Empowering Displac...

Empowering Displaced Women in Post-Conflict Areas

The initiative is designed to provide training to internally displaced women

The Georgian Association of Women in Business, a non-profit organization, has 10 years of experience in providing business incubation services and supporting small business development. Currently, it operates 3 business incubators: Tbilisi Business Incubator, Svaneti Business Incubator and the new Gori Business Incubator.

Georgian Women

The Gori Business Incubator was established in October 2008 by the Georgian Association Women in Business, in partnership with USAID's Small and Medium Enterprise Support Project, responding to needs caused by the August 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict. This conflict caused the displacement of a large portion of population: according to recent figures provided by the Government of Georgia and UNHCR, there are up to 90,000 displaced persons. These people come from Georgian villages of South Ossetia, Gori and Kodori gorge of Upper Abkhazia.

In many conflicts, women are seen to constitute the overwhelming majority of the displaced. On average, 65 % of internally displaced persons (IDPs) are women. Many of them suffer traumatic experiences including bombings and the loss and destruction of their belongings. Most of them have no source of income or necessary skills to find jobs. In this regard, business incubation programs can seen as one of the tools to assist IDP women to cope with the situation and increase their access to employment opportunities.

Gori Business Incubator is designed to provide free of charge, high-quality, demand-driven vocational training courses to internally displaced women, and offer subsidized rental space to help them start their own micro businesses. Gori Business Incubator for IDP women is expected to become a sustainable institution to incubate and provide hands-on assistance to 5 micro enterprises: a catering company, a laundry and dry cleaning shop, a tailor, a beauty salon, and an IT training consultant. The aim is that these entrepreneurs will leave the Gori Business Incubator as financially viable and free-standing businesses. The incubator will continue to support the businesses until they can survive on their own and as businesses grow and leave the space, new enterprises will replace them.

On February 12, 2009, the Gori Business Incubator for IDP Women was opened. During the first six months, 310 internally displaced women, including 100 women from the village of Tserovani, will be trained to acquire new professional skills to increase their employment opportunities.

Ms. Eka Khutsishvili, Director of Gori Business Incubator, tells us more about the new BI operations.

Could you please break down the objectives of your incubator in further detail?
The primary objective of the Gori Business Incubator is to provide support to populations and IDP women affected by war in the Gori region, and to channel this support into socio-economical development by increasing women involvement, development of entrepreneurship activities and assisting in employment of IDP population. As a whole, our services aim to provide employment opportunities for the IDP women, develop their job skills, improve their living standards and offer opportunities for self sustainability to overcome poverty.

As discussed, the BI provides quality and demand-driven vocational training courses to IDPs, such as cooking, tailoring, embroidery, cosmetology, knitting, handicrafts, cleaning services and IT basics. In addition to skills development, the incubator also provides general business education services in order to strengthen incubatees' awareness in entrepreneurship legislation. One example of this is our business support start-up dialogue and training course "Start Your Own Business". We also offer subsidized rental space to the re-trained women willing to start their own micro business.

What are some of the specific challenges that incubators in post-war or post-conflict areas have to address, in your experience from the Gori Business Incubator?
The Georgian Business incubator was established after the recent Georgia-Russia conflict. According to the investigation the conflict with Russia resulted in up to 30,000 newly long-term displaced persons. To address the issue of housing for this category of IDPs, the Government of Georgia is in the process of constructing several new villages in Shida Kartli, to accommodate up to 60,000 IDPs, but the settlements are still in need of essential infrastructure.

The Gori Business Incubator gives opportunity to provide quality and demand-driven vocational training courses to IDPs free of charge and, simultaneously, to create jobs and provide needed services to the residents.

Are potential clients in Gori familiar with incubator services and how can they draw from previous business incubation experiences in Georgia?
The first Business Incubator in Georgia was established by the Georgian Association "Women in Business" and has a 10-year experience in business incubation program. Currently, it operates 3 business incubators: Tbilisi Business Incubator, Zemo Svaneti Business Incubator - which is focused on tourism development - and our new Gori Business Incubator. In our experience, potential clients in Gori are indeed familiar with incubator services so we do not have many problems with marketing our activities and recruiting entrepreneurs.

What are the entry criterias for your clients? Are there certain industries you focus on?
The Gori Business incubator generally targets IDP women entrepreneurs who want to start up their own small business. Our focus is on agriculture and the services industry.

What is the business model of the incubator (commercially self-sustainable for profit, publicly-financed, etc.)?
At the initial start-up phase, we received financial support from the USAID SME Project. In the future, we plan to operate with a mix of self-sustainable operations as well as donor funding.

Based on your learnings so far, what experiences would you like to share with other incubators planning considering to set up in a post-war or post-crisis region?
The Gori Business Incubator would like to share its experiences and good practice with a special focus group on the post-conflict region and to create a business incubator model that will help in the social-economic rehabilitation of IDPs. In conflict regions, it is important to first identify the fundamental interests and needs of IDP women, which will then lead to the successful psychological rehabilitation, employment and self-employment for IDP Women. Vocational and business trainings help IDP Women start up their own business and overcome poorness. Business incubators offer practical tools for designing and implementing business development activities that nurture an innovative environment.

For further information about the Gori Business Incubator, please contact Nino Elizbarashvili by e-mail at wbus@caucasus.net.

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