Sharing a Passion for Empowering Women in STEM: A WES Trainer’s Perspective

TW Breakout

Guest post by Dalel Krichen, Director of WES Optima Syphax Center in Sfax. This post was written in response to a World Cafe breakout session she attended as a part of the TechWomen Delegation Trip to Tunisia in March 2015. Delegation members met with WES trainers during the Social Media for Women Entrepreneurs Training of Trainers (TOT).

Since my tender age, I was fascinated by bridges, highways and skyscrapers. My dream was to design, construct and operate infrastructures and buildings. As I grew up, this dream became a goal. My favorite subjects were mathematics and physics and I wanted to use what I learned to solve real world problems. Therefore, I decided to become a civil engineer. No need to say that construction in Tunisia was a male-dominated industry and I did not get much support from my friends who tried to dissuade me away from the field and talked about the barriers tech women faced!

But, I worked hard, got a scholarship and went to the U.S. to study civil engineering. When I got my first job in Tunisia, I was the only woman engineer and I had to work on sites. It was very challenging not only trying to gain acceptance by the group but mainly to make the rules, innovate and secure a leading place in the company. As I was climbing the ladder to top positions, I felt the need to support women to enroll in scientific and technical fields. Indeed, female students in Tunisia account for 60% of the overall number of students, graduate at a much higher rate and with a much higher score than their fellow male students. But, the rate of female students in STEM fields remains very low. That’s why I decided to conduct an awareness campaign among girls in high schools to urge them to choose technical fields and I organized summer camps for the outstanding students on the theme “women and technology: learn to love it.”

When I was asked to join the WES team I was thrilled. The program puts a great emphasis on specialties related to new technologies needed in the job market. As we were urged to make a special effort to involve women in technology, I was very excited to fulfill a dear dream –increase the visibility of tech women by helping them create their own enterprises and thus promote female role models in the country.

We had the pleasure to host the delegation of TechWomen. They arrived as we were undertaking a TOT about social media which unveiled to us the power of networking which allows women entrepreneurs to create more opportunities and boost their talents in a way sometimes never expected. So all of us were in the mood to really acknowledge technology and we were looking forward to the breakout discussions with the members of the guest group.

As Samia introduced the exchange program and its objectives, I was very impressed by the goals and the opportunities offered to women. I found the professional mentorship, which is part of the program,very inspiring because it offers a valuable opportunity to support women in STEM fields. In many countries, talents are not encouraged and the lack of women mentors in technical fields makes it difficult for emerging tech women to promote themselves.

The breakout discussion about e-commerce, social media, innovation and risk taking for the developing of businesses using technology and marketing engaged us in an open discussion where we shared experiences, best practices and view points.We loved having the perspective and input of the mentors and we thank them for their guidance and advice.

It is heartening to notice that even though women in the delegation are from different parts of the world with different backgrounds and walks of life, they all share the same passion for technology and for the need to empower women in STEM fields. I couldn’t help noticing the spark in their eyes when they spoke about their careers which made me relate to them on a personal level.

To conclude, I would like to say that Tunisia is in need of more scientists and engineers. The TechWomen visit was memorable because it raised our awareness, as a WES team, for the need to empower tech women start-ups. It was also a good opportunity for brainstorming to find new ways and initiatives to get more women involved in successful tech projects.

Dalel KrichenDalel Krichen is a civil engineer and graduated from Washington University in Saint Louis. She worked as a head of the Department of Civil Building in the Ministry of Equipment and Habitat in Sfax before being the general manager of a construction company. She is also a former Member of Parliament, former general secretary of the Board of Tunisian Engineers in Sfax and Deputy Mayor in charge of the Commission of Infrastructure, Management and Construction in the city of Sfax.

Dalel has championed the cause of women’s empowerment and political participation. She works to integrate gender equality in institutions, programs and laws. She set various programs to encourage female students to choose technical fields and help young women engineers to get jobs and succeed in their careers.

Dalel is also the Director of WES Optima Syphax Center, where she provides trainings in leadership, home-based business, entrepreneurship and e-commerce . She works closely with women to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency.

