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From March 14-16, Vital Voices Africa Program Coordinator, Helah Robinson, traveled to Port Elizabeth, South Africa to co-facilitate a regional training on the International Labor Organization’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Development program (ILO-WED) along with Betsy Ings, Chair of the Port Elizabeth Branch of the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa. 

The ILO-WED project is a global program that aims to improve women’s entrepreneurship development by promoting decent employment and poverty reduction through the economic empowerment of women.

Participants in Port Elizabeth included key stakeholders and decision-makers in the region, including three representatives from Coega Development Corporation, a large competitive investment location that works to ensure sustainable economic development in the Eastern Cape. By cultivating substantial investment creation through their Industrial Development Zone, Coega has immense potential to support the development of women entrepreneurs in construction and other industrial sectors.

Coega program participants stand in front of image of Noluthando, a Coega training beneficiary

The organization offers skills-building trainings for emerging entrepreneurs in industrial contracting, with great success. When Noluthando (pictured on the door to the right) first came to Coega, she was at a Level 1 education level -equivalent to basic or limited literacy and numeracy. As a Coega training alumna, Noluthando rose to a Level 4 and is now capable of working a contract worth 5 million South African Rand (over US$700,000). She has also been awarded numerous construction contracts throughout the region and continues to be a leading contractor Coega works with.

Though Coega’s trainings have had much success for numerous participants, the organization has not developed gender-specific trainings to date.  After participating in the Vital Voices sponsored ILO-WED training, Ms. Meike Wetsch, Portfolio Development Manager, committed to take gender into account when crafting future workshops. Wetsch also established strong partnerships with other ILO-WED participants, and is moving forward on a joint action plan to develop a successful business model for women entrepreneurs in the province.