$50k ‘empowerment grant’ launched to help women set up small businesses

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When the participants of the Women’s Innovation and Investment Network (WIIN) turned up to collect their graduation certificates on Tuesday, many of them had no idea that Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud was about to announce that they would also be going home with $50,000 as a means of helping them start up their businesses.

Dr. Persaud made the announcement – at Guyana Women’s Leadership Institute (GWLI), Cove and John, East Coast Demerara (ECD) – to loud cheers at the graduation ceremony of 143 women, being the first batch of participants who took courses in WIIN.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud

Since the programme started last May in Baramita, 1,533 persons in all ten administrative regions benefitted from training in a number of subject areas such as Care for the Elderly, Child Care, Patient Care, Information Technology, Graphics Designing, Photography, Garment Construction, Business Administration, etc.

According to Dr. Persaud, Global Affairs Canada gave funds to the World Food Programmes Caribbean Multi-Country Office. The Guyana Government was, in turn, able to access a grant of US$1.2M.

With this amount, 4,760 women who participated in the WIIN training programme across the country will be able to benefit under the initiative called the ‘Empowerment Fund.’

The criteria for qualifying were developed by World Food Programme to determine who would receive the grant over the next few days. The beneficiaries will be persons from the WIIN programme who need help with their businesses, are unemployed or earn less than the minimum wages.

Coordinator of the project, Mahendra Budhram shared that on Tuesday 80 persons were able to uplift the grant and that the Ministry will be moving through all of the other regions over the course of the next nine days to distribute the remainder.

“Stringent criteria was used to ensure transparency and determination of the beneficiaries, we want to make sure that you get every penny of what was earmarked for you. I want you to take every penny and use it wisely,” Dr. Persaud advised, adding, “So you are not only leaving here with an accredited certificate but with a financial grant to get you started.”

She also pointed out that the country’s economy will benefit from over $230M which the Empowerment Fund is expected to generate.

Minister Persaud could not contain her excitement today as she spoke with the women and explained to them the opportunities at their disposal if they would only embrace them.

“I wanted to make sure that you had tangible support,” she said, adding, “It is our initial investment in you financially as the Government seeks to empower women, encourage women to be their own bosses and  give them a kick start to start their businesses.”

While 2,000 persons are expected to complete training under WIIN by the end of this year, Dr. Persaud noted that phase two of the project will commence early next year.

In the meantime, Minister Persaud has seen to it that GWLI has been equipped with a modern computer lab, a multi-purpose training center and a state-of-the-art culinary center. The business incubator has also been launched there for the benefit of women who need help to start up small businesses.

She encouraged women today to drop in at the Business Incubator and benefit from the support towards their business through expertise from partners like the Exxon Mobil Centre for Local Business Development, Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Her Venture.

Senior Training Officer at GWLI Sanjay Pooran in remarks noted that the WIIN programme is expected to expand as additional energies were placed into ensuring that as many registrants as possible are captured, “so that no one would be left behind.”

According to him, over 500 persons were able to be trained via online platforms, while the remaining number was trained in person.

Other speakers at the event included United Nations World Food Programme Policy Officer, Gonzalo Jimenez; Director of the Center for Local Business Development Dr. Natasha Gaskin; and Vice President of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry Latoya Jack.

Meanwhile, almost in tears because her goal of starting up a business is finally becoming a reality, 29-year-old Nini France shared that for a long time now, she wanted to move her ideas forward but just didn’t have the money. A single parent to two boys, ages 9 and 7, Nini is from Kuru Kururu and loves cooking. “I also love caring for children. It’s something that I really wanted to do and couldn’t. I am now overjoyed I am able to do it. I don’t have words to explain.”

Fareeda Rasheid, a 25-year-old resident of Enmore, ECD, has been a single parent ever since her child was born seven years ago. “It was tough. I have worked, stopped, went through so much, and this is my first achievement toward my goal and I wish that I can continue to move on ahead,” she expressed.

Naudia Simmons of Kitty feels similarly and said the training she received equips her with the skill and knowledge required for employment. “The level of training during this period was very beneficial. What I love most about it was that they offered continuous support after the training.”

One participant whispered to Minister Persaud: “You changed my life,” while another said over and over, “You can’t see my smile.” There were many emotions today as the participants expressed their appreciation.

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