| 26 May 2024, Sunday |

Expertise France presents report titled ‘Women Entrepreneurs in Lebanon, Surviving the Crisis Amidst the Challenges’

Expertise France presented a report as part of the European Union for Women Empowerment (EU4WE) project, sponsored by the European Union (EU) in Lebanon and executed by Expertise France, in a webinar today, Friday, October 1st (EF). The research, “Lebanon’s Women Entrepreneurs: Surviving the Crisis Despite the Obstacles In Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and South Lebanon, an assessment study was conducted “provides an overview of the current challenges faced by women-owned and/or women-led businesses (WOLBs), including those resulting from the ongoing crisis, and looks into ways to support women entrepreneurs and businesses in Lebanon.

The webinar included keynote speeches from Ms. Alessia Squarcella, EU Representative, Deputy Head of Cooperation, Team Leader – Economy, Green Deal and Local Development, followed by remarks from the Honorary Guest, Ms. Claudine Aoun Roukoz, President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW), were over 200 participants between women entrepreneurs, stakeholders, donors, etc. joined. Following that, the main findings of the study were presented by Ms. Nisrine Barakeh, the Team Leader for the researcher’s team from AIM and JOURI consortium. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion between 4 Lebanese women entrepreneurs from the different regions covered in the study (Beirut, Tyre, Mount. Lebanon) in which they shared their own visions on the support they need and the best way to move forward. This panel was moderated by one of the EU4WE’s experts Ms. Sonia S?nchez-Quintela. The attendees also had the chance to participate in the Q&A session that took place, and the webinar ended by closing remarks by Ms. Radhia Oudjani, Director of the Governance, Justice & Human Rights department at EF. The event was moderated by Ms Elena Ferreras, EU4WE Team Leader.

While Lebanon ranks 145th out of the 153 countries listed in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report and has the lowest global rates of women’s labor market participation, this study aims to assess the challenges, barriers, and needs of women entrepreneurs in Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and Tyr/South Lebanon. The main objective is to provide an overview of the business environment that WOLBs currently face and explore the best ways to support them.

In her speech, Ms. Squarcella discussed the EU’s commitment towards supporting women entrepreneurs in Lebanon especially within the current challenges, “I  would like to reiterate  the EU’s efforts in supporting gender equality in Lebanon, aligned with our third version of the gender action plan which promotes women empowerment, and we urge Lebanon to  achieve greater results towards gender equality”

While the business environment was already challenging prior to the economic crisis, the current context makes it even more difficult for firms to operate. Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which constitute the core of the business fabric in the country, have been hit hard by banking restrictions, pandemic-related business closures, currency depreciation, and lack of access to USD. In Beirut, the blast of the port in the summer of 2020 has provoked even more havoc. To help the economic recovery, it is important to provide support to firms and to Women owned/led businesses (WOLBs) as they struggle with economic but also social constraints to move forward. From her side, Ms. Aoun, emphasized the importance of having such businesses in these circumstances which could be very helpful to the economy and  provides support to multiple families, “it is of great importance to promote women’s participation in economic life, whether in the public office or in the private sector, in paid work and in entrepreneurship. This goal has been included in the National Strategy for Women since 2011.”

The study showed that women entrepreneurs in Lebanon face a range of barriers at the individual, household, community, and national levels that impact their access to equal opportunities and the outcomes of their activity. In addition to that, social norms and gender roles dictate women should secure jobs rather than start businesses. These norms and values obstruct women’s ability to grow their businesses in the same way men can do so, as 72% of women entrepreneurs face pressures to fulfil family obligations. Moreover, the study showed that women face sexual discrimination in the workplace and their access to finance is limited and has worsened in the context of the ongoing crisis.

Moving forward, the goal is to implement a capacity building programme specifically dedicated to support up to 80 women entrepreneurs in order to foster the growth of women-led and/or women-owned businesses (*SMEs and graduated start-ups), through business development services and financial support.

The webinar was concluded by Ms. Oudjani closing remarks who saluted the efforts and endurance of the Lebanese women and reassured that it is within Expertise France’s current vision to support Lebanon throughout its multi-layered crisis, emphasizing the importance of a having such businesses owned and led by women, “at Expertise France, we believe that supporting the private sector and in particular women entrepreneurs is essential to recover from the multiple crisis. To respond to the crisis, our project EU4WE, is implementing an emergency grant component to helps thirty women entrepreneurs affected by the blast. These 30 businesses have received a training and currently are receiving the grants to support their recovery through salary payment, purchase of new equipment, services or recruitment of staff.

The next step after this study presentation as part of our support to women’s economic empowerment is the launching of a programme for women entrepreneurs we are currently designing. 20 women entrepreneurs from all parts of the country will have access to a targeted training but also will receive a grant during 2021-2022 to facilitate the continuation of their business and the scale up to create resilience, contribute to access exports markets, and create or maintain employment.”

  • NNA