Dalel is married and the mother of two daughters.

WES: Leadership at the Service of Women’s Entrepreneurship

Rania El Ahmadi at the WES Leadership TOT

Last week, 26 trainers from 13 WES Centers gathered in Hammamet, Tunisia for a Leadership Training of Trainers (TOT) led by WES Master Trainer Ms. Ahlem Ghazouani.

The WES Leadership curriculum focuses on the following elements:

• Communication;
• Vision, purpose and strategy;
• Adaptation to the environment and creation of wealth and opportunities;
• Creativity and initiative; and
• Organizational and business management methodologies.

Rania El Ahmadi and Afaf Zaddem, two WES trainers who participated in the Leadership TOT, shared their individual reflections. Rania discusses the role of WES in helping her to become a leader, support women entrepreneurs and positively influence the development of Tunisia. Afaf focuses her reflection on the impact the training had on her personal and professional growth, as well as the importance of the WES Leaderships curriculum in supporting women entrepreneurs.

My WES Experience

In life, we always have the choice to become a leader, as no one is born a leader, but becomes one. Yes, we each become a leader; but the opportunity must be presented to become one. With WES, I had that chance. My adventure with this program began in June 2012 and, since then, I have seen my dreams come true, ambitions grow and professional status asserted.

Being a trainer has always attracted me. Even though I am an engineer, WES has allowed me to explore this skill and open new horizons with other organizations and institutions. I will always remember the day I had my interview to become a trainer/consultant with ANETI (National Agency for Employment and Independent Labor). I talked about my WES experience and all the important work we do as a part of the program. Personally, I consider the WES team like a family that has always given me the energy to move forward and give the best of myself for the betterment of women, society and Tunisia. And even if the training are limited in time, I have no doubt of the sustainability of the program’s goals and vision.

Thriving by helping others thrive, being fulfilled through the fulfillment of others, being a leader of one’s own life and career – that’s what I’ve experienced with WES. This program has allowed me to discover how one can grow with the help of, and through helping, others.

-Rania El Ahmadi

To what extent may we grow through a training program?

Ms. Ahlem Ghazouani’s talent as a coach, her personality and, particularly, her positive attitude during the WES Leadership training made it an unforgettable experience for me and one, “without which, I would not have taken the leap to carry out my personal mission of joy and pleasure while also inspiring women in my community to do the same.”

I have gained a lot from the training, especially in aligning my emotional and technical skills to advance my role as the director of, and a trainer at, the UNFT WES Center in Kairouan. The content and activities during the training imparted different methodological, strategic and communication skills and were transmitted in a fluid and dynamic manner.

The WES program model of planning a learning process and reinforcing the trainers’ capacities is a real strategic choice for the support of women entrepreneurs.

Finally, a nod to all the participants from the WES Centers in the 11 regions with whom I’ve shared moments of compassion and positive energy.

-Afaf Zaddem

WES Country Director’s Reflections from Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2014

WES Country Director, Chema Gargouri (third from left), with businesswomen from MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa during a meeting with Catherine Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State (middle) at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakech, Morocco.

Guest post by Chema Gargouri, Country Director, WES Tunisia

It was an honor to be invited by the U.S. government to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Marrakech, Morocco, November 19-21, during Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). Three thousand participants from 50 countries attended more than 30 workshops to discuss and learn about all aspects of entrepreneurship such as regional connectivity; social entrepreneurship; smart cities; creating cultures and conditions for entrepreneurship; and innovative solutions to integrate the informal sector into the formal economy, from crowdsourcing to social investing. In addition to learning, sharing and networking, I, along with 14 other women from the Middle East North Africa (MENA) and Sub-Saharan Africa regions, had the privilege to meet three of the most amazing and powerful women in the world – Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce; Catherine Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State; and Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration.

During that meeting, I had the opportunity to speak about the Institute of International Education’s Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) program and its unique approach to women’s entrepreneurship. Despite the many challenges that all women face in making their entrepreneurial journey successful, programs such as WES support women in overcoming the various barriers present. It is obvious that any trip holds good and bad surprises. The WES Centers in the 11 regions of Tunisia exist to equip our women entrepreneurs and make them ready for their own “business trips.”

