Culture has hugely contributed to how women are seen today. Women have always been valued based on marriage and family. Most people believe that it is against the norms for a woman to own a business as this can take her far away from her family, and she will not do her duties. So, it is a massive deal for African women to decide to be entrepreneurs as they have to combine work with family.
Another thing that people note about women working is that some works are specially reserved for men, and people bring in their cloaks of doubt when a woman attempts to fill in such a position.
This is especially the case in Senegal, but Ms Marie Louise Ndoye has risen above this to establish an enterprise and still run other activities. Ms Ndoye, a woman highly interested in cargo and freight, founded the branch of WIN Logistics in Senegal. She did this to see her people have such a company situated within their country.
Ms Marie Ndoye is a woman with a wealth of experience in the field as she is a 25-year professional in the cargo and freight enterprise. But one limitation to such industry in Africa is that women are rarely found working such roles, and men dominate. Another issue is that some of these people seem to be Europeans.
When Ms Ndoye first joined the industry, it took a while for her to adapt because she tried to prove that even though she was female, she could successfully run such a business. In that way, she realised she was doing the job on a double scale compared to even her male colleagues. Many people doubted her ability to blend, and she just had to do more to prove that she could stay at the top of the game just like any man.
She always wanted to change this perspective, and it made her delve deep into women’s empowerment. So invested in changing this view about women, she took up the Pareel project by the World Bank Group We-Fi program in Senegal. For three months, the project supported entrepreneurs and women so they could get more access to finance and the market out there. This project also helped to train their skills in coaching and networking so they could help develop others after they have been trained.
Apart from being underestimated in an environment that favoured male prowess, Ms Ndoye was also concerned about alleviating the problems that social norms cause for women who intended to start businesses. The view that being a woman meant having a family and children did not settle well because she believed being a woman should be rooted and defined by how much the woman can achieve in her business endeavours.
Through the entrepreneurial training she took, she found more to being a business person than just proving your skill. She learnt about intelligence, leadership and public speaking, which could help her go farther if combined with skills she already had. However, her concern about using these to reach other women remained.
One solution that she strongly believes can aid this is Women Supporting Women as she believes that when women connect and form communication means, they can overcome all challenges. Ms Ndoye also runs consultations and trains people.
Another solution she feels can make things easier for women entrepreneurs is funding. To her, no matter how good an establishment is, if it is not funded, there will be loopholes, and she hopes that women can access enough finance to set up businesses successfully.
As a well-established entrepreneur herself, Ms Ndoye wishes more women could climb up the ladder and take up leadership in positions that everyone considers impossible for women. It would be great to see a world that realises that women are more than channels for bringing more people to the world.
Written By: Joyce C. Nwezeh Obi-Akejelu (Writer, Social media manager and graphic designer with Africa4AfricaWomen/Assert/PAWES).