The Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) initiative and exchange leverages public-private partnerships to increase women’s economic participation and address four key barriers women confront when starting and growing small and medium enterprises: access to capital, markets, skills and capacity building, and women’s leadership. The WEAmericas initiative includes an annual International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) exchange to the United States. The WEAmericas IVLP exchange allows the women to explore a variety of mentorship, job shadowing, education, and skills development programs.
For the past three years, women from Latin America have visited the United States to look at ways in which the U.S. fosters the advancement of women in business. The women also discussed market expansion of their businesses via funding available from universities, corporations, businesses, and private sector associations.
In 2013, WEAmericas participants met with organizations like the Cherie Blair Foundation and Wal-Mart Foundation, as well as local businesses and organizations in Washington, Boston, Kansas City, and Las Vegas. Ana Valerie Mandri Rohen, founder of El Triunfo Conservation Fund in Mexico said, “these fascinating women have so much to share; we are learning so much from the program as well as each other.”Participant Luzmila Huarancca Gutierrez, a textiles manufacturer from Peru, said: “I will share everything that I learn with the women in my village.”
WEAmericas also includes a follow-on component funded by the private sector. At last year’s sessions in Nicaragua, Ana Katia Ferreira of Brazil and Director of Style for clothing label Apoena put together a particularly moving presentation. Her clothing label Apoena features hand-embroidered items for women produced by 168 women across Brasilia. “In the program I learned that women have difficulty deploying technology, and I also created a business plan for Apoena.” She added that she is now challenging herself to use technology to improve her products and increase production.