Mauritius targets women

Date: September 30, 2011
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Mauritius’ commitment to empowering women is underscored in the 2011 Mauritius Budget: “We cannot talk about raising the nation’s productivity without giving some deep thoughts to the low participation rate of women in the economy, which is 43 percent compared to 76 percent for men. Moreover, the female unemployment rate is 12 percent compared to only frictional unemployment among males. To rebalance growth we will need to rebalance these statistics with emphasis on training, re-skilling and also encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs

There are currently 26,400 poor households across the island. There are some 7,000 families across the island living on less than Rs 4,000, i.e. 1000 rand a month. According to the Trust Fund for the Social Integration of Vulnerable Groups (TFSIVG), the living standards of the poorest in our society are cause for growing concern. The budget allocates R125 million for a National Empowerment Foundation aimed at some 8,000 citizens, for Training and Placement, Micro-enterprises for Women, Projects in Rodrigues, Emergency Housing and the Decentralised Cooperation Programme to build the capacity of Civil Society Organisations to participate in the national empowerment effort.

In a groundbreaking move, the government has undertaken to review and update the social register by the end of 2011. The roll lists about 6000 abandoned single women and the exercise is intended to bring as many of them as possible out of poverty and into decent jobs. The programme would also involve linking these women to micro-enterprise opportunities. Family support in the form of kindergartens, day care centers and pre-primary schools will be provided to care for any dependents and free up time for the women to participate; this is through the Ministry for Social Integration and Economic Empowerment. Lack of alternative care options for women often prevents them from taking up employment opportunities. The programme will ensure placement for beneficiaries within various firms and industries and fulfil a dual purpose of skills development and job creation. An Entrepreneurship Support Programme (ESP) has been set up to provide ‘Mentoring Services’ to women entrepreneurs. The Ministry of Social Integration has developed three acres of land at La Valette into plots for small scale vegetable plantation by vulnerable families.

Women’s entrepreneurship is expected to rise because of the transformation of the Development Bank of Mauritius into a Development Financial Agency. This institution will have a specific mandate to support SMEs, micro enterprises and start-ups. It will be the duty of the National Empowerment Foundation and the National Women Entrepreneur Council to see to it that women entrepreneurs benefit from these schemes. In the banking sector, Bank One offers a savings product exclusively for women, the EMMA account. This product aims to enable women to have better control on and management of their personal finance through preferential rates on both savings and loan products. Other advantages include discount for medical check ups at specific clinics as well as free personal accident cover and use of cheque books on the savings account. Bank One encourages women to be financially independent. Each year, Bank One also rewards women who have done exceptionally well in the fields of Entrepreneurship, Sports, Education and Research, Arts and Culture and Social and Voluntary Work through its EMMA Awards Scheme.

The National Women Entrepreneur Council put in place several measures to encourage women’s entry into the economy during 2010. Some 120 small enterprises have been created by women as a result of this initiative. 500 benefited from advice and mentoring; 2,500 were made sensitive in the programs set up by the support agencies; and 40 women attended courses of Design and Fashion Institute. A programme of motivation for 35 women and 52 unemployed women, holders of a university degree, was set up to encourage them to create their companies and to introduce concepts of financial assistance, techniques and logistics.

Mauritius has a firm belief that educating and empowering women economically will lead to parity. While this programme demands political commitment and resources it is feasible to replicate in other contexts. Agencies that are responsible for empowerment must ensure that their policies and practises are gender sensitive and prioritise the promotion of women in the economic fields.


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