is run over eight attendance blocks under the stewardship of experts in the business education and development arena. It covers the basics of running a business and includes auxiliary services such as psycho-social and socio-legal support.

On the occasion of the Block 6 attendance block, experienced entrepreneurship development facilitator Stuart Hendry taught the women how to pitch their business ideas to potential investors. His session focussed on developing and, selling a business idea to potential funders. This session was one of many where the women have been challenged to hone their entrepreneurial skills. Although the ultimate outcome is a grand graduation ceremony in November, the team from GIBS EDA have also secured potential investors to hear pitches from the participants. So, the bigger prize for the women is a chance to secure funding for their businesses.

Learning the ropes

Before Caroline Mutsharini (44) began the "Victory is Hers" programme, she had been working in the construction business for more than ten years.

“My approach has just always been about making money. Sometimes, I would take on work that had nothing to do with construction just to get paid. There was no real thought into market research or specialisation because I would just take whatever was available to survive. Now I know better. We have been taught to take our brands seriously and, most importantly, to take our business seriously,” she explains. Mutsharini, who also recently started an NPO for survivors of GBV called Fix A Woman’s Crown, has since come up with another business idea during the programme. She is excited to launch it and put to good use the business skills she has learnt in the last several months.

Jacqueline Monnakgotla (34) is the owner of Lehakwe Media, an events company that specialises in catering and corporate events. As someone with a full-time job, her business has been a means to earn passive income. Like Mutsharini, she has since come up with another business idea that is in development and will be fully launched following the completion of the Victory is Hers programme.

“I am ready to quit my job so that after the programme I can fully commit to running and growing my new business. I have the skills now to run a successful business. Before the programme, whenever I made money, I would just use it on myself. Now I know how to manage finances, how to cost, how to price things,” she says.

Creating lasting change 

A partnership between the GIBS EDA and financial services company J.P. Morgan has made it possible for the "Victory is Hers" programme to become a reality. Hosking notes the role of J.P. Morgan in ensuring the development and implementation of this groundbreaking first-of-its-kind programme.

“J.P. Morgan has been a brave partner in walking this journey with us as we charted new terrain in research. I commend them for their commitment to making a real impact in trying to change the lives of these women by capacitating them to be able to use entrepreneurship as a tool to become economically active,” Hosking says.

As the team from the EDA prepares for the second intake of the "Victory is Hers" pilot, work is also underway to train some of the women from this cohort to become mentors. As part of the overall goal to empower as many women as possible with entrepreneurial skills, more women who identify as GBV survivors will benefit from the learnings of this cohort and from those who come after. Some of the participants have since created peer support ecosystems that will help them ensure sustainable, efficient enterprises that are able to create employment opportunities in their communities.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

    The “Victory is Hers” programme leverages the skills and mindset of entrepreneurship to enable economic participation of women, members of the LGBTQI community, and GBV survivors.

    Targeted business education will empower programme participants to start and run sustainable businesses.

    This is a pilot which includes entrepreneurship education and auxiliary services which will inform research on how to best support GBV survivors holistically through their learning journey. 

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