WES is a program that is meant to celebrate women’s entrepreneurship. Secretary Pritzker stated, “In the U.S., we celebrate our entrepreneurs…the story of America has been shaped by people who take initiative.” We, here in Tunisia, want our present and future to be shaped by men and women who create wealth and jobs. As Secretary Pritzker added, “When women thrive, economies grow.” When WES participates in building the infrastructure of opportunities for women, we are also building a stable society. WES exists to allow women to dream and, as George Bernard Shaw said, “Some look at things that are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” This was the quote also used by Administrator Contreras-Sweet to end her speech.

Meet the WES Entrepreneurs Series: Mounira Ben Boubakker

Video

Mounira Ben Boubakker, WES graduate from the NOOR Association for Human Development (ANDH) WES Center in Sousse, believes that participating in WES trainings increased her confidence and productivity, and was the catalyst for her successful business endeavors.

Watch the video to learn more about Mounira and the impact of the WES program.

Business Award WES Lauréates

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Le Programme WES a le plaisir d’annoncer les 24 femmes entrepreneurs Tunisiennes qui recevront les tous premiers prix du WES Business Award.  Les lauréates sont des femmes entrepreneurs émergentes et établies qui ont bénéficié d’une formation dans huit centres WES à travers la Tunisie. Elles recevront de petites subventions pour les aider à lancer ou développer leurs entreprises. Ne ratez pas les profils détaillés et photos des lauréates dans les prochains articles de blog et sur Facebook.

Les profils des lauréates du WES Business Awards sont répertoriés par centre WES dans chaque région :

Association de Développement de Gafsa Sud (ADG), Gafsa

Mbarka Mabrouki a participé à la formation WES en Entrepreneuriat. Les innovations entrepreneuriales de Mbarka comprennent de nouveaux modèles et accessoires qu’elle a ajoutés à l’habit traditionnel de Gafsa. Mbarka utilisera la subvention du « WES Business Award » dans l’approvisionnement en matériaux de production.

Hayet Nasra, fondatrice d’une société de conception de vêtements, a participé aux formations WES en Entrepreneuriat, Entreprise à domicile. Hayet a l’intention d’utiliser le prix WES pour développer son activité en achetant de nouveaux matériels de production.

Zina Ammar a participé aux formations WES en Entrepreneuriat, Médias sociaux, E-commerce, Leadership et Entreprise à domicile. Elle envisage de développer son entreprise de fabrication de tapis « Tapisserie Zina Ammar » et utilisera le prix WES pour acheter plus de matériel.

Kairouannais pour une Culture Citoyenne (KPCC), Kairouan

Leila Aben a participé aux formations WES en Leadership, Entreprise à domicile, E-commerce et Médias sociaux. L’entreprise de Leila « Lella El Beya » est spécialisée dans les articles de décoration pour la maison. Leila prévoit d’utiliser son prix WES pour faire la promotion de son entreprise et acquérir une nouvelle machine à coudre.

Monia Mestiri Ep Jrad est « self-made woman », qui ne doit sa réussite qu’à elle-même, ayant fait ses études à « l’école de la vie». Elle a participé aux formations WES en Entreprise à domicile et E-commerce. L’entreprise de Monia, « Monia Déco-Store », vend des articles de décoration conçus sur mesure et sera bientôt élargie pour inclure une nouvelle collection grâce aux fonds du « Award WES ».

Nabiha Zaghouani a participé aux cinq formations WES. Elle a également reçu une formation professionnelle et technique dans la poterie et ses produits sont connus pour avoir des modèles non conventionnels. Elle prévoit d’élargir son entreprise « Poterie Kairouan » et lancer une campagne de marketing en utilisant ses fonds du « Award WES ».

Union Nationale de la Femme Tunisienne (UNFTK), Kairouan

Fatma Boukhris a participé à la formation WES en Entreprise à domicile. Elle prévoit de lancer une entreprise de broderie « Gold Fingers » qui se spécialisera dans la broderie, le crochet et la tricotterie. Fatma utilisera ce prix WES pour lancer une campagne de marketing et acquérir du matériel de production de base.

