Many projects worldwide have shown that inclusive businesses can bring positive changes to enterprises and women’s lives. However, to maximise financial return and social impact it is important for companies to understand and address systemic issues of gender inequality in their business operations. In September 2017, the’ Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises’ (EOWE) programme launched the Gender-responsive Inclusive Business Support Package in four provinces in Vietnam, a new initiative to support private sector actors to grow their agricultural businesses in an inclusive and gender-responsive way.
Under the competitive initiative, SNV provides advisory services, mentoring and financial support to private sector actors operating in agriculture, including small and medium enterprises and cooperative groups/production units, to develop, enhance and roll-out innovative gender-responsive inclusive business ideas. Gender-responsive inclusive businesses generate profit for the private sector actors by bringing women into the core business of the company as employees, producers, distributors and/or customers. Profit is generated by increased quality and productivity in the business or the creation of new untapped markets. At the same time, the benefits for women include opportunities for jobs and leadership positions, increased income, increased resilience to climate change, women-friendly working environments and access to goods and services. In this way, gender-responsive inclusive businesses are win/win.
SNV launched the Gender-responsive Inclusive Business initiative with a one-day launch event and a two-day training in the four EOWE target provinces in Vietnam, Quang Binh, Binh Dinh, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan. The launch events attracted a total of around 200 interested companies. During the launch events, the companies learned more about the support package and the application and selection procedure of the initiatives. The following two-day training sessions introduced the concepts of inclusive business, women’s economic empowerment and gender-responsiveness in business and focused on proposal writing skills. During the training enterprises practiced in groups to come up with gender-responsive inclusive business ideas and they received immediate feedback from the trainers. One company from Binh Dinh province presented an outstanding idea for a new gender-responsive and eco-friendly residue management business. The company is planning to use the leaves from lemon grass for the production of oil. The oil can be used as a spice product, but also for cleaning and for pharmacy purposes. After extracting the oil, the waste will be used to produce organic fertiliser. The company is planning to include and address the needs of women in both the supply as well as the processing parts of their business operations.
The initiative welcomes applications from small and medium enterprises, cooperatives, production units and cooperative groups that are at least operational for one year in one of the key selected value chains within the programme, including rice, sweet potato, mushroom, coconut, peanut, grape, asparagus, and dragon fruit. The initiative also expressed specific interest in businesses that are owned or co-owned by women or businesses that work with many women in their business operations. Mr. Nguyen Tien Dung, owner of a coconut processing unit in Binh Dinh province, liked the teaching methods and the approach of the trainers. “I do see the need of including the “bottom of the pyramid” and aspects like women’s economic development in business operations. I am looking forward to formulating my gender-responsive inclusive business idea and the training really helped me to shape my proposal.”
Selected enterprises will receive support in the development and implementation of their gender-responsive inclusive business project to leverage the participation, empowerment and leadership of women in economic and social development in general and in agricultural value chains. The assistance package consists of support with product development, technology / production techniques, access to resources and markets, training support and capacity building. Next to advisory services and mentoring support, the programme provides financial support that will cover up to 49%, but not more than US$25,000, of the total investment of the selected gender-responsive inclusive business projects. The companies applying for the support package must co-invest the other 51% or more of the total investment, of which at least 30% is in cash and the rest is in in-kind contribution with proven value, like newly-purchased equipment and machines.
Right after the training, interested enterprises will send in their concept notes with a summary of their proposed gender-responsive inclusive business idea. Shortlisted enterprises will be asked to develop a full proposal, including detailed budgets and activity plans. SNV is expected to complete the selection of businesses and business proposals by the end of October 2017, and carry out local operations right after the parties sign the contract.