The founder of SheFighter, a company that trains women in Jordan in self-defence techniques, Lina Jalil Khalifeh, has won the first place in UNCTAD’s Empretec Women in Business Awards. The awards honour businesswomen from developing countries who have founded successful firms, created jobs and become role models in their communities.
The first place was announced at a glitzy ceremony at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 15 October, during the UNCTAD World Investment Forum 2014.
"Domestic violence against women inspired me to empower women both physically and emotionally: it's going well and I'm sure it can work in other countries," Ms. Jalil Khalifeh said on receiving the prize from UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi. "I would like to thank UNCTAD and also Empretec in Jordan. I really wasn't expecting this - thank you!"
SheFighter - the first self-defence studio for women and girls in the Middle East - has now trained more than 10,000 women in self-defence. In 2012, UN-Women said that 32.3 per cent of Jordan's women reported violence by an intimate partner and/or non-partner, and the country has a high incidence of "honour killings".
Dr. Kituyi said the Women in Business Awards had a very real impact on the lives of recipients.
"They are examples of success with which UNCTAD is proud to be associated," he said. For every woman entrepreneur "there are millions who have been denied opportunities".
"The international community must grow the role of women and what they do," Dr. Kituyi said.
Ms. Jalil Khalifeh receiving award from UNCTAD S-G Mukhisa Kituyi
Second place went to Divine Ndhlukula of Securico Security Services, a leading supplier of security solutions in Zimbabwe, including electronic security systems installation, guarding, cash management and private investigation services. Presenting the award was Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland.
Third place was won by Lorena María Eugenia Picasso of Argentina. Her company manufactures innovative educational games to stimulate the development of cognitive, motor, emotional and social abilities as well as therapeutic products which specialize in rehabilitation. Ms. Picasso received the third-place award from Aisha Alfardan, Vice-Chair of the Qatari Businesswomen Association and Personal Adviser to the Chair of the firm Alfardan Group Holding.
Other finalists hailed from Brazil, Guyana, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia. In line with the World Investment Forum's theme of investing in sustainable development, the following two entrepreneurs were selected from among the Empretec nominations to receive a special award for their work in social and green entrepreneurship, respectively:
Leena A. Irshaid (Jordan): Established the only pickling factory in Jordan that is founded, owned and managed by women. It brings unemployed female agricultural engineers back into the workforce by training and hiring them.
Pabla Anabela Torres (Argentina): The start-up company researches, develops, produces and markets organic products designed for crop protection and pest control, including a biopesticide.
All ten finalists for the awards are graduates of the Empretec programme, which offers training in entrepreneurship through centres in 36 developing countries. The UNCTAD Division on Investment and Enterprise administers the programme in cooperation with national partners.
The potential of women entrepreneurs - such as the 10 finalists for the awards - to build successful companies and create jobs in developing countries is increasingly being recognized by Governments.
Many of the finalists have told compelling stories of overcoming social and cultural obstacles to their business careers, as well as surmounting financial challenges.
Both the Empretec programme and the biennial Women in Business Awards - which were inaugurated in 2008 at the twelfth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XII) in Accra, Ghana - promote the empowerment of women in society. In many developing countries, women face obstacles to obtaining the education and technical training necessary for founding and expanding successful businesses.
Most entrepreneurial education offered is not tailored to women's needs, but UNCTAD's Empretec programme strives to overcome these challenges. Depending on their specific needs and wishes, winners of the awards receive study opportunities, travel grants and opportunities to participate in training, seminars and networking events.
The Empretec Women in Business Awards is now a landmark initiative alongside which the following partnerships have been launched:
UN-Women and UNCTAD will work jointly on women's entrepreneurship and empowerment.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Agency for International Cooperation and UNCTAD will work together to develop the Inclusive Business Action Network.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland will collaborate with Empretec centres on women's entrepreneurship within its recent private sector development strategy.
The Qatari Businesswomen Association committed to assist the women finalists in their endevaours, inviting them to a business forum which will take place in Qatar in December 2014.
Emerald Publishing Ltd. and UNCTAD will jointly develop and publish teaching cases based on successful Empretec entrepreneurs.
The Otsuka Group will work together with UNCTAD and its network of Empretec centres to improve nutrition and reduce environmental impact.
Symbiotics has committed to develop access to finance for women entrepreneurs.
Videos on Empretec can be viewed on its YouTube channel.