Raoudha Taam a participé à la formation WES en Leadership. Son entreprise « Taam Society » fait la création de sacs pratiques et légers à partir des différents types de plastiques. Raoudha prévoit d’utiliser son prix WES pour faire la promotion et la publicité de son entreprise.

Zakia Bouafia a reçu une formation en agriculture et gestion du bétail en ayant grandi dans la ferme familiale. Elle a récemment participé à la formation WES en Entrepreneuriat. Elle a décidé de transformer sa formation en une activité entrepreneuriale et créer une entreprise laitière. Zakia utilisera ce prix WES pour finaliser l’acquisition d’une nouvelle vache.

Association de Continuité des Générations (ACG), Sfax

Rania El Aoued a participé aux formations WES en Médias sociaux et Entrepreneuriat. Rania est ingénieur spécialisée en production de l’alimentation animale et a l’intention de lancer une entreprise qui produit de la nourriture animale organique à partir de l’orge germée. Rania explique que cette technique est très utile dans les projets de zones sujettes à la sècheresse et a de nombreux avantages pour la santé des animaux. Elle prévoit d’utiliser son prix WES pour mener des études de marché en profondeur. Rania se voit comme chef de file dans son domaine et envisage que son entreprise aura des branches dans toute la Tunisie et à l’étranger.

Mouna Bouchaala a un diplôme en décoration d’intérieur et a participé à des formations WES en Entrepreneuriat et Médias sociaux. Mouna envisage de lancer une entreprise « Green Home » qui fournira un logement bon marché pour les étudiants et autres clients soucieux de l’environnement. Elle prévoit d’utiliser son prix WES pour enregistrer son entreprise. L’objectif de Rania est de concevoir la première maison verte à Sfax.

Hajer Ayedi a récemment participé à la formation WES en Entrepreneuriat et, actuellement, elle est en train de finir son Master en Comptabilité. Elle prévoit de lancer son entreprise « Recycle-Society » spécialisé dans le recyclage, en particulier la fabrication et la vente de papier recyclé. Hajer investira son prix WES dans l’étude de marché et l’acquisition de matériel de production.

Association Majida Boulila pour la Modernité (AMBM), Sfax

Mouna Werchefani est ingénieur électromécanique spécialisée en robotique. Mouna a participé à la formation WES en Entrepreneuriat et prévoit de lancer une entreprise de production de robots à faible coût pour aider les personnes handicapées à acquérir une plus grande mobilité. Mouna utilisera ce prix WES pour commercialiser son idée d’entreprise et s’approvisionner en matériel de production de base.

Nadia Lahiani a participé aux formations WES en Entrepreneuriat et Leadership. Grâce à son entreprise « Nadia Creation », Nadia fait de la peinture personnalisée sur textile, bois, porcelaine et autres matériaux. Nadia utilisera le «WES Business Award » pour développer son entreprise en s’approvisionnant en nouveaux matériaux et élargissant l’étendue de son marché. Son rêve est de devenir une femme d’affaires prospère.

Salma Maatoug a un Master en Conception graphique et a participé aux formations WES en Entrepreneuriat, Médias sociaux, Leadership, E-commerce, Entreprise à domicile et Communication. « COFFRA », l’entreprise de Salma, est spécialisée dans la conception personnalisée et la construction de la boîte d’emballage. Le Prix WES aidera Salma à améliorer la qualité de ses produits en investissant dans une machine de découpe. En plus d’être une femme d’affaires prospère, Salma veut être chef de file (leader) équitable qui respecte le bien-être de ses employés.

Association NOOR du Développement Humain (ANDH), Sousse

Lamia Ben Ali a un diplôme en gestion de projet et a participé aux formations WES en Entreprise à domicile, Médias sociaux, E-commerce, Entreprenariat et Leadership. Lamia envisage de développer sa boulangerie « The Old Bakery » et utilisera le prix WES pour lancer une nouvelle catégorie de produits pâtissiers.

