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Speaking Up and Stepping Up

By Renew Capital Marketing and Communications Team | Fri Nov 04 2022
A Self-Confidence Seminar by the ARISE Program Helps Women in Agriculture Assert Themselves in Business 
Women represent a large percentage of the agricultural workforce yet there is a gap in access to finance and training that makes women-led agribusinesses more vulnerable to shocks like COVID-19 and the impact of climate change on farming. In 2021, the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA) and Renew Capital partnered up to support women in agribusiness through the African Resilience & Investment Series for Women Executives (ARISE) Program, which boosts resilience through capacity building in areas such as business financials; sales and marketing; and investment preparedness. 
The following is the first in a series of blogs detailing ARISE’s most recent training sessions. The next set of those same sessions kicks off November 16. ARISE encourages women in agribusiness to sign up and to join AGRA’s business management on the Value4HerConnect portal. 
Those sessions are listed here: 
  • Enhanced Investment Preparedness: November 16
  • Enhanced Investment Seminar: November 29 
  • Confidence, Self-esteem and Ambition Setting Seminar: November 30
  • BDS Providers Seminar: December 14 - Register Here
While there are always exceptions to the rule, inequitable male-dominated power structures have existed throughout human history, and that has certainly been the case in many African societies. Often, it happens under the guise of benevolent intentions and institutions such as marriage, religion, education, division of labor and protection. Today, despite major growth in the number of women-led businesses on the continent, old attitudes about women’s capabilities and societal roles still take a toll on women's willingness to take risks and make entrepreneurial decisions that can take them to new levels of economic empowerment and leadership. Women participate in and own many agribusinesses in Africa, but their businesses tend to be small and don’t often operate as an alliance. 
Now, in an effort to mitigate these historic dynamics, entrepreneurial ecosystem builders are focusing on increasing women entrepreneurs’ chances of accessing finance and helping them build on other soft and hard business skills that will, in turn, empower them to scale their businesses. 
“Being on the investment side, it’s unfortunate to see the number of women-led and -owned companies who drop off during the investment appraisal process due to lack of self-confidence,” said Renew Capital senior investment manager Diana Njuguna, who is helping to lead the ARISE program. “It’s time for women entrepreneurs to rise up, articulate their ambitions and take advantage of opportunities that would support their businesses to scale.”
One of the new additions to the 2022 course was a preliminary seminar titled Confidence, Self-Esteem and Ambition Setting, hosted by Njuguna and two of Renew Capital’s other African women staffers, Senior Investment Manager Dagmawit Shiferaw and Senior Project Manager Samrawit Geremew.  
"We want to tell you that believe it or not, support organizations like AGRA, investors like Renew Capital, peers like the men that display more confidence than you in the business arena, have a lot of respect and admiration for you as women entrepreneurs who are consistently pushing multifaceted boundaries and running a business with much potential to impact food security, job creation and economic growth for the continent, so rise to the occasion throughout your entrepreneurial journey,” Geremew told the participants.
 
A Safe Space for Sharing 
Inversely, a lack of self-esteem can cause an entrepreneur to have trouble accepting feedback, setting boundaries, and taking care of their own needs, all of which contribute to the so-called “imposter syndrome,” in which a qualified and talented individual - usually a woman - doubts their abilities and feels like an imposter, not belonging in the space.
“Your success is determined by how confident you are. Business is like a game of sport, so you have to go out and win, and if you are doubting yourself already, then you are less likely to win,” Shiferaw told the group. 
The women attending the session are no strangers to these concepts.
“Lack of confidence gives me trouble when I need to speak about my business. I am often overshadowed by people, especially males, who are confident in expressing themselves,” noted Piloya Innocent, the head of the Ugandan agribusiness company Ayandwe Foods, recognizing that women are less likely to put themselves out there by applying for big opportunities or voicing an idea that might get shot down. “I am learning to speak up, and learning along the way where I can.”
And while there are real social and political barriers that can hinder women’s success in business, a huge part of rising to the challenge requires mind over matter.
“When I look back at the times when I was not confident, I realize it's all in the head, and in the end, it is about reframing our internal conversations with ourselves,” commented Charity Ndegwa, one of the agribusiness owners in attendance. She encouraged the group to remember that they are already doing something great by running these businesses: “We should take up space accordingly.”
Toward the end of the workshop, the women were challenged to articulate “ambition statements,” which they can repeat daily as a way of reaffirming their goals and giving them the confidence they need to direct and fully integrate their employees in the company’s mission.  
Joy Mary Lwanga, owner of Shalom Organic Farm in Uganda, thanked Renew Capital’s trainers with a self-affirmation that simultaneously reaffirmed them.
“I am a risk taker, I am ambitious, and I am learning to be confident.” she said.
 
 
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