The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the landscape for entrepreneurs everywhere. Over the past year, women entrepreneurs have faced disproportionate challenges in maintaining and sustaining their businesses for future operations. The Center for International Private Enterprise is working to understand these challenges so we can help identify opportunities for support. To help entrepreneurs share their story, CIPE sponsored an essay competition, inviting women entrepreneurs from Eurasia to share their experiences as business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those essay competition winners were announced in November.
Strategies for Overcoming COVID
At a launch event, Connie Gonzalez, a Senior Program Officer for CIPE’s Center for Women’s Economic Empowerment, began the all-female panel discussion about trends concerning COVID-19’s impact on women. Lana Chkhartishvili, Senior Manager of Educational Programs and Government Relations at the Civil Development Agency in Georgia, spoke about women entrepreneurs resilience in Georgia and how many have transformed their business models and service offerings to deliver what their communities need during the pandemic. Chkhartishvili provided the example of how Spilow, a business initially started by three Georgian women to produce children’s clothing, switched to making face masks to meet increased demand caused by the pandemic.
Confirming women’s innovation in responses to the pandemic, Firuza Tatybaeva, an Export Manager at Agrico Tashkent, spoke about women restaurant owners in Uzbekistan who adapted to new demand during the pandemic by introducing delivery and pick-up services. Aziza Yuldasheva, the Executive Director of the Association of Agribusiness in Kyrgyzstan, shared how several women’s organizations started initiatives that connect women business owners with lawyers to review their contracts and find ways to reduce their rent and other fixed expenses. Natalia Otel Belan, Regional Director of CIPE’s Europe and Eurasia Department, spoke to women’s strong sense of compassion towards their employees, families, and communities. Otel Belan highlighted how each of the essayists took responsibility to help their workers survive the pandemic’s economic toll by adapting their business models to offer new services and providing skill development through online tools.
What Entrepreneurs Need
A vital component of the panel event focused on what women entrepreneurs need during the pandemic and how organizations like CIPE can support economic recovery. The panel presented multiple ideas focused on four key areas:
- empowerment opportunities,
- experience sharing.
Yuldasheva emphasized the need for women to learn new skills and proposed the idea that CIPE sponsor and organize training sessions for women to develop new skills and find new ways to earn money. With CIPE’s expertise in supporting the development of business associations, Yuldasheva also raised the idea of CIPE starting business associations specifically for women to help them overcome barriers to their participation in this otherwise male-dominated sphere.
Echoing the need for more empowerment opportunities and experience sharing, Tatybaeva suggested for CIPE to continue finding ways to create spaces for women to develop cross-cultural business relationships where women can support one another and establish friendships. Chkhartishvili also advocated for CIPE’s continued promotion of international partnerships and creation of opportunities that help women entrepreneurs finance their businesses.
In conclusion, Otel Belan emphasized that this event inspired CIPE to start new initiatives to promote women’s economic empowerment and underscored CIPE’s commitment to women not only in Europe and Eurasia, but worldwide.
You can find a full recording of this event on CIPE’s YouTube channel, and the complete “Voices of Resilience: COVID-19 and Women Entrepreneurs in Eurasia Essay Series” publication on CIPE’s website. Follow CIPE’s Europe and Eurasia Department on Twitter, LinkedIn , and Facebook for ongoing updates on our women’s economic empowerment projects and related initiatives in the region.