#RoadtoGES: Planting Pumpkin Seeds; Cultivating Female Entrepreneurship

The countdown to the eighth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) has begun!

Co-hosted by the United States and India, the Summit will take place from November 28-30 in Hyderabad, India—a growing technology hub. Notably, this will be the first time the summit has taken place in South Asia. Attendees will range from well-established entrepreneurs, budding startups, investors, to government officials. With a total of 1,500 participants, a third will come from India, a third will come from the US, and a third will come from other countries across the globe. Through informative workshops, mentorship, and pitch opportunities, the Summit connects entrepreneurs to key investors and harnesses their potential to transform their communities and countries.

I am delighted to participate in this invaluable event, which will focus this year on the theme of  “Women First, Prosperity for All,” recognizing the importance of cultivating and supporting female entrepreneurship to generate economic progress and development. For the first time in GES history, women make up the majority of event participants (52.5%). (*Side-note: Do you have questions or ideas for me as I head to GES? Share them during my Facebook Live on Mon. 11/27 at 10AM ET!)

As momentum builds for the Summit, I hope to shed light on not only the transformative power of entrepreneurship—but also why investing particularly in female entrepreneurs can yield significant returns for all people.

This past October, I had the pleasure of partaking in Making Cents International’s Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit in DC, which centered on the “future of work.” During my time at this Summit, there was a particular session that greatly resonated with me. The session was “Once 14-Year-Old Girls, Now Empowered Youth Entrepreneurs,” and it centered on the story of 28-year old Ugandan entrepreneur Fatuma Namatosi. Fatuma and many of her colleagues discussed the plethora of barriers they faced in their adolescence—particularly gender inequity.  Fatuma was the first female born into her family, and, in many ways, it was reinforced that she was an unwelcomed presence. Her colleagues spoke about difficulties accessing schooling and facing early motherhood.

Fatuma founded Byeffe Foods Ltd. in 2015 with only $114.00. The enterprise produces a wide-range of pumpkin-based goods. She was able to present her business at the Feed the Future Youth Leadership for Agriculture (YLA) event and generate publicity for her enterprise. Hoping to expand and increase her production, Fatuma worked with Feed the Future to contract 1,280 young farmers. Today, her company has a net worth of $28,000, making it one of the prominent pumpkin producers in Uganda. Fatuma’s business employs 20 young people who, because of Fatuma’s entrepreneurial spirit, are able to advance their own lives and invest back into their communities. One of Fatuma’s colleagues spoke of how she invests in other girls in her community to be have access to quality education. This isn’t simply a story of entrepreneurial triumph—but one that underscores the transformative power of supporting and fostering female entrepreneurs.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s Power of Parity report, women make up half of the world’s population—but only comprise 37% of global GDP. This raises an important question: What does that untapped potential mean for the world economy? Based on their research, the McKinsey Global Institute finds, “A ‘full-potential’ scenario (in which women participate in the economy identically to men) would add up to US $28 trillion to annual global GDP in 2025.”

In many ways, GES is about unlocking that potential and creating societies that cultivate visionaries like Fatuma. I hope you will follow my journey through this blog and social media, as I take you behind the scenes and spotlight the power of female entrepreneurs. In line with this #RoadtoGES series, I hope you will share your questions and ideas for the summit on Nov 27that 10:00 am EST when I go live on Facebook.

Munira Khalif is the 2017-18 U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, a program that was launched in 2012 by the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) and the U.S. Department of State to increase youth engagement in global affairs. As the U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, Khalif will represent American youth at the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York and other UN events throughout the coming year, traveling within the United States and overseas to share her impressions and experiences.

Learn more about the U.S. Youth Observer to the UN.

Follow Munira on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.