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Woman in Uganda enjoying looking after her goat
28 February 2024

The importance of supporting women in business

Discover how we're investing in female entrepreneurs

Pictured above: Stella (read her inspiring story further down the page)

Did you know? Globally, only one in three businesses are owned by women and they still have only three-quarters of the legal rights of men when it comes to career, finances and work-life balance.

Investing in women and female-led businesses is essential for economic growth, gender equality, and social progress. On International Women's Day (8 March), we're recognising how women's empowerment unlocks their full potential and helps drive economic growth.

Keep reading to discover the importance of investing in women and how we're supporting female entrepreneurs to build financial independence and resilience. 

The benefits of investing in women

1. Break the cycle of poverty

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, women are more likely to use their income to invest in their children's wellbeing, education and healthcare. Supporting female entrepreneurs can lead to a long-term reduction in poverty so families and communities thrive.

2. Promote gender equality

Supporting women promotes gender equality and fosters a more inclusive society where everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources.

3. Introduce diverse perspectives 

Women bring diverse opinions and perspectives to the table, which is why having more women in business can bring creativity and progress in various industries. 

How we're supporting women in business

A key priority of World Vision’s work is investing in women. Along with our other extensive work, we’re supporting those who dream of running a successful business - so they and their families have enough to experience fullness of life.

That’s what happened with Agnes and Stella.

South Sudan woman outside her shop
Agnes outside her shop

When it comes to recognising inspiring women in business, these two women stand out as shining examples. Agnes and Stella are successful female entrepreneurs who have had to overcome life’s adversities and are now making a difference.

They are just two of the many women running their own businesses in low-income countries – despite facing challenges such as lack of equal rights and proper education. According to the World Bank, “In low-income countries, female entrepreneurship is increasing - there are about 8 million to 10 million formal small and medium enterprises with at least one female owner.”

Agnes’ story

Agnes is from South Sudan. She’s 25 and running a business that prevents her family of seven from going hungry. She’s also blind and has been since she was 14.

She lives with her mother and five siblings on the outskirts of Juba. Since she was a child, Agnes longed to start her own business but her first attempts were disheartening. “I used to brew local alcohol to earn a living,” she says. But the money she made wasn’t enough to support her family.

READ MORE: The effects of child hunger

Her successful business supports the family

She remained hopeful and worked hard. Her determination paid off after joining a World Vision project, which works with communities to increase family incomes, improve healthcare and build resilience to climate change and other shocks.

Firstly, the project supported her to start a small store in her community. Agnes recalls, “I received sugar, flour, cooking oil, onions, bars of soap, rice, wheat flour and beans.”

Because Agnes has been blind since she was exposed to explosives, she set up her store next to her home to make it more accessible. Many women do this, according to the World Bank, as women-owned businesses tend to be informal and are usually retail or service based.

Agnes’ small business has now flourished. Her entire family is benefiting from her success, with her income covering schooling costs and necessities for the family of seven.


People in South Sudan with retail supplies
Agnes with her shop supplies

Expanding the business to sustain her family’s needs

“The market within the area for basic food items is good,” says Agnes. “I was able to expand my business with more items such as charcoal, lentils, spaghetti, candles, and fresh juice, among others.”

Agnes also joined a community savings group established by the project to help her build financial resilience and access small loans to invest in her business. “I joined this group to save my profits. My plan is to expand my business from a retail to a wholesale business. I have identified a strategic location next to the town centre. My young brother will manage the first business independently and use the profits to support and provide for our family needs.”

Despite her success and bright future, Agnes admits running a business is not easy. She learned to deal with many challenges, such as customers taking advantage of her being blind by stealing from her shop, buying items on credit without settling their accounts and rising prices due to inflation.

But despite these challenges, Agnes is filled with confidence for the future. “My life is far much better than before. I am independent, and I don’t seek financial support from people since the income from my shop has sustained my life and the needs of the family.”

Ugandan women sitting on a mat outside
Stella with other savings group members

Stella’s story

And in Uganda, Stella is also a successful businesswoman…now.

But there were days when she had nothing, and sent her four children to play with friends in the hope they’d be fed there. Some days they would go hungry.

Stella was forced into marrying a man old enough to be her father and though initially she felt loved and supported the dream was short-lived.

She remembers, "My husband began to engage with other women, frequently returning home inebriated, subjecting me to humiliating insults in front of our children, and abruptly ceasing his care for us. That's when I realised it was my responsibility to provide for my children, as no one else would."

Becoming a successful female entrepreneur 

Determined to secure their wellbeing, Stella engaged in various money-making activities, including brewing and selling alcohol – but the business yielded more losses than gains, as her regular customers consistently bought on credit. They even threatened her when asked for payment, leaving her feeling helpless and frustrated.

"There were days when I contemplated suicide, but the thought of leaving my children alone made it an impossible choice," she confesses.

Then a friend introduced her to the village Savings and Loan Association, established by World Vision. The training focused on financial literacy, goal setting, and enterprise development – and Stella discovered the solution she had long prayed for to create a better life for her family.

Filled with fresh hope, she eagerly joined the group and started saving. In just six months Stella mastered the art of financial management and business enterprise development. Loans for women in business are often crucial and Stella needed – and obtained – a loan from the savings group. Because of the loan she was able to put her newfound knowledge into practice, investing in a milling machine next to the primary village market for grinding cassava, maize, and millet.

Uganda woman waters her farm
Stella tends to her farm that she acquired from the proceeds from her milling business

Investing in women transforms families

Since joining the savings group network Stella's children no longer have to worry about experiencing extreme hunger or missing out on an education.

John, Stella's nine-year-old son, recalls, "There were days when our mother would ask us to play at the neighbour's house in the hopes of being invited to share a meal. Some days, we'd go without food. But ever since our mother joined the savings group, we've never worried about food at home or school fees."

Her business began to thrive and she now has two acres of land for growing food and has also bought two goats, which are useful resources for nutritious milk and diversifying her income.

"I want my children to relish their childhood without the fear of going hungry or witnessing violence in our home," Stella passionately declares. "I now ensure that my children attend school to become responsible adults."

Stella has discovered a new supportive network within the savings group as she embarks on her journey to economic empowerment. She has become a beacon of hope for many single mothers in her village and now empowers other women who have been victims of gender-based violence.

How you can make a difference

Female entrepreneurs like Stella and Agnes are proof that investing in women works.

Hearing their stories can be an inspiration to us all. Both Stella and Agnes overcame barriers to achieve their dreams of becoming financially independent and providing for their families. Now, Agnes can sustain her families’ needs. And Stella can ensure her children get an education and live without fear of hunger.

Sadly though, so many people are going hungry right now.

World Vision is working with communities to support hungry children and families. We launched the ENOUGH campaign because we believe there is ENOUGH in this world for every child to have the nutritious food they need to thrive.

Discover more about ENOUGH and how you can get involved to help hungry children around the world.

Learn more