Unilever unveils programme to support women in businesses

The women entrepreneurs will get support in developing their businesses into sustainable and profitable ventures by 2026.

Plans to join forces with Absa Bank Kenya and United Nations Institute for Training and Research to increase capacity.

Unilever’s Sunlight, has invested in a five-year programme to support women in business through various initiatives such as financial literacy training and advertising.

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of food, home and personal care products with sales in over 190 countries, generating annual sales to the tune of €49.8 billion (Sh6.4 trillion).

 An estimated 100,000 women entrepreneurs are expected to directly benefit from the ‘Sunlight Women of More’ programme, a campaign pegged on Sunlight’s uplifting attitude toward women in East Africa.

At the first stage of the programme in 2020, Sunlight had partnered with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to train fifty women in entrepreneurship, innovation and financial literacy.

For the second stage, Sunlight plans to strengthen the partnership and join forces with Absa Bank Kenya and UNITAR to scale up and training an additional five thousand women this year – a hundred-fold increase.

“Sunlight is committed to helping Kenyan women entrepreneurs to develop their businesses into sustainable and profitable ventures they can be proud of by 2026. We will do this by providing tools and partnership to allow them to become more,” said Henry Muchauraya, Homecare Director, East Africa, Unilever.

Statistics show that women owned businesses are making a significant contribution to the Kenyan economy, accounting for 48 per cent of all micro-small and medium sized enterprises, which contribute to about 20 per cent of the GDP.

Women are however still faced with many real and perceptual huddles that have tipped the scales against them and made it more difficult to succeed with certain opportunities,Absa Bank Kenya Director Business Banking, Elizabeth Wasunna, notes.

She said the lender, through the partners, is keen to address historic challenges that face women entrepreneurs, and support them grow.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to more entrepreneurs and we believe that with the right financial literacy, these businesses can grow exponentially,” Wasunna said.

According to the bank, there is also needed to encourage as many women entrepreneurs as possible to register their businesses, formalize their operations and maintain good records of their transactions.

“These are important factors that not only determine entrepreneurs’ ability to attract investment and credit, but also scale their businesses to the next level,” she said.

UNITAR Director for Division for Prosperity, Mihoko Kumamoto, noted:“The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly delayed and derailed the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), affecting marginalized populations, such as women, more than others.”

The campaign is anchored on three pillars; media, shopper, and education to sustain its promise.

This will see the media pillar donate media spaces to support the businesses by creating visibility through digital, radio and out of home ad spaces such as billboards.

Shopper-offer spaces to the women for them to market their products through its in-store activation and the education pillar to offer training on financial, literacy, marketing skills and digital marketing.

To be eligible for the training, one must own a business that has been in operation for at least one year.

The training will support the development of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills of participants looking to address local needs through innovative and creative business solutions.

This is though learning the entrepreneurial process of identifying opportunities and mobilising resources to bring a new enterprise to life.

Exploring the tools and techniques to create desirable, feasible, viable, and sustainable solutions that solve customer needs and problems.

Designing a business model appropriate for their enterprise and customer segments, developing revenue models to capture value in all its forms and formulate financial projections appropriate for social or commercial enterprises, and applying the types of innovations that lead to competitive advantage and enterprise growth.

The training will also encourage peer learning, knowledge sharing, and the formation of a network of like-minded practitioners and entrepreneurs in Kenya and in the region.

To be eligible for the training, one must own a business that has been in operation for at least one year.