15 February 2018
2 min read

In Africa, the rates of female, early-stage entrepreneurship are some of the highest in the world. These women have great ideas, are creating jobs and supporting their communities. But they lack the support and funding to grow and sustain their businesses.

That’s why Australian Ethical is providing ongoing funding to YHER, an accelerator program that supports female entrepreneurs in Africa.

YHER is a program of YGAP, an organisation with a mission to not just eradicate poverty, but empower local entrepreneurs with the skills they need to change their own communities.

“We believe the future is African and female,” says Manita Ray, YGAP Chief Operating Officer. “Women-led ventures fail because there isn’t a lot of support. But women are the best levers for change in our world and we want to champion female entrepreneurs.”

Female entrepreneurs are changing the world

Women entrepreneurs can have a positive impact towards the growth and well-being of their societies. Many start their own businesses more out of opportunity rather than out of necessity. They are able to provide income for their families, employment for those in their communities and products and services that bring new value to the society around them.

However Sub-Sahara Africa has one of the highest discontinuance rates for start-up businesses with either unprofitability or lack of finance as reasons for women closing their businesses.

So YGAP designed YHER, run by women, for women. The goal is to address the unique challenges women face when trying to run a business in a typically male-dominated field.

“These women have great ideas, but they lack the support and funding as they grow,” says Manita. “That’s why we chose to support female entrepreneurs who are working on issues that improve the lives of their communities and beyond.

“They’ve often broken through the patriarchy of their community to do something that matters. So we want to raise the profile of female entrepreneurs and create a safe space and encourage more women to start businesses.”

The accelerator program ran in South Africa in late November 2017 with nine women from across the African continent.

“The program makes a huge difference for the women who attend. In an all-woman forum they are more willing to open up about the difficulties they face navigating gender discrimination and draw on the strength of the other women in the room.

“We also teach women skills and tools to continue on her journey of being an impact entrepreneur beyond just learning business skills. And the great thing about the program is that they are connecting with a tribe of women all over Africa who are also making a difference.”

Each of the recipients had the opportunity to pitch their business idea for further funding and join the YHER alumni.

The life-saving work of one woman

Phyllis-300x290-1593067914782.pngPhyllis is a Ugandan woman who is saving the lives of expectant mothers, especially vulnerable women in rural Uganda through a low-cost, mobile phone-based ultrasound system called m-SCAN. It seeks to reduce maternal mortality through early detection, and with 16 expectant mothers dying from pregnancy related complications every day in Uganda, Phyllis’ technology will help reduce the maternal mortality rate.

At the conclusion of the YHER program, Phillis pitched her business to invited guests and received $50,000 to further develop her technology.

“We strongly believe in the power of entrepreneurship and enterprise working to deliver real solutions to many of the social and environmental challenges people face in the world today,” says Phil Vernon. “We’re pleased this prize money is going to such important work.”

As a for-purpose business, Australian Ethical is proud to support life-changing initiatives through our Foundation.

Find out more about the work of YHER.

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