A strong woman means a strong economy and a strong society. This principle is currently at the heart of the EU support for women in the fields of entrepreneurship and education.
The number of women benefiting from the EU projects is several hundred. For example, under the EU4Business initiative, 23 projects have been implemented. The EU4Business initiative is aimed at the development of small and large business in the six countries of the Eastern Partnership.
“Azerbaijan is also closely involved. We are implementing projects to support businesses. At the moment, we actively cooperate with the Azerbaijani government, rendering assistance to them. We have projects that are directly related to supporting the departments of the Ministry of Economy. In addition, we work not only with the government, but also work through our partners, such as EBRD. We are working with businesses. Through EU funding, the EBRD is also implementing a business assistance project. They mainly work directly, contact businesses, conduct trainings, assist in the development of small and medium-sized businesses. They work with enterprises that have been active in the market for at least 3 years. Co-financing is being carried out by EBRD and these companies. A lot of projects have been implemented so far,” Ulviyya Abdullayeva, Project Manager at EU Delegation to Azerbaijan told CBC.
As part of the EU4Business initiative, entrepreneur Gulnara Hasanova was able to expand her company to sell accessories and home care products and turn them into a national brand.
“We have improved the internal system, the accounting system, and we managed to better analyze our data. You know, the numbers speak volumes. They helped us in the betterment and systematization of our work. We have been able to expand our skills, our sellers began to better know the goods and sell them better, better segment it and deliver it to the market,” Gulnara Hasanova, Head of ESSE LLC told CBC.
The same opportunities were created for women within the framework of the program called “The strengthening of the role of civil society with the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights.” The project is aimed at increasing the social and economic activity of women mainly living in the regions of the country. The regional women’s resource centers are supportive mechanisms in the implementation of the project. Through these centers, a network of more than 600 women has been created. 80 women took part in the trainings aimed at the development of entrepreneurship and business set-up, 28 of whom started their own businesses.
“This project has been carried out for two years in three Azerbaijani regions - Neftchala, Sabirabad and Bilasuvar. In these regions, three regional resource centers were established. We conducted various trainings for women living in rural areas, supported them and helped them to gain new knowledge. We created a small program to increase their knowledge in the financial sector and in the field of self-employment, conducted business training on the basis of which they were able to start their own business. Many of them have already started to work and we have positive results,” Leyla Fathi, Coordinator of program told CBC.
Gulnara Ahmadova, an entrepreneur from Bilasuvar, had a small beauty salon. Benefiting from this project, she managed to expand her business. Today she owns a center that includes a beauty salon, health and sports halls. Currently, the entrepreneur plans to further expand her business.
“I have been doing this business for many years, but now I have decided to study accounting. Personally, these trainings were very productive for me. I learned many things, for example, the ability to maintain records and to work systematically,” Gulnara Ahmadova said.
The success of women once again suggests that education plays a key role in the formation of a personality, as well as in determining her prospects. The development of education is an integral part of cooperation between the EU countries and their partners. The Erasmus program, which is also funded by the European Union, is a visit card for students for getting higher education. Azerbaijan joined this educational program in 1994. And whereas earlier, such advanced educational programs like Erasmus Mundus, Tempus and others functioned, today they are part of a single program, which is Erasmus+.
One of the main directions of Erasmus+ is the project called “Capacity building in the Higher Education”, which provides cooperation among universities. Hajar Azimova, a student who benefited from the Erasmus+ program, is currently studying at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering at the Baku Engineering University. Last year, through the Erasmus+ she studied for 6 months in one of Italy’s prestigious universities - the Sapienza University at the Faculty of Bioinformatics.
“I was able to make my wishes come true, find new friends and get acquainted with new traditions. The students were treated very well. In case of problems, we could apply for help. Erasmus+ offers great opportunities for students like me. I would like to mention that there are much more opportunities for students of the Master’s program to improve their education abroad, in comparison with those who study in the bachelor’s program,” Hajar Azimova concluded.
The European Union offers great opportunities for Azerbaijani youth. The EU plans to continue implementing projects aimed at the development of education, small and medium-sized businesses.