Women’s MSMEs boost economies and promote sustainability

Our CEO, Dhivya O'Connor, shares why women's Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) are crucial for global prosperity.

This UN MSME (Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise) Day, our CEO, Dhivya O’Connor, shares her insights on the importance of MSMEs, and why and how we must support women to successfully run them in 2024. 

“Women-led MSMEs play a crucial role in societies and economies, but did you know they also fuel sustainable development? MSMEs provide vital products and services in their communities. They often work with locally sourced goods and include other MSMEs in their supply chains. This means they have lower carbon footprints than large international companies, and that they boost local economies.  

The World Economic Forum’s newly-released 2024 Global Gender Gap Report puts current estimated time to close the economic gender gap at 152 years – 17 years sooner than last year’s estimate. But what does this mean for women entrepreneurs exactly? 

Suubi Njuki, woman entrepreneur from Uganda, former mentee.
Suubi Njuki, Owner, Suu-Bee Ltd., former mentee from Uganda.

Globally, it remains that more men start businesses than women. This stems from a host of societal factors ranging from gendered social expectations to a lack of knowledge and confidence, to legal and regulatory barriers. When they do start businesses, women face more challenges than men – they gain less access to finance, markets and networks, their businesses are less likely to be formalized, and they often have to juggle business with an unequal unpaid care load. 

An increase in the number of women-owned MSMEs won’t close the economic gender gap alone – but women entrepreneurs often prioritise community and social impact. Their businesses tend to create jobs and provide opportunities in local communities, particularly for other women. Women entrepreneurs are also more likely to reinvest profits into their communities and social initiatives that uplift girls and women. 

What’s more, The World Bank estimates that closing the gender gap in employment and entrepreneurship could increase global GDP by more than 20%. 

Upasna Mudlier poses at Denmor Garments
Upasna Mudlier, Director, Denmor Garment Manufacturers Inc., HerVenture user from Guyana.

Almost all of the women entrepreneurs we work with at the Foundation own MSMEs. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of these women since joining the Foundation as CEO last year and have seen the ripple effect of impact their businesses have on the world around them. One example is Upasna Mudlier, who I met virtually at our International Women’s Day webinar. Upasna owns a garment manufacturing business in Georgetown, Guyana. Her company, Denmor Garment Manufacturers Inc., creates jobs in her community and equips women with skills so that they can support themselves. This supports sustainable development by promoting decent work, economic growth, and gender equality.  

I look forward to  meeting Upasna in person next month, when I travel to Guyana for the Concordia Amazonas Summit. While there, I’ll also visit Radhika Basdeo, whose food product company reduces food waste and Alana Bunbury-Walton, who runs Guyana’s first zero waste store. When women thrive as business owners, we all benefit. These women are a shining example of that.  

This MSME Day, we invite you to join us in celebrating and supporting women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries. Together, we can accelerate progress for women and help close the economic gender gap.”