Amina Sghaier est titulaire d’un diplôme universitaire en Design appliqué et a participé aux formations WES en Entreprise à domicile et Entrepreneuriat et Leadership. Elle a l’intention de lancer une entreprise prestataire de services d’évènementiel au profit des organisations de la société civile. Amina prévoit d’utiliser son prix WES pour lancer une campagne de communication pour faire la promotion et la publicité de ses services dans le domaine.

Chehnez Jarraya est titulaire d’un diplôme en couture et broderie et fondatrice d’une entreprise de création de Kaftan appelée « Jarraya Creation ». Elle a participé aux formations WES en Entreprise à domicile, Médias sociaux, E-commerce et Entrepreneuriat et Leadership. Elle pense que les Tunisiens sont fiers de porter des vêtements traditionnels et que sa broderie sur soie et cachemire de haute qualité sera appréciée par ceux qui assistent à des événements officiels. Chehnez utilisera le prix WES pour acheter du matériel de production.

Association Tunisienne de Gestion et Stabilité Sociale (TAAMS), Tunis

Afef Mraidi est styliste vestimentaire par profession. Elle a participé à des formations WES en Entrepreneuriat et Leadership. Afef estime que l’artisanat tunisien doit être préservé. Elle fait la conception de la robe traditionnelle tunisienne, comme la Jebba et la chéchia, ainsi que les bijoux traditionnels. Afef a l’intention de développer sa production de la Jebba et utiliser le prix WES pour créer une nouvelle ligne de vêtements.

Olfa Barouni a participé aux formations WES en Entrepreneuriat, Médias sociaux et Leadership. Olfa possède déjà un diplôme de Master en Management et prévoit d’utiliser le prix WES dans le lancement d’une boulangerie, appelé « Cerise », où elle vendra des pâtisseries tunisiennes et européennes.

Rachida Gannouni est couturière avec une petite entreprise de fabrication de chandails, jupes et vestes pour hommes et femmes. Elle a participé aux formations WES en Entrepreneuriat, E-commerce et Leadership. Le prix WES lui permettra de créer de nouveaux produits et chercher de nouveaux marchés potentiels.

Association de Développement Durable et de Coopération Internationale à Zarzis (ADDCI), Zarzis

Naima Zouaghi a participé aux formations WES en Entreprise à domicile, Entrepreneuriat et Leadership. Naima est propriétaire d’une entreprise qui produit de la harissa (sauce de piment tunisien) et a l’intention d’utiliser son prix WES pour élargir son activité et acheter de nouveaux équipements pour améliorer le processus de sa production et accélérer son service de livraison à domicile.

Amira Belhiba a participé aux formations WES en Entreprise à domicile, Médias sociaux et Entrepreneuriat et Leadership. Elle utilisera ce prix WES pour lancer une entreprise de prestation de services de soins infirmiers et de fabrication d’armoires de premiers secours. Amira est infirmière de formation.

Najet Intit a participé aux formations WES en Entreprise à domicile, Médias sociaux, Entrepreneuriat et Leadership. Najet envisage de lancer une entreprise de pâtisserie qui fournira les matières premières pour la pâtisserie traditionnelle. Elle va utiliser l’argent du prix WES pour acheter le matériel de production de base nécessaire pour lancer son entreprise.

WES Business Award Winners

WES Logo

WES is pleased to announce the 24 Tunisian women entrepreneurs who will receive the first ever WES Business Awards. The winners are emerging and established women entrepreneurs who have benefited from training at eight WES Centers across Tunisia. The winners will receive small grants to help them launch or expand businesses. Stay tuned for more in-depth profiles and photos of the winners in future posts and on Facebook.

Profiles of the WES Business Award winners are listed by WES Center.

Association of Majida Boulila for Modernity (AMBM), Sfax

Mouna Werchefani is an Electromechanical engineer with a specialization in robotics. Mouna participated in the Entrepreneurship WES training and plans to launch a business that will produce robots to help people with disabilities gain increased mobility at a low cost. Mouna will use the WES award to market her business idea and purchase basic production materials.

