Minister of Commerce, Senator Haynesley Benn (FP)

The importance of entrepreneurship, especially among women, was brought to the fore, when Minister of Commerce, Senator Haynesley Benn, delivered the feature address at the Women Entrepreneurs’ of Barbados (WEB) Exhibition and Sale at Springer Memorial School, last Saturday.

The exhibition, a collaborative effort between WEB, the Bureau of Gender Affairs and the Office of the Advisor on Poverty Eradication and the Millennium Development Goals, was in recognition of the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day.

Minister Benn made the observation that being industrious had helped Barbados recover from harsh economic times in the past.

"Barbadians, particularly our women, are a resilient people, as evidenced by the way we tackled the previous recession in the 1990’s. This country weathered that period largely in part to a return to the traditional cottage industries, an upsurge in the creation of small businesses of varying kinds…," the Minister explained.

He went on to elaborate on the various means by which women had acquired and honed their skills and turned them into a livelihood.

"From rearing animals and tending the kitchen garden, to making pepper sauce, jellies and confectionery, to producing clothing, smocking, crocheting and pursuing other skills which developed into micro businesses, the women of Barbados have been building on their creativity and ability to perform miracles, from inadequate material to producing an excellent product," the Commerce Minister remarked.

Senator Benn also noted that despite past trends, women were now taking the lead in local entrepreneurship.

"In previous years there was a wide disparity in gender ownership of businesses where, according to the records of the Small Business Association and other membership organisations, males outnumbered females as owners of businesses.?? Now, there is a significant reversal with both the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme and The Business Development Division of the Ministry of Agriculture reporting that women

out-number men in applying for training, technical and financial assistance. [With the] Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES)…99 males sought and were granted assistance in 2010 as compared to 162 females, and for 2011 there were 76 males, as compared to 132 [for the previous year]. Of the 138 applications made under the Micro Grant of Government, there were 73 females and 65 males.?? Through this programme, female entrepreneurs have already accessed $200,272.54 from the $435,000 disbursed to date," he revealed.

Mr. Benn said that he was heartened by the efforts of the coordinating organisations involved and assured the audience that government would continue to support their endeavours.?? He saluted those women entrepreneurs who had paved the way for their gender and encouraged those present to carry on the legacy of talent, resilience and excellence.

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