Women Business Associations in the Balkans Meet on Entrepreneurship, Advocacy and Coalition Building
The Regional Center for Organization Management has recently organized a series of events dedicated to women entrepreneurship, advocacy and coalition building. The events took place in Bucharest, Romania on June 12-15, 2012 and they brought together over fifty women entrepreneurs and women association managers from six countries in the Balkan region (Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey).
The series of events is part of a project titled “Balkan Women Coalition for Professional Qualification and Training in the Field of Business and Economic Science” (2012-2014), funded by the European Commission through the Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme. The aim of the project is to establish and strengthen a coalition of Balkan women’s business associations, as well as to improve women’s entrepreneurial and professional skills. This project builds on a previous initiative aiming for the creation of an informal coalition of Balkan women business associations which CIPE supported in 2005-2007.
The series of events comprised conferences on women entrepreneurship (June 13), public policy advocacy (June 14) and building the Balkan Women Coalition (June 15).
On the first day, representatives of each country gave an overview of women entrepreneurship in their own country, highlighting the status of women entrepreneurs, their motivation to start a business, the types of support programs / resources available to women entrepreneurs and the challenges faced by women who want to start a business in each country. In this context several participants noted the scarcity of reliable statistics on women entrepreneurship in their countries.
The existing (even if limited) research shows a low level of women entrepreneurship in the countries that participate in the project, but there is a growing trend as more and more women decide to establish their own company. Their motivations can be very diverse: some women turn to entrepreneurship out of necessity, others see it as a challenge and they want to prove that they can establish and run a business whereas others simply have a good idea which they want to put into practice.
In the afternoon session of the first day successful entrepreneurs from each country shared from their experience and spoke about their motivation to start a business, as well as about some of the factors behind their success.
The second day was dedicated to public policy advocacy. After being introduced to the advocacy process, the representatives of women business associations in the Balkans were invited to speak about the level of participation of women entrepreneurs in shaping the public policies in their country. They also shared examples of advocacy efforts and campaigns in which they participated, either as initiators or partners.
On the third day, participants focused on building the Balkan Women Coalition. More specifically they developed a mission and a set of goals for the new entity. The coalition’s mission is “to support, promote and develop women entrepreneurship, cooperation and lifelong learning in the Balkans”. The participants also agreed on the Coalition’s promotional activities and its cooperation with public officials and other civil society organizations, as well as on details regarding the next Balkan Coalition meeting which is to take place in Bulgaria in the fall.
The Regional Center for Organization Management (RCOM) is a Romanian foundation that was created in 2007 by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). RCOM’s objective is to develop membership-based organizations and SMEs in Romania, the Balkans and the Caucasus, in areas such as management, public policy advocacy and leadership.