Women Creating “Quiet Revolution” in Business

ASTANA – Speaking at a briefing in Astana, Chairwoman of the Damu Entrepreneurship Development Fund Lyazzat Ibragimova said Kazakhstan’s women are very active in business.

“In Kazakhstan, every second entrepreneur is a woman,” she said. “Experts call this mass involvement of women in business in recent decades a ‘quiet revolution.’ Kazakhstan’s citizens have options: to be employed or self-employed. Women increasingly choose the latter.”

Women in Kazakhstan prefer to start businesses in fields in which they have knowledge and experience. Many women doctors with regular clients have created their own specialised medical centres and teachers previously engaged in tutoring have opened training centres. Many women are involved in the hotel business, in food and catering, Ibragimova said.

General Director of Tamak LLP Gulmira Tamasheva believes that domestic spaghetti could be quite popular in Europe and that domestic noodles manufactured from top-quality grain could compete with Italian pasta. A tenth of the products manufactured by her small company have long been exported abroad. In January of last year, Tamasheva began to export noodles as well as sochni, the very thin sheets of dough used in the traditional Kazakh dish, beshbarmak, to the United States. This year, the entrepreneur plans to double her exports.

“The idea of the project was prompted by life itself. Our women today are very busy. They have to be successful at work, take care of the family and children and at the same time be beautiful and attractive. That’s why I decided to produce noodles, to help housewives save time when cooking national dishes,” said Tamasheva. The Damu fund helped her to implement the idea. Tamak LLP now has more than 80 employees.

Gulnara Bokebayeva, head of another LLP, Astana Florinter, also told the briefing about her business.

“I am a professional biologist, a Ph.D., and I know all about plants. I always wanted to create a company that would be involved in landscaping. But in the harsh climatic conditions of Astana it was difficult to implement such an idea. However, having received a grant to develop my business, I invested money in building a greenhouse, where we now grow flowers,” Bokebayeva said.

Today, she said, there are new opportunities to develop her business. Through the Damu fund, Bokebayeva received training in Germany. During the training course, she met an interested potential business partner.        At the briefing, Ibragimova also discussed the problems and difficulties of entrepreneurs.

“First of all, there is the lack of knowledge and information. Second is a shortage of funds,” she said speaking of challenges she and others like her have to tackle.

For entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses but do not have the skills and knowledge they need, four years ago, Damu created a business advisor programme. This network of free consulting centres is now active in all regions of Kazakhstan.

“During this time, we have provided training to more than 52,000 beginners and existing entrepreneurs. More than half of them are women,” Ibragimova said.

Damu also helps entrepreneurs access funding for their businesses.

“Women entrepreneurs are ready to start even with a small investment. That’s why the fund has been implementing a microcredit programme for women’s entrepreneurship for four years. During this period, more than 5 billion tenge (US$27.5 million) in loans were granted and every third credit guarantee was given to a woman entrepreneur,” Ibragimova added.

Loans through the women’s microcredit programme come through commercial banks that partner with the fund and operate according to certain restrictions.

“That is, the banks can only lend this money to businesses that are owned or co-owned by a woman and the interest rate on the loan should not exceed 14 percent per year,”  Ibragimova said.

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