Entrepreneurship opportunities for women in the water and related sectors

In support of Women’s Month, the Water Research Commission (WRC) and EWSETA hosted a one-day event in Centurion to showcase entrepreneurship opportunities for women in the water and related sectors, through highlighting case studies of existing enterprises owned and led by women and introducing entrepreneurship as a post-qualification option to female EWSETA learners.

The Women in Water Empowerment Programme’s (WWEP) goal is to provide support to women-owned and led enterprises to be effective and efficient in delivering water and sanitation-related services to the public. The programme will, among others, target women-owned companies in the fields of research and development (including technological innovation), science and engineering, construction and local community initiatives.  WWEP’s purpose is to facilitate a safe and supportive environment where newly-formed enterprises, especially those from previously disadvantaged groups, can start-up and sustain their businesses and access available opportunities in the water and sanitation sector. The programme’s cohorts are divided into three groups: beginners (women-owned enterprises in business, however, with no sustainable growth), intermediates (women-owned enterprises in business, however, not as established as big enterprises) and advanced/established (women-owned enterprises at intermediate stages that function as fully-fledged businesses but that require additional support to take their businesses to the next level of operation and compete nationally and globally).

The programme has three projects whereby cohorts are selected for participation. These are: Women In Water Entrepreneurship Incubator Project (WWEIP), targeted strictly at women-owned enterprises from the cohorts; Women In Water Mentorship Project (WWMP) targetedat both women professionals and women-owned enterprises from the cohorts; and Women In Water Forum Project (WWFP), a dialogue space where women professionals and entrepreneurs can interact, network and strategise about amplifying their voice in the water and sanitation sector, provide support to one another, and make inputs on how to strengthen the programme.

This is part of a sector-wide effort to address the gender imparity highlighted in the EWSETA Sector Skills Plan (SSP), among others, and a direct response to the transformational imperatives enshrined in the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) III. In the same vein, EWSETA supports young female learners to enter the entrepreneurial space. Currently, most people in formal employment are employed by small or medium enterprises (SMEs) and the water sector offers numerous market opportunities for young women for self-employment, as well as to create jobs for others in the long run.

Ms Rebecca Pfarelo Ramugondo (centre) receiving an award for her outstanding contribution, commitment and support to communities struggling with water challenges from Mr Errol Gradwell (CEO EWSETA) (left), and Mr Dhesigen Naidoo (WRC) (right).

Ms Rebecca Pfarelo Ramugondo (centre) receiving an award for her outstanding contribution, commitment and support to communities struggling with water challenges from Mr Errol Gradwell (CEO EWSETA) (left), and Mr Dhesigen Naidoo (WRC) (right).

The strategic objectives of the event were to increase female business ownership in the sector and catalyse female entrepreneurship through role models and skills training, and to create networking opportunities between female entrepreneurs and learners. No one organisation can achieve all these objectives on their own – hence the creation of a partnership between the WRC and EWSETA. The two organisations are committed to capacity and skills development in the sector, with EWSETA’s special focus being to promote scarce-skills occupational learning pathways through career guidance initiatives. Together with the WRC’s strategic objective of promoting co-ordination, co-operation and communication around water research and development, this partnership will assist the transformation of the equity profile of the sector, particularly in professional and technical occupations.

Beyond institutional partnerships, the WRC also values partnerships with communities who do extraordinary work in the management of water resources. The WRC recognises the role played by ordinary citizens, particularly women in rural areas who give up so much of their time on a voluntary basis, with little or no support, in the management of their water resources. One such woman is Ms Pfarelo Rebecca Ramugondo from Ha-Makhuvha Village, 25 km east of Thohoyandou, Limpopo Province. Mme Pfarelo is a leader of Tshikofokofo Adopt-A-River project, made up of volunteers comprising mostly women, as well as people with disabilities, youth and some men, who clean and care for rivers in the 19 villages in and around Ha-Makhuvha. As a token of acknowledgement and appreciation for this act of selflessness, the WRC presented Ms Pfarelo Rebecca Ramugondo with an award at the event celebrating Women’s Month, recognising her contribution to enterprise development in the water sector.  

Submitted by the Water Research Commission.  

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