The Pinelands Creative Workshop embarked on a project to examine various avenues that could assist vulnerable female heads of households in Barbados and the OECS to mitigate the present economic conditions through taking advantage of the emerging economic sectors. In this regard the project focused on the emerging economic sectors of Cultural Industries, Food Security, Eco-Tourism, Energy and the Environment and ICT and Services.
The project sought to empower single female heads of households and other vulnerable women (working poor, un-employed) to respond to the current economic crisis and improve their livelihoods through innovative, productive and sustainable enterprises. The project titled ‘Economic Empowerment for Women in Barbados and the OECS’ was initially funded by UN Women, who provided support for phase 1 and 2 of the project or the pilot phase. The pilot sought to address the concern of economic empowerment in a three phase approach at the sub-regional level and engaged the key target groups with key sector experts in a series of Think Tanks sessions as a Phase One approach or Preparatory Stage of the intervention. As an outcome, approximately 145 participants collectively identified developing business plans; marketing and access to markets as a priority; understanding trade; packaging and standardization; customer service skills; and greater understanding of ICT to facilitate better business management and communication. More importantly, participants expressed a need for an access point/space to tap into for the purpose of life-long learning, knowledge sharing, networking and the formulation of partnerships as well as to be updated on new and improved market trends and policies. To this end a Virtual Resource Centre and market place to reach and support female entrepreneurs at the regional level was established, dubbed, The Regional Resource Centre for Women. It can be accessed through the website www.rrcw.ngo.bb. The physical space for the Online Centre, is managed by the Marcus Garvey Resource and Development Centre in Barbados which also provides business training, information access, mentorship and advice, technical support, as well as linkages to key agencies and individuals.
Additional support was also garnered from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) to start phase 3 and to include St Vincent & the Grenadines to the initiative. Phase 3, which commenced in February 2013 focused on helping participants in Dominica, Grenada and Barbados to implement sustainable business ideas by way of examining the cooperative approach and adopting out of the box business methodologies with support from a number of experts. The process focused on expanding markets and forming partnerships through the use of various information and communication technology (ICT) platforms. Furthermore, the project begun preparatory work in St Vincent and the Grenadines to determine their specific needs through a Think Tank, after which, specific training was delivered around existing gaps.
This initiative which proposes to include the entire OECS is a practical intervention which places women at the forefront of development for themselves, families, communities and their countries.