USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick’s Remarks on Supporting Youth and Women Entrepreneurship at YES-Georgia Launch Event

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For Immediate Release

Friday, January 31, 2020
Office of Press Relations

Friday, January 31, 2020
Tbilisi, Georgia

As prepared

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR GLICK: Hello everyone and thank you for joining us here this afternoon.

The world’s fastest-growing emerging market is its women. Women are also most emerging economies’ biggest underutilized asset.

This is why I’m excited to launch the second iteration of YES-Georgia, with an expanded focus on empowering the country’s women.

Since 2015 the program has supported more than 3,000 young entrepreneurs and professionals, roughly 60% of whom are women; provided professional skills training to roughly 900 young people; mobilized $230 million from private and public funds to support youth-owned microenterprises and startups; assisted more than 200 young people to draft business proposals and apply for financing. And much more.

This new expansion will include supporting women re-entering the workforce later in life, reflecting the practical reality that female entrepreneurs often venture into business at that stage and tend to concentrate in industries with lower capital intensity and average revenue. It has been selected for the Trump Administration’s whole-of-government Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, a priority for Ms. Ivanka Trump, bringing $840,000 in new USAID funding from the American people for new activities designed to meet the needs of more women entrepreneurs.

Like the rest of the world, the people of Georgia want and deserve a stable democracy, with transparent operations built upon the rule of law, safeguarded by a healthy civil society exercising its basic freedoms of conscience, with an opportunity for all populations in society to contribute.

USAID programming like YES-Georgia is designed to help Georgia progress down this path, which we call the Journey to Self-Reliance.

Broadly speaking, there are two critical parts of a country’s Journey to Self-Reliance: transparent, citizen-responsive government on the one hand, and on the other, the development of an enabling environment for an open economy in which entrepreneurs can flourish, create jobs and improve standards of living.

YES-Georgia emphasizes innovation, entrepreneurship and employability in key economic sectors, offering skills training and mentoring to help build confidence and raise awareness of opportunities. Its programs include: a mobile training service that serves people in remote areas; financing mechanisms; and accounting, tax preparation, and legal services.

By the beginning of 2024, YES-Georgia aims to provide more than 2,500 women with business management training, access to legal and accounting services, and mentoring and networking opportunities.

Participants will also have the chance to apply for financing to scale up their businesses. These loans are designed to support small business expansion and have lower interest rates than what is typically available to micro-entrepreneurs in Georgia.

The long-term goal is to change the way that people think about women’s participation in entrepreneurship, recognizing that many women are held back by negative gender stereotypes. So the program also includes outreach activities to reach 100,000 women and girls across Georgia through media campaigns, social networking, events, and other activities.

Georgia has made a lot of progress in this regard, passing landmark legislation in the past decade on gender equality, outlawing discrimination, and ratifying the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe.

But there’s room for further progress: the gender pay gap has been decreasing but remains as high as 37 percent, according to our best estimates. That’s a big missed opportunity, especially when contrasted with the dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes much of Georgia’s economy.

It’s an honor to be joined today by some of the women entrepreneurs who are on the front lines of this initiative, a few of whom will share their stories in a panel discussion later today. We could not hope for better success stories from our programming than such role models to inspire and mentor others, like:

Rene Ajalova, who operates a successful language school in Marneuli, where mostly ethnic Azeri students are learning Georgian and English to better participate in Georgian society;

Mariam Sherozia, who runs a music school in Jvari, demonstrating that nothing can stop the combination of a good idea and a lot of determination;

Ana Kopadze, a honey producer from Khashuri -- thriving in a male-dominated industry; and,

Guko Gasitashvili, who was inspired by her own problem finding high quality shoes for her children to start making them in a shop right here in Tbilisi.

We admire your drive and spirit and wish you great success. Each of you sets a powerful example for other women striving to break into the business world. Thanks again for having me here, and now it’s time for me to turn things over to Speaker Talakvadze.