The private sector has been urged to stand behind women in business by pledging their support for the upcoming inaugural WIBA excellence awards. Women in Business Association (WIBA) will host the first WIBA excellence awards on the 23rd of August this year in an event that is anticipated to showcase not only excellence but resilience of women in business in Botswana.
Various speakers underscored the importance and the role played by the private sector in empowering women at a media briefing in Gaborone to launch the awards. Speaking at the press briefing WIBA president Tumi Mbaakanyi hinted how as their ‘first’, they would want the event to be a success not only to them but to all women entrepreneurs. For this to happen she says all stakeholders especially in the private sector will have to come on board. The WIBA team seems adamant that this is an event which the business committee especially women in business have been waiting for. Although she could not be drawn into discussing the prizes to be pocketed by winners, Mbaakanyi said it has to be something outstanding. "We would like for our women to get a prize even as big as a diamond,” she said.
According to Mbaakanyi although there is a criterion that will be used to shortlist those who will make it into the final the awards are open to all women entrepreneurs nationwide with a preferential grading for WIBA members. She underscored that because the awards are geared at celebrating women who have made an impact in the business landscape against their competitors, a certain criterion will be used to shortlist nominess who will make it to the final. There are six categories under which deserving women will be nominated, among them are young business woman of the year, social entrepreneur of the year, female collaboration of the year and informal business woman of the year.
Although it is a norm that women in rural areas are disadvantaged by several factors among them distance and lack of access to opportunities in major centres, Mbaakanyi said because they are working in partnership with the department of gender affairs, their offices will be used as receiving points for nominations in rural areas.
Speaking at the media briefing the Director of Gender Affairs Thapelo Phuthego also urged the business community to support the initiative. "I believe we can all testify that societies are what they are simply because women sacrificed a lot if not everything to ensure that they raise responsible adults who continue to have a meaningful contribution in their economies across the globe," she said. Phuthego further said sustainable development can only be achieved where government, non state actors, the business community and other key stakeholders join efforts for women’ s empowerment and development.
Meanwhile renowned gender activist and consultant Keabonye Ntsabane pleaded with WIBA to include and take on board women small scale traders in the informal sector who she says need mentoring and support to grow. Ntsabane said in most cases the lack of growth in this kind of sector is caused by lack of support structure and resources. Statistics indicate that women constitute over 60 percent of the informal business sector in Botswana.
WIBA is a non-governmental voluntary organisation that advocates and promotes sustainable businesses led by women. Their mandate is to promote female entrepreneurs. It currently has a membership of about 700 women entrepreneurs. According to WIBA president the 1st inaugural WIBA excellence awards aims at rewarding excellence and resilience of female led businesses.