Women Business Forum and Entrepreneurship Expo Demonstrates the Importance of Investing in Women

On November 20, 2015, the U.S. Embassy with cooperation from the American Chamber of Commerce, the State Committee on Investment and State Property, and State Committee on Women and the Family organized a Women’s Business Forum and Entrepreneurship Expo at the Ismaili Center in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The Forum was the last event of Global Entrepreneurship Week Tajikistan, a week-long series of events dedicated to highlighting the activity of entrepreneurs and start up enterprises.

The Forum aimed to complement the state-sponsored Women’s Entrepreneurship Day held in October and demonstrates the potential of women entrepreneurs in Tajikistan. Investing in women is a key way to alleviate poverty and promote stability within communities. Nearly 100 women entrepreneurs from all regions of Tajikistan, members of the government of Tajikistan, representatives of the diplomatic and international community as well as local and foreign investors participated in the day’s activities.

The Forum opened with remarks from the Deputy Head of the State Committee on Investment and Property Management, Nigina Anvari; the First Deputy Head of the State Committee on Women and Family Affairs, Marhabo Latifzoda and from the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Embassy of the United States to the Republic of Tajikistan, Leslie Hayden. Chargé Hayden discussed the Alliance for Artisans Enterprise, an initiative launched by Secretary Kerry and Ambassador at Large for Global Women Issues at the Department of State, to support and connect artisans, of whom 90 percent are women, to global markets. The event, she said, is just the first step to making sure that investors see the potential of women artisans in Tajikistan and connect them to the companies and markets that can help them succeed.

Following the opening remarks, Karin Shipman, CEO and President of EGI Development, a design and marketing consulting firm based in Arizona with nearly 30 years of experience working in developing countries, delivered a keynote speech on the positive effects on society by empowering women economically. The keynote address was followed by presentations from five leading female entrepreneurs in Tajikistan: Gulbahor Makhkamova, General Director of National Association of Businesswomen of Tajikistan(NABWT)/Deputy General Director of IMON International; Matluba Uljabaeva, Chairperson of the Board of the National Association for Small and Medium Business (NASMB); Manizha Khaitova, General Director of the Association of Innovative and Technological Entrepreneurship of Tajikistan; Zamira Samadova, Director of Imkon Consulting; and Surayo Uroqova, General Director of RIEL-D construction company. The entrepreneurs discussed the challenges they faced as women to starting their companies.

The women entrepreneurs participated in a Training Connect Session run by ten organizations: Save the Children/DFID, AITE, Open Society Institute (OSI), League of Women Lawyers, Association of Micro-Finance Organizations of Tajikistan, Imkon Consulting, NABWT, NASMB, Aid to Artisans, and UN Women. The women entrepreneurs received briefings on services provided by these organizations in business development, energy saving technology, business marketing, legal and tax regulations, finance, and loan management.

The culminating event of the day was a fashion show, featuring the work of local designers and fashion using traditional Tajik motifs, atlas and adras materials. The fashion show featured designers, Manuchehra Shaknamova, Zamira Ermatova, Farangis Sharifova, Shahlo Hamdamova, Nargiza Islamova, as well as dance group and studio Padida and models provided by New Era Dance and Modeling Agency.

Finally, the Women’s Business Forum featured an expo aimed at promoting textile, handicraft, agro-produce, and technological products produced by women entrepreneurs, mostly from rural areas from all regions of Tajikistan.

The event was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, OSCE, UN Women, OSI, DFID, Save the Children, Oxfam, USAID, NABWT, and NASMB.