MEPI in Tunisia
MEPI Support for Tunisian Women’s SMEs
From March 10-11, MEPI’s Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) project conducted a conference for Tunisian women entrepreneurs to share best practices amongst women-led small and medium enterprises (SMEs). WES trains women on entrepreneurship, technology, and leadership, and has enabled women operating only in the informal sector to legally register their enterprises. An illustrative example shared was that of WES trainee Nabiha Zaghouani who subsequently hired more employees and began paying their social security. In opening remarks by U.S. Chargé Kathleen Hanson, she underscored that WES is a model of U.S. and Tunisian partnership for expanding economic opportunities in part because WES emphasizes private sector collaboration. Microsoft and Craig Newmark of Craigslist, among others, are WES contributors. Alia Mahmoud of Microsoft highlighted the high quality of WES training, noting that use of the core curriculum coupled with flexibility to adapt WES to women’s needs lends itself to a deep sense of Tunisian ownership and to long-term sustainability. As a result of WES, 150 women have started or expanded SMEs while a total of 600 Tunisian women have developed business plans and are poised to launch new SMEs once a new microfinance law is passed. The WES conference included an afternoon marketplace for the entrepreneurs to showcase their products and business ideas.