Women account for a major cross-section of the population and the economic empowerment of a woman can be transformative for the society in which she lives.
Armed with business acumen learned while attending First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger’s Self Reliance and Success in Business Workshop, Ms. Claudette Nelson, a budding entrepreneur is a woman on the rise and taking her business and her community with her. This is her story.
“I am the President of the Den Amstel Agro-processing Enterprise Project,” Ms. Nelson said. “I learned about the seminar from somebody working in the community who was trying to get persons who were involved with business or who have some interest in community development. So, since I’ve done this workshop… it [has] helped me to be more involved within the community… With that training, you’re more community minded and… want to do things to see your community develop,” she said.
The rising entrepreneur developed a business plan that fits the specific needs of her community.
“This being a farming community, you find that over the years … a lot of fruit [and] vegetables come out from the community, but then when there is a [dip] in the market a lot of things just go [to] waste. So, we see this project has enabled [us] to … reduce that wastage and… have a longer shelf life for the products that come out from the farms. Our plan as a group is to do agro-processing… in the sense of non-traditional products. That’s looking … at preserved fruits, pepper sauce, dried fine leaf thyme, jam… eddo flower, cassava flower, plantain flower, and dry fruit… as a snack,” she said.
While her business plan is still in the early stages, Ms. Nelson is not discouraged by small beginnings. She hopes that her business plan will influence villages all across Guyana. “It must be a project that… [can] stand out in Region Three and our community benefiting and becoming self-sufficient through this project… job creation for persons within the community and through this project… it will [start] a ripple effect for other communities within Region Three and the country as a whole… The valuable lesson I learned is that you need to think big, start small, and act now… you can think big, but you don’t necessarily have to start big… You always start small and then you grow as you go along,” she said.
Ms. Nelson said that while it is good that women attend the Self-Reliance workshops, it is also important that they commit to the plans they make while participating. “I [would] like to encourage women that they should take part and even when they get the opportunity for the training, they should follow through with it because it better equips them… to run a successful business and also help them in their own personal development,” she said.
Expressing gratitude for the First Lady’s initiative, Ms. Nelson said, “I think, all in all, this training, this programme, by the First Lady is a great initiative I was able to benefit and I… was able to come and make a difference within my community.”
Empowered women empower Guyana
The Self-Reliance and Success in Business Workshop is facilitated by Interweave Solutions (Guyana) Incorporated. Managing Director, Mr. Wayne Barrow, said that the workshop taps into its attendees’ seemingly hidden potential and that combination of potential and micro-enterprise knowledge e said, is worthy of every Guyanese.
“We’re able to identify their skillsets… There are people who are shy. There are people who have been told throughout their whole lives that they will amount to nothing, but we ask… ‘What are you good at?’ ‘What do you like?’ ‘What makes you happy?’ These are the kinds of things that allow for dialogue… they teach themselves as a group. They interact and the cross-fertilisation of ideas ensures that something escape… This is not about poverty. This is about getting people empowered. No matter what the colour of their skin or religious background; it’s all about ‘hand wash hand, mek hand come clean’. That’s essentially what this Self-Reliance programme [is]… pulling yourself up by the boot straps,” he said.
Mr. Barrow also said that an investment in women is an invest in Guyana, as women are major contributors to the economy. “Women who control the finances are more effective spenders. The money stretches further… If your household is looking strong and successful and happy and your neighbour is following your pattern, then your community, therefore, becomes a more wholesome community. And if every community follows that example, then your nation becomes such a community…You invest in the women, you’re basically investing in the nation. They are wise and they are committed, more so, it seems, than men,” he said.
A holistic approach
The First Lady praises the programme’s comprehensive approach to women’s empowerment as it encourages participants to make positive changes in their family lives and throughout their communities.
“The plus with this Self-Reliance and Success in business workshop is that it doesn’t only focus on the person as a business woman or man… but it helps the person say, ‘How am I functioning within my family and within my community?’ So, it’s seeing the person in a very holistic way and how they interact with the members of their family, with the members of their community and clubs… and how that impacts how they manage their business… It looks at the person in total, rather than just the business person,” she said.
Lamenting the perceptible low self-esteem that she has found in women and girls across Guyana, Mrs. Granger is intentional about helping women recognise the true value of their contributions at home and in society.
“I think too often young girls in particular, in my experience, and some women feel like they have to be defined by whoever is the male partner or whoever is the male authority figure in the house. But it isn’t… as simple as that… I would hear a housewife say, ‘I don’t know how to do anything; I just mind the house.’ But I say you’re managing finances, you’re managing your household, your children, you’re counselling them, you’re cooking, you’re cleaning, you’re washing, you’re an economist because you’re figuring out how you’re spending your money so that you can put food on the table,” she said.
The First Lady has one message for the women of Guyana. “My message to women is you can do it. You can become financially independent, but you have to train yourselves and develop confidence in yourselves. And this is why I have the workshops,” she said.
The Office of the First Lady and the Government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Social Protection and other government agencies and organs, continue to ensure that women like Claudette Nelson have the training and community support necessary to build microenterprises that boost Guyana’s growing economy.