Nadia Lahiani participated in the Entrepreneurship and Leadership WES trainings. Through her business, Creation Nadia, Nadia custom designs paintings on textiles, wood, porcelain and other materials. Nadia will use the WES Award to expand her business by purchasing new materials and increasing her market outreach. Her dream is to be a successful businesswoman.

Salma Maatoug has a Master’s degree in Graphic Design and participated in the Entrepreneurship, Social Media, Leadership, E-Commerce, Home-based Business and Communication WES trainings. Salma’s business, COFFRA, specializes in the custom design and construction of box packaging. The WES award will help Salma improve the quality of her products by investing in a cutting machine. Along with being a successful businesswoman, Salma wants to be a fair leader who respects the well-being of her workers.

Association of Continuity of Generations (ACG), Sfax

Rania El Aoued participated in the Social Media and Entrepreneurship WES trainings. Rania is an engineer with a specialty in animal feed production and intends to launch a business that produces organic cattle feed made from germinated barley. Rania explains that this technique is very useful in draught-prone areas and has many health benefits for animals. She plans to use her WES award to conduct in-depth market research. Rania sees herself as a leader in her field and envisions her company having branches throughout Tunisia and internationally.

Mouna Bouchaala has a degree in Interior Design and participated in the Entrepreneurship and Social Media WES trainings. Mouna plans to launch a “Green Home” business that will provide inexpensive housing to students and other environmentally-conscious clients. She plans to use her WES award to register her business. Mouna’s goal is to design the first green home in Sfax.

Hajer Ayedi recently participated in the Entrepreneurship WES training and is currently working towards a Master’s degree in Accounting. She plans to launch her business, Recycle-Society, which will focus on recycling, manufacturing and selling recycled paper. Hajer will invest her WES award in conducting market research and purchasing production material.

Kairouanians for the Culture of Citizenship (KPCC), Kairouan

Leila Aben participated in the Leadership, Home-based Business, E-Commerce and Social Media WES trainings. Leila’s business, Lella El Beya, specializes in decorative items for the home. Leila plans to use her WES award to promote her business and purchase a new sewing machine.

Monia Mestiri Ep Jrad is a self-made woman whose education includes the “school of life,” as well as the Home-based Business and E-Commerce WES trainings. Monia’s business, Monia Déco-Store, sells custom designed decorative items and will soon expand to include a new collection line made possible by the WES award funds.

Nabiha Zaghouani participated in all five WES trainings. She has also received vocational and technical training in pottery and her products are known for their unconventional patterns. She plans to expand her business, Poterie Kairouan, and launch a marketing campaign using her WES award funds.

National Union of Tunisian Women (UNFTK), Kairouan

Fatma Boukhris participated in the Home-based Business WES training. She plans to launch an embroidery business, Gold Fingers, which will specialize in embroidery, crochet and tricotterie. Fatma will use the WES award to launch a marketing campaign and purchase basic production materials.

Raoudha Taam participated in the Leadership WES training. Her business, Taam Society, creates practical and lightweight bags in different plastic derivatives. Raoudha plans to use her WES award to promote her business.

Zakia Bouafia received training in agriculture and livestock management while growing up on her family’s farm. She recently participated in the Entrepreneurship WES training. She made the decision to turn her training into an entrepreneurial endeavor and launch a dairy cow-milking business. Zakia will use the WES award to complete the purchase of a new cow.

NOOR Association for Human Development (ANDH), Sousse

Lamia Ben Ali has a degree in Project Management and participated in the Home-based Business, Social Media, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship and Leadership WES trainings. Lamia plans to expand her bakery business, The Old Bakery, and will use the WES award to launch a new category of pastry products.

Amina Sghaier holds a university degree in Applied Design and participated in the Home-based Business, Entrepreneurship and Leadership WES trainings. She intends to launch a business that will provide event management services to civil society organizations. Amina plans to use her WES award to run a communications campaign promoting her services in the area.

