2pure , Entrepreneurship __ Monday, May 6, 2013 1:48 AM - Zoya Sakr Jabre

Zoya Sakr Jabre: Challenges for female entrepreneurship in the Middle East


It is not a secret that women are facing enormous challenges in the MENA region, to gain their rights and equality, from different aspects of their daily life, to the battlefield of business and commerce, a long path of struggle, women have to make to gain their rightful place at the front seat of our society.

There are a number of cultural challenges facing women in the Middle East who want to become entrepreneurs, but those belonging to the middle class face a peculiar financial barrier, Indeed very rare investors are willing nowadays to invest in a business headed by a woman, in my opinion; women could be great entrepreneurs, with their natural instinctive ability to organize and manage a team, they could outclass any competitor.
Despite uncountable female entrepreneur’s success stories around the world, three major challenges face women in this region; obstacles are of a cultural, legal and funding nature.

Women haven’t gained yet their rightful social status, where they could argue and defy a man, have different opinion, be independent and free. This autonomy is crucial for anyone to dive into the entrepreneurial world where he should take decisions and lead.

And as our region is embracing slowly but steadily the idea of female leadership, women are increasingly taking the risk of becoming entrepreneurs with their own employees and business plan, yet this is not an overnight change, we should be aware that time is needed, and as women move forward and upward looking to their future with bright and clear hope, the cultural challenge will be overcome hopefully sooner than later. However many brave women took the decision braking all barriers and established their business with remarkable new ideas and management ability, creating success stories.

On another note, women entrepreneurs can still carelessly fall into traps of naively breaking the law. Many commercial laws around the region have restrictions concerning female commercial activity, tying a woman’s right of starting a business with her husband’s acknowledgment. Or even today, a woman on aware of many regulations never know what law she could break by mistake, and immediately get into a lawsuit without even receiving a warning. It is one of the major burdens for anyone that wants to get into a business. Therefore, beside a legal reform urgently needed across the MENA region, awareness campaigns should be held in many countries in our region.

That restrains women's rights, such as those that prohibit women from working or travelling without the permission of family members and inheritance laws that deny women control of assets, which are needed sometimes as collateral against borrowing.
Often the laws may not discriminate against women, but the officials in charge of implementing these laws will interpret them in a way that denies women the tools to create a business, panelists noted.

Finally, it’s clear that women face funding challenges, a woman should not be relying just on family funds or personal money to launch her own business, angel and equity investors should open their cases for women believing in their great potential to turn good ideas into profits.
At Dubai forum, Arab female entrepreneurs are urged to break from traditional choices; Ibrahim Al-Mansouri, chief operating officer of the UAE-based Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, which supports Emirati entrepreneurs, cited the example of an Emirati lady who came to the fund with the idea of opening an abaya (cloak) shop.

The fund advised her to search for a more innovative business idea since abaya shops are plentiful in the UAE, he said. The lady had a passion for photography and came up with the idea of taking photos for newborn babies in hospitals. The fund merely helped her establish contacts with hospitals in order to have clients there.

It’s about time for women to break all kind of boundaries to overcome the challenges and take part of the growth happening in the region, as a corner stone contributor in stimulating local economies via bold and courageous attempts to become a distinguished entrepreneur in modern society.





comments powered by Disqus