(Bridgetown) – Across the world, female entrepreneurs often encounter a slew of challenges, and the Caribbean is no different. Women in the region seeking to launch or expand businesses are tackling numerous issues like limited access to money, assets, mentoring and networking, expensive funding options, and a lack of business knowledge.
Despite the constraints, multilateral organisations continually cite women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as proven drivers of both economic growth and poverty reduction. Gender balance in business diversifies the landscape which contributes to economic resilience and enriches local markets. Consequently, addressing gender-specific barriers to market entry and business expansion is a high priority for the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
To more effectively respond to the needs of this diverse target group, CDB joined forces with the International Trade Centre to establish the SheTrades Caribbean Regional Hub. The primary objective of the Hub is to enhance market access for businesses led or owned by women by providing training and support in obtaining finance and seizing market opportunities.
Among the early beneficiaries is Ms. Nydia Norville, owner and operator of Choiselle, an all-natural, skincare and wellness business that creates products inspired by Caribbean botanicals for export.
By joining SheTrades Caribbean, the Saint Lucian businesswoman is accessing training to improve her company and learning how to better navigate the export space. She can also tap into a network of global women entrepreneurs to access guidance and support to overcome the hurdles she may encounter as a small start-up in a developing economy.
“The regional hub has provided meaningful and tangible support for my personal and professional growth as a Caribbean woman in business. I am availing myself of the many unique, enriching and specialised opportunities accessible through SheTrades.” Nydia Norville stated.
Since the launch in 2023, women in all CDB’s 19 Borrowing Member Countries have joined SheTrades Caribbean. Sectors seeing strong uptake include the Cultural and Creative Industries, Agriculture and Agro Processing, and Tourism.
Given the importance of women-led small businesses in achieving sustainable and equitable economic growth, CDB is aiming to support over 2,000 such enterprises through the regional SheTrades hub by 2025. The ultimate goal is to create a pathway for more Caribbean women to move from local markets to global trade.
“On a whole, stronger Caribbean businesses with more exports can shore up our economies but empowering women in business increases employment and economic activity, reduces familial poverty, and improves standards of living all of which contribute to more stable, balanced societies and economies,” CDB’s Director of Projects, Mrs. Therese Turner-Jones explained.
“Our SheTrades Caribbean Hub is connecting women entrepreneurs in the Caribbean with global markets and increasing business opportunities which will strengthen trade networks throughout the region and create more resilient economies,” she added. “This is why we are increasingly targeting investment in the business sector.”