SwitchMed Programme representatives contributed to the European Development Days
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For its twelfth edition, EDD 2018 aimed to bring together the European Union's commitment to gender equality and women's empowerment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The session presented stories of women entrepreneurs from around the world who have been agents of change driving the green economy transition and creating jobs. It was built on the experience of the SWITCH programmes in Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean and the 10-YFP Sustainable Lifestyles Education Programme, in developing partnerships with the private sector to shift behaviour and practice, towards SCP patterns. The lab has generated a rich debate on capacitating Women as local business leaders, with a variety of roles, ranging from being enablers of new eco-entrepreneurship to providing new trends in sustainable consumption. The session also focused on need for policy and financial support to scale-up best practices and further support to women as promoters of green entrepreneurship.
From left to right Ms. Chantal Marijnissen, Mr Peter Repinsky, Ms. Gohar Khojayan, Ms. Su Mon Thair, Ms. Eunice Ayugi and Ms. Nardjess Mokhtari
Ms. Chantal Marijnissen from DG Development Cooperation (European Commission) opened the session with this remark: “Women play a key role in the switch to a Green and Circular economy. In this sense, the SWITCH Programmes are providing capacity building support to business leaders and managers like our panellists, who have come a long way to share their experience, challenges and further needs with us.”
Following, Ms. Gohar Khojayan from Armenia, presented the Solak project, supported by the 10YFP Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Programme. This project aims at providing solar energy to a kindergarten in 3 village communities. This initiative has clear economic benefits and empowers the women in the community. Ms. Khojayan said: “Women are now engaged in the community and even local policymakers bring them on board”. Then, Su Mon Thair talked about the Smart Myanmar project supported by the SWITCH-Asia Programme. They work on women empowerment via a community center for women garment workers. In the center, they have access to the library and life skills and legal rights trainings. Ms. Thair said: “These trainings defitintely helped them to claim their rights and even to start their own micro businesses”.
“Initiatives like SwitchMed are very beneficial for society and women, in particular”
Eunice Ayugi, from Uganda, joined the discussion as well and presented the project supported by SWITCH-Africa Green. They work with young women on green farming and access to finance. The benefits include reduction of food contamination. Ms. Aygi commented: ”The establishment of a centre for green farming education can help to transfer the results to other regions”. Finally, Nardjess Mokhtari, from Algeria, presented Atelier Printemps the green textile workshop supported by the SwitchMed programme. At their workshop, they recycle textile waste. They have also created a recycling network in Algeria with great potential for creation of green jobs, especially for women. Ms. Mokhtari concluded: “For all this, initiatives like SwitchMed are very beneficial for society and women, in particular”.
Ms. Mokhtari displaying her products in the SWITCH stand
Participants in the project lab asked some questions to the panellists. One of the questions was about the challenge in the access to finance for green entrepreneurs. Ms. Mokhtari answered that in fact the ecological interest is not high among financial institutions, and is often difficult to explain the motivation and specificities of a green business to them. Nonetheless, she encouraged women entrepreneurs to dare to make use of the existing financial instruments. Regarding the SWITCH stand, dozens of participants requested information about SwitchMed methodologies and offered to build partnerships for scaling up the current impact.The stand offered the opportunity to green entrepreneurs like Ms. Mokhtari to display their products and make connections.