Chehnez Jarraya holds a diploma in sewing and embroidery and is the founder of a Kaftan business, called Jarraya Creation. She participated in the Home-based Business, Social Media, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship and Leadership WES trainings. She believes that Tunisians take pride in wearing traditional attire and that her skilled embroidery on silk and cashmere will be appreciated by those attending formal events. Chehnez will use the WES award to purchase production materials.

Association of Development of the South of Gafsa (ADGS), Gafsa

Mbarka Mabrouki participated in the Entrepreneurship WES training. Mbarka’s business innovations include new designs and accessories she has added to traditional Gafsa clothing. Mbarka will use the WES award to purchase production materials.

Hayet Nasra participated in the Entrepreneurship and Home-based Business WES trainings and is the founder of a clothing design company. Hayet intends to use the WES award to expand her business by purchasing new production materials.

Zina Ammar participated in the Entrepreneurship, Social Media, E-Commerce, Leadership and Home-based Business WES trainings. She plans to expand her carpet business, Tapisserie Zina Ammar, and will use the WES award to purchase more materials.

Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability (TAMSS), Tunis

Afef Mraidi is a wardrobe stylist by profession. She participated in the Entrepreneurship and Leadership WES trainings. Afef believes that Tunisian handicrafts must be preserved. She designs traditional Tunisian dress, such as Jebba and Chachia, and traditional jewelry. Afef intends to expand her Jebba production and use the WES award to create a new line of clothing.

Olfa Barouni participated in the Entrepreneurship, Social Media and Leadership WES trainings. Olfa already has a Master’s degree in Management and plans to use the WES award to start a bakery, called Cerise, where she will sell Tunisian and European pastries.

Rachida Gannouni is a seamstress with a small business making sweaters, skirts and jackets for men and women. She participated in the Entrepreneurship, E-Commerce and Leadership WES trainings. The WES award will allow her to create new products and research potential new markets.

Association of Sustainable Development and International Cooperation in Zarzis (ADDCI), Zarzis

Naima Zouaghi participated in the Home-based Business, Entrepreneurship and Leadership WES trainings. Naima is the owner of a business that makes harissa (Tunisian hot pepper sauce) and intends to use her WES award to buy new equipment to improve the production process and expedite her home-delivery service.

Amira Belhiba participated in the Home-based Business, Social Media, Entrepreneurship and Leadership WES trainings. She will use the WES award to launch a business that will provide nursing services and manufacture first-aid cabinets.

Najet Intit participated in the Home-based Business, Social Media, Business, Entrepreneurship and Leadership WES trainings. Najet is planning to launch a pastry business that will provide the raw materials for traditional pastry makers. She will use the WES Award money to purchase basic production materials needed to launch her business.

“Women to Women” Empowerment: WES and CNFCE Partnership

Discussion on connecting mentees and entrepreneurs during WES-CNFC meeting

Discussion on connecting mentees and entrepreneurs during WES-CNFC meeting

Guest post by Chema Gargouri, Country Director, WES-Tunisia.

After one year and a half of training and coaching to empower women entrepreneurs in six regions across Tunisia, the WES centers are shifting towards becoming “multi-sectoral” associations that not only promote the access of women to professional training, teach them entrepreneurial principles, facilitate their access to credit and professional training but also enhance their role as a social power with a greater interest to become more active in politics. Thanks to the regional networks that each WES partner organization has developed, the WES centers are also providing unique spaces where women can discover the force of feminine solidarity.

As a way to reinforce the “women to women” support, WES established a partnership with the Tunisian business association, the Tunisian National Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs (CNFCE), to liaise successful entrepreneurs from CNFCE chapters with WES graduates in the six regions where the WES centers are located. This “marriage” of experienced, successful businesswomen with younger women entrepreneurs who have just started in business is very important. Providing the right “mentor” and “mentorship” is one of the ways to help women entrepreneurs deal with challenges- technical and psychological, that women in a country like Tunisia could face. Solitude, social pressure, discouragement, and negative critics are among the few challenges that woman entrepreneurs commonly face before launching a project. In addition to accessing funding as well as the required training to prepare for her carear as a businesswoman, our young women entrepreneurs need to develop a strong personality to succeed in a male-dominated sector men. The presence of a successful businesswoman as a guide, advisor, a reference, and expert in any of the younger women entrepreneurs business lives is crucial for the development of the required skills and confidence needed to take the risk to develop a business and keep it running.

