Network boosts women

PHIRI CAWE

The South African Women Entrepreneurs’ Network (SAWEN) has embarked on intensive outreach programmes aimed at women who own and operate small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) within the broader economy of South Africa.

The network is also targeting those who are engaged in income-generating activities, are not registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), yet have aspirations to grow their enterprises and become formal entities in the future.

The organisation also has an interest in recruiting women who have an interest in business, but lack the “know-how” to start.

The all women organisation met at the JL Zwane Training and Development Centre, in Gugulethu, on Friday February 18, to among other things, encourage women in business to follow their dreams.

The organisation also urged women to seek financial assistance to grow their businesses.

Sawen is a national network that facilitates and monitors the socio-economic advancement of women entrepreneurs and their positive impact on the country’s economy. It is an initiative of the Department of Small Business Development, having migrated from the Department of Trade and Industry in August 2014.

Sawen chairperson Ency Litsoane said their work has seen a lot of women linked to big businesses and getting financial assistance. “We are here to encourage our people to use us and our services. The aim is to see them thriving and growing. It is not nice to see a woman struggling to grow her business while others are making it a habit to grow. We are here to tell women there are opportunities to be used out there,” she said.

Ms Litsoane said the initiative emanated from the Strategic Framework on Gender and Women Economic Empowerment that identified growing entrepreneurship in the country as one of its major objectives.

She said Sawen seeks to represent and articulate the aspirations of all women entrepreneurs (existing and potential) that operate within the South African small, medium and micro-sized enterprises sector.

“We are also here to capture new ideas and business models that can change the future of our people. This is a great opportunity to associate with others. We do not want people to struggle for information. We go out to people and give them what is good information for them and their businesses,” she said.

Women were encouraged to register with the initiative to get opportunities for training and workshops.

Western Cape project co-ordinator Buseka Ningi said: “We want to see these women growing in business. It is for that reason and others that we put women’s interests first. They need to know how to get funding, where to register their business, where they can get help with any business-related issue,” she said.

Ms Ningi said at Sawen women were provided not only with information, but there were also awards and she urged women to always enter the competitions. “There are a lot of business awards where women are fighting it out with men, but ours are female-only awards. It is because we want to give them an opportunity to grow their businesses. We always encourage them to be part of those awards. People won from R50 000 to R1 million,” she said.

Zandile Nyaw, from the Small Enterprise Finance Agency, told the women that they have the opportunity to have big businesses, adding that her company offers loans for start-ups and big businesses. She said women did not need to give up on their dreams and called on them to exhaust all the avenues to grow their businesses. “Do not let anyone stop you. We might not give you money, but we might refer you to someone who could help you. Never assume that things are impossible without checking with others. This initiative (Sawen) is an opportunity to grow your business to another level,” she said.