Pictured: Divine Mutuyimana, second on left, María Bouvier, first on right, Kohinoor Yeasmin, second on right, and Jessica Madrid Lugo, furthest right.
This week, at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum in Geneva, the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) is working with the International Trade Centre (ITC) to highlight the work of the SheTrades initiative in connecting women entrepreneurs to global markets.
The potential economic contribution of female entrepreneurs and business owners to the global economy and international trade is huge. But too many obstacles mean this potential is not being achieved.
SheTrades was set up by the ITC to address the barriers preventing women accessing these economic opportunities.
Showcasing female entrepreneurs
To do this, IOE&IT has brought four SheTrades ambassadors to the WTO Public Forum, helping them showcase their products and services.
The four entrepreneurs are Kohinoor Yeasmin, CEO of Tarango, from Bangladesh; Divine Mutuyimana, founder of Tropic Coffee, from Rwanda; Jessica Madrid Lugo, founder & CEO of Laser & Manufacturing, from Mexico; and Maria Bouvier, founder of the eponymous eco-fashion label, from Uruguay.
Tarango’s Yeasmin explains her company’s vision is to empower the women it employs by providing them with an income they earn while working from home.
“We work with 20,000 women across Bangladesh – they work at home and work only with their hands. There is no machinery, and the work doesn’t need electricity.
They are artisans and although they are women who never went to school, they have intelligence and skills. They create beautiful natural products, which are all eco-friendly and made by hand from all natural materials."
We export these around the world, and we need more support, so we can stand beside them.”
Tropical Coffee’s Mutuyimana echoes this aim of helping suppliers achieve a better quality of life.
The company is a family-owned business, founded in 2015, that owns three coffee washing stations across various parts of Rwanda.
As Mutuyimana explains: “We produce fully washed, honey, natural and anaerobic coffees. But we look after the coffee farmers, providing them with coffee seeds and health insurance, free training and giving them premiums at the end of the year.
“We aim to meet international standards while increasing income for local Rwandan farmers,” she said.
The company offers specialty coffee that meets required standards for international markets. The business exports to several European countries, as well as to Australia and the US.
Jessica Madrid Lugo
The CEO and founder of Laser & Manufacturing (L&M) of Mexico, knows better than most what it’s like to survive and thrive as a female leader in a male-dominated industry.
L&M is a specialist contract manufacturer of sheet metal parts and assemblies, which relies on precision machinery and manufacturing capabilities.
Over 13 years the company has grown to 60 employees offering services to eight different industries. L&M tries to employ women, with 35% of its workforce being female, a number they want to increase as they continue to expand across Mexico and into the US.
Established in 2017, María Bouvier is an eco-fashion brand based in Uruguay. Owned and run by María Alejandra Bouvier, the company celebrates women through colour, handicraft and sustainable production methods.
María Bouvier uses only organic cotton along with floral dyes developed by Bouvier herself. Sewing is done at a studio in Pando, and where possible, the company collaborates with other women-led sewing studios across Uruguay.
Following a successful trade show in New York in 2019, the company now exports to the US and Bouvier is hopeful that her presence at the Public Forum will help her break into the European market.
‘Delighted’ to support SheTrades
Marco Forgione, director-general of the IOE&IT, said that he is delighted to be working with the ITC at the Public Forum to promote the SheTrades initiative.
"These entrepreneurs show the achievements and contribution that female-led businesses can offer to the international economy. To achieve a healthy and thriving global economy we need to ensure that everyone has access to the support, expertise and services they need to trade internationally.""Supporting female-led businesses transforms whole communities. We are committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve their potential," he told the IOE&IT Daily Update.