This partnership between CNFCE and WES is thus aimed at making the feminine solidarity shift from being a slogan to an action. There will never be any changes in our social patterns if women do not support women. Matching mentors from CNFCE with our mentees from the WES centers is also creating a social and economic dynamic in each region with the message that promoting women in business in also an integral part of promoting women’s rights.

Announcing the WES Business Award

WES Business Award

WES Business Award

We are excited to announce the launch of Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) Business Award! The WES Business Award is a competition intended to provide an opportunity for WES graduates to strengthen their business plans and compete for small seed grants to launch or expand their businesses. This competition will also help WES engage with the private sector in our work, expand our networks and attract new women to attend WES workshops.

The WES Business Award is open to WES graduates from November 4, 2013 through December 9, 2013. The winners will be announced on February 3, 2014. Three awards will be given out at each WES center – two awards for TND 1000 and one award for TND 2000. (See the list of 8 WES Partners in Tunisia.)

Winners will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity of Vision: Applicant has a clear vision/plan for her business. She can clearly explain what she wants to do with her business and has a realistic plan for how she will use the Award funds in the next 3-6 months.
  • Market Opportunity: There is proven demand for the applicant’s product/service in the region. The applicant has a well thought-out plan to market and respond to the demand for her product/service.
  • Profitability and Financial Feasibility: There is a demonstrated understanding of the financial requirements of starting or expanding a business. The applicant is clear about her potential revenue and profits and the plan seems to be financially feasible and profitable.
  • Management Capability: The applicant has the management and entrepreneurial qualities and skills to successfully launch or expand a new business.

Applications will be reviewed and rated by an independent selection committee comprised of three entrepreneurs, business people, university professors, etc. from the community. The committee will submit their final recommendations to the Institute of International Education (IIE) who will make the final selection of winners. Preference will be given to applicants whose business plans demonstrate excellence in each of the selection criteria.

Here is how you can join us in empowering women entrepreneurs in Tunisia:

  • Suggest Tunisia-based private sector partners to support WES graduates
  • Connect us with women mentors for WES graduates
  • Write a guest post on our blog sharing your entrepreneurship tips or inspiring story
  • Spread the word about WES and the Business Award on social media

Stay tuned for exciting updates as we select our first cohort of WES Business Award winners!

 

Rachida Gannouni’s WES Journey

Rachida Gannouni, WES graduate, TAMSS

Rachida Gannouni, WES graduate, TAMSS

In August 2013, Rachida Gannouni, WES Graduate from Tunis, succeeded in securing her first large international contract with a client in Saudi Arabia. Rachida owns and manages a registered home-based sewing business specializing in work wear. This new contract is helping Rachida achieve her dream of diversifying her product line. For her first project, she will be making handmade painted prayer carpets and intends to continue to expand her inventory.

Before she came to the WES center at TAMSS in Tunis, Rachida Gannouni had a registered home-based sewing business specializing in uniforms and work wear that employed four women. At that time, Rachida had a book keeping system that did not separate her business from her family budget and she was not always able to distinguish between expenses and profit.

Rachida joined WES with two clear goals 1) to expand her business and get new sewing machines and 2) to start paying social security and insurance for her employees. She enrolled first in entrepreneurship and leadership trainings and has since also joined e-commerce and computer training courses.

In addition to investing in new skills, Rachida is also developing a business plan. “I now review my business plan almost every night at home,” she explains. The WES TAMSS team is also helping her acquire loans from the BFPME (Banque de Financement de la Petite et Moyenne Entreprise) to expand her business and access more interesting markets such as universities, hospitals and laboratories. With the help of WES, Rachida has determined that she needs 120 thousand Tunisian Dinars to buy new machines and move to a bigger work space.

Rachida has adopted several new business practices that have immediately helped her expand her business, earn greater profits, and secure the large international contract, “I am expecting a 50% increase in the profits I make by next month because now I know what my priorities are.”