A group of young female business owners in Guinea Bissau have banded together to increase their business knowledge. They say the cooperation is increasing sales.

From street vendors to women who own their own shops, Adele Gomes likes to encourage young female entrepreneurs in Guinea Bissau.

Gomes is president of the “Young Women Entrepreneurs” group in Bissau, the capital.

She wants to encourage young women in the West African country to expand their businesses and become financially independent.

Gomes says they created the association because they felt weak, and by banding their ideas together, they can be stronger.

For now, they are a small group of about 12 women who have a variety of businesses – from clothing design to event planning.

This month marks the group’s one-year anniversary.

The group organizes an annual exposition in Bissau to showcase its members’ products.  They also cross-promote each others’ brands on social media.

Gomes says her business and other members’ sales have seen increases since creating the association. This means more people are eager to join, she adds.

Adele dos Santos, another fashion designer, is huddled over her sewing machine, filling orders. She, too, says her sales have gone up. But being a woman can sometimes lead to distinct challenges, she adds.

Adele, who has a daughter, is expected to not only provide financially, but also manage her household.

Sometimes family and other members of the community criticize them for spending too much time working, and not enough time at home, she says.

Part of the problem is Guinea-Bissau, one of the least developed countries in the world, doesn’t have enough jobs for men or young people.

Local economist Augusta Henriques says any development projects in the West African country must address high youth unemployment.

According to Henriques, if you give all the economic responsibility to women, and the youth have no prospects, the entire weight will fall to women.  That is a very heavy burden, she adds.

For now, the Young Women Entrepreneurs hope they can help each other carry the load.


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