4.4 Empowerment through networking

ICTs have also become effective tools for networking among women and women’s groups, allowing them to pool resources, information and numbers together to form cooperatives -- or simply to voice their desire for change. The importance of networking cannot be underestimated, as women often look to the broader women’s movement beyond their national boundaries for solidarity and policy shifts.

Content example: ALEAP networks bring women together for change

In Andhra Pradesh, India, small factories employ nearly a third of the people (22 million) of that state. Over a million women ran their own factories throughout the city, and while each was doing fairly well, they felt that by banding together, the daily challenges of business would be easier to manage. Many of them were in the same industry – food processing, including tomato, spices, fruits, wheat, and cocoa powder.

In 1993, the women formed the Association of Lady Entrepreneurs of Andra Pradesh (ALEAP)  to cater to the needs of women small-business entrepreneurs. They pooled their resources and approached the state government for 30 acres of land. They were helped by the fact that the government did have a policy to develop small industries, with women-owned enterprises singled out for special attention. ALEAP was able to obtain a government grant of USD 55,000 that was used to build common infrastructure such as roads, water, drainage and a power substation. The group has been able to create an innovative business-operating environment for themselves. Now, ALEAP is a one-stop center for women’s entrepreneurship,providing motivation, counseling, information on projects, advice on statutory and regulatory requirements, training, management of finance and market tie-ups, and infrastructure and project implementation.

In 2005, ALEAP announced the launch of its new initiative, “EU-India Network of Women Entrepreneurs,” a project funded by the European Commission under the EU-India Small Projects Facility and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Other partners include InWEnt-Internationale Weiterbildung und Entwicklung gGmbH and Capacity Building International, in Cologne, Germany. The project will provide training to entrepreneurs in the food-processing and garments sectors, enabling the production of globally competitive products in an environmentally sustainable manner. The project facilitates networking with organizations in the European Union, in order to enable producers to access global markets.

The project deals with two important sectors: food processing and garments. With the abolition of quotas in the garments sector from 1 January 2005, additional effort wasirequired to maintain existing market shares and access newer ones. In the food-processing sector, increasing India’s small share in the global market has the potential for increasing rural employment and providing a fillip to economic growth.