How Ibali Lam is Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in South Africa
By Gresë Sermaxhaj, Communications Associate
To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, the UN has chosen the theme of Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality – an area familiar to Dieudonne Allo (Global Fellow from South Africa) who is leading the Ibali Lam program through his organization Global Leading Light Initiatives. Ibali Lam is an exceptional example of empowering women through technology, by providing women entrepreneurs the digital tools and innovative approaches to storytelling to connect with existing and new customers and investors.
The project uses business storytelling, frugal innovation, investment readiness, and networking to help women whose businesses have been affected by COVID-19 to pivot new online models and engage existing and new audiences. The program also offers weekly roundtable sessions and one-on-one-coaching.
To mark International Women’s Day, Global Fellow and CEO of Global Leading Light Initiatives Dieudonne Allo and Program Coordinator at Global Leading Light Initiatives Fatima Momoti share their insights on how their Ibali Lam program is improving women’s lives, mainly through economic empowerment.
Marking International Women’s Day
Fatima begins by elaborating on how women in today’s world cannot interact without technology and storytelling.
“We need to empower ourselves with technology. If we are not going to move with the wave of technology, we will unfortunately get left behind and be stuck in that mentality of a previously disadvantaged group. Women need to be more in the forefront of development and innovation.”
She further elaborates on how the Ibali Lam initiative lifts women to achieve this.
“We are mainly in a rural area, so for these women to have a wider reach increases their income for their business. We come from setups that mainly have four to five people in a house, so having extra revenue means they can feed themselves and their families.”
According to Fatima, when women beneficiaries understand what storytelling is they are able to better understand their customers and better craft their business online by using various social media platforms.
“Another component of the program is to ensure that we have a more holistic approach in helping these businesses accelerate and then from there help to set up the business aspect, the digital transformation.”
Then, through investment readiness, women are introduced to potential investors.
“Women have been mainly talking to customers, and now it’s changing from that to a potential investor. So, they get into that space when they can pitch to investors and get feedback.”
This leads to more opportunities and stability for them.
Dieudonne places emphasis on women’s economic empowerment and its core role in the Ibali Lam program and importance for social justice
“Technology is advancing today, and every woman must empower herself to bridge the gap. Technology is a potent tool for women to transform themselves and empower themselves economically, because Ibali Lam is really about economic empowerment” — Dieudonne Allo, Global Fellow from South Africa.
Gather as an Inspirational Path
Dieudonne highlights that Ibali Lam drew inspiration from the Goldin Institute’s GATHER program.
“The Gather program of Goldin Institute inspired the model of Ibali Lam. Women, especially in this part of the world, do not have access to technology, so we give them access; we provide internet data to them so they can access the online platform. Women get tablets, too.” he says.
Today, Dieudonne adds, one cannot interact without technology.
“Another thing without which you cannot interact is storytelling. For us, as Africans, storytelling is a very vital part of our culture. So, combining storytelling and technology women can connect to people and make them see value in their outputs and businesses.”
Ibali Lam’s Future Projects
Ibali Lam has to date supported 37 women and will continue to support women in other forms too. Concluding our conversation on a positive note, Dieudonne shares that they are working on a new project which will launch soon.
“Working with women, we can equip them with technological tools and their businesses can go online, but if they do not have access to finances, they cannot grow their businesses.”
So, to support them, Ibali Lam has developed a new support program that will provide micro-grants for its alum. Follow Ibali Lam’s work through their website.