Advance Global Capital speaks with Mirlinda Kusari Purrini, Founder/Executive Director of SHE-ERA.
AGC: What specific challenges do women entrepreneurs face in Kosovo?
MKP: One of the major obstacles for women entrepreneurs in Kosovo is the poor mechanism for businesses run by women. Governments should allocate annual funding to support female entrepreneurship, including agreed procedures to access funding. Due to an unfavorable business environment, Kosovo lacks fast-growing innovative businesses, which are the main contributors to job creation. Limited access to finance is also singled out as one of the main barriers to faster women entrepreneur development, as well as training and knowledge on how to manage finances in order to grow the business. A particular problem for women is limited access to property, property rights and inheritance, causing problems in securing the collateral in financial markets and in the development of women’s entrepreneurship. The problem of inheritance and ownership of property makes it almost impossible or very difficult for women entrepreneurs to get loans from banks and/or government agencies for development. Unfavorable bank rates and grace periods add to the challenge. Additionally, the majority of women entrepreneurs have limited access to new technologies and markets that would allow for business expansion.
AGC: How does your program help them overcome these challenges?
MKP: SHE-ERA’s program aims to tackle these challenges by increasing the cooperation of our members with financial institutions, public grant schemes, and other development partners; drafting specific policies aiming support for the female entrepreneurs; improving the position of women entrepreneurs; increasing the access of women entrepreneurs into the “Voucher” scheme; developing examples of good business experiences of women entrepreneurs; helping women connect with each other locally and regionally through participation in training, conference and trade fairs; Identifying the specific challenges in managing and growing family-owned businesses; raising awareness of innovation, patents, intellectual property rights, and the application of technologies and creating the value chain for women entrepreneurs between suppliers, producers, processors and market.
AGC: Why is it important to help women entrepreneurs succeed in Kosovo?
MKP: Women comprise more than 50% of the population of Kosovo. Women have a great potential to contribute to the economic development of the family, community and our country. They face many obstacles in their private and public lives as they strive to achieve their vision. It is important to create equal opportunities and suitable conditions for the economic empowerment of women, an essential step in reaching gender equality in the region. Women entrepreneurs in Kosovo are creative, have an undeniable will to work and contribute to the society and do not hesitate to offer their best, hence they should be supported and provided with the necessary tools to enhance their skills and put their ideas to work. In order to build a strong society, it is imperative that women be included in all aspects of social life as they can contribute greatly given they may face different challenges from men and thus have different solutions to problems.
AGC: How do women-run businesses contribute to their local communities?
MKP: In being active entrepreneurs, mothers and members of their communities, many women choose an entrepreneurial career to find more flexibility and a better work-life balance. In Kosovo, business decisions tend to favor the desire of women entrepreneurs to maintain such a balance. Among the drivers to engage in business activity, women mention independence in making their own decisions, financial independence, and professional development. In many developed countries, small and medium enterprises owned by women are expanding at a quick pace and as such women entrepreneurs are becoming an important drive in generating new workplaces and strengthening the national economic development.