The program which is being dubbed WISE, Women In Small Enterprise, is exclusively focusing on women in small and micro enterprises so that they will be able to gain new skills, knowledge, training and eventually financial assistance.
While launching the program in Basseterre on Friday 15th February, 2013, the Minister of Health, Social Services, Community Development, Culture, & Gender Affairs, Ms. Marcella Liburd explained that,“It’s a program designed to help women at the lowest end of the income bracket, because we know how tough times are. Tough times are there all over the world and St. Kitts and Nevis is no different. So we know it’s tough out there. And it is recognizing that, and caring for women especially those at the lowest income level, knowing that you are the care-takers…of the entire family.”
Liburd added that WISE is to cater to women who are already operating a business. It includes people selling trays, small shops, street vendors, hairdressers, etc.
The rationale is to help women to stimulate their businesses, enabling them to access funds to help them to purchase new stock, buy equipment, supplies and whatever might be needed to help the business grow.
It was also indicated that the government wants to help the women to become more efficient entrepreneurs in areas such as book-keeping. They will be provided with mentors to guide and assist them in how to improve their local small businesses. Equally there will be support in money management; recognizing that there is need for a new approach, to control expenditure and understand how to manage cash reserves and cash flows.
The training will help the business women to understand what to save, what to pay themselves as wages and what to invest back into the business so that it can grow and prosper.
The mentors will visit the business women to offer additional assistance on how better to operate their businesses, how to better organize the enterprise, so that at the end of the program, they would be better entrepreneurs, than when they started.
Once approved after an interview process, each recipient will be provided with interest free loans with certain terms and conditions to be established. The repayment terms are partly to be finalized after consultation with each beneficiary, to establish comfortable rates of repayment. Some incentives will be provided with respect to repayments.
.Each enterprise will be evaluated after a three month period.
One of the factors that helped to create the program, explained Ms. Liburd, was the information or data studied and analyzed by the Ministry of Gender Affairs, on the conditions of women and how they are managing in a tough economy.
She said that for some time now they have been studying and analyzing the data on the situation with respect to women and the economy. She said that there were certain bits of information that were revealed in studies conducted. Generally speaking it was discovered that where the women are, the children are also located.
This program therefore, said Liburd, is not only about women but also the children. It is about more than the women because women have the families to care for; so it is strongly believed that if the women are taken care of, families will also be taken care of through the WISE initiative, said Liburd.
Ms. Liburd went on to share that a majority of the families in the federation are headed by single women. Another reason for the program is that women are at the lowest end of the income bracket and yet another reason has to do with poverty. The data also indicates that there are more women in poverty than men. “And as we say, when a woman is in poverty a whole family is in poverty,” stated the Minister.
Though no exact number has been provided to indicate just how many persons are to benefit, women have been urged to take full advantage of the opportunities being offered through the WISE program. A commitment was made to assist as many women as possible.
According to one official at the launch event, the government is also hoping to roll out another program shortly, and this one will be called the National Infrastructural Development Program.