South East European University
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South East European University has launched a campaign to support more women in entrepreneurship and innovation!

As part of our ongoing commitment to fostering a more inclusive and eco-conscious entrepreneurship, South East European University Foundation, in partnership with Slovakia-based organisation Hekima has launched a nationwide social media campaign that underscores importance of increasing the representation of women in the field of climate-intelligent innovation and entrepreneurship.

This nationwide social media campaign aims to enlighten the public about the importance of amplifying women's presence in the innovative and climate-smart economy. The goal of the campaign is to bring together all parts of society and create an impetus for leaders in the private sector and at the political level to take an interest in promoting gender equality and inclusions. At the same time, the campaign is encouraging more women to get involved in climate-intelligent entrepreneurship.

This campaign is part of a project of the SEEU Foundation that aims to improve the quality of life and health of the people of North Macedonia through the sustainable development of infrastructure, the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment. The project contributes to this goal by increasing the involvement of women in circular and climate-smart entrepreneurship and innovation. Avni Arifi from SEEU Foundation explains: “What makes this project unique is that it connects three important and interacting areas: gender equality, economic development through innovative entrepreneurship, and climate-smart solutions. The project works comprehensively in these areas, and it contributes to positive changes through awareness raising, private sector involvement, building partnerships with public sector policymakers, transferring the experience of NGOs and experts from Slovakia, and quality support programmes. As part of this project, this year we successfully supported 19 women-led startups through the incubation programme aimed at building innovative, sustainable, and climate-smart companies “.

The heart of this campaign and its two videos resides in its capacity to connect and inspire. It draws on the strength of compelling stories that resonate with the public. The message of the campaign is carried in a positive spirit, pointing out the benefits of inclusion of women for the whole society as well as for the individual.

As research by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2022) shows, when women earn and have control over their income, there are multiple positive ripple effects: their children are more likely to be educated, family health improves, their self-esteem rises, household earnings increase, and this, in turn, bolsters the country’s economy. Research by L. Scott (2022) from 163 countries has conclusively demonstrated the potential women possess to drive economic prosperity. While men consistently form the foundational workforce globally, being almost universally employed, their potential for additional labour-driven growth is limited. This is because their employment and entrepreneurship are already at its peak. Conversely, women represent an often underleveraged or overlooked economic resource. Thus, increasing female workforce participation directly fuels economic expansion. Importantly, the data reassures that this surge in female employment does not lead to job losses for men, debunking a common misconception.

“Women's economic empowerment not only bolsters nations' prosperity but also cultivates a more enriched environment for all its inhabitants. When women are empowered to become and thrive as entrepreneurs, societies witness improved food security, enhanced community resilience, and a surge in sustainable economic opportunities. Conversely, in settings where women's rights and freedoms are stifled, the entire society bears the brunt. It's noteworthy that in the most impoverished and vulnerable nations, indicators of gender equality are lowest,” explains Ivana Ulicna from Hekima, a Slovak partner organisation.

Women in North Macedonia face social problems that are deeply rooted in traditional, patriarchal values ​​and gender roles in the family and society. These obstacles limit their full economic participation, including business ownership or occupying managerial and senior positions in companies. Women's participation in decision-making and policymaking in the public sector is even lower.

As North Macedonia aspires towards EU integration, it's imperative to draw motivation from the fact that women own 36% of businesses in the EU, compared to North Macedonia's 29.4% (The World Bank Enterprise Survey about North Macedonia, 2019) This is not just a statistic; it is a testament to the untapped potential of women in North Macedonia. Harnessing this potential could be the catalyst for significant societal and economic transformation, making gender equality not just an ideal, but an essential goal for the nation's future.

Moreover, studies suggest that companies with diverse leadership, especially those led by women, are more inclined to adopt sustainable practices. A survey by the UN Global Compact (2022) found that women are more likely to view sustainability as a business opportunity and to adopt environmentally friendly practices, with 57% of women surveyed stating that sustainability is a key driver for their businesses, compared to 43% of men. The report from Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2022) found that women-led businesses are more likely to have a circular business model, with 33% of such businesses being led by women compared to only 20% of businesses with a linear model.

However, it's not all about numbers. The broader narrative is the societal transformation that occurs when women are included in entrepreneurship as their involvement promises not only a prosperous economy but a sustainable future for all.

As we stride forward in this pivotal initiative, we invite companies to take an active role in the campaign. By showcasing their commitment to gender equality, offering mentorship, and providing resources, businesses can play a transformative role in North Macedonia's progress. Additionally, we urge companies and individuals to share our campaign videos on social media using the hashtag #EmpowerHerEmpowerOurCountry. Let's leverage the power of digital engagement to amplify this cause and drive impactful change across the nation.

This campaign is implemented as part of the activities of the project titled Inclusion of Women from disadvantaged groups in Climate-Intelligent Entrepreneurship and Innovation supported by SlovakAid (SAMRS/2022/ZB/1/6). The perspectives and opinions conveyed in this campaign do not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of the donor.