By Muhammad Riaz Usman
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Women in the UAE are leading entrepreneurship as more females are coming forward to turn their ideas into successful businesses.
To mentor these passionate females, the Dubai Business Women Council, or DBWC, and MasterCard teamed up to launch the Ro’Ya initiative in 2014.
Concluding its second successful year in November, Ro’Ya, which means “vision” in Arabic, provides coaching to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as the chances to win funding for their companies.
The overall winner of Ro’Ya 2015 received $50,000 to spend on setting up a business, while the runner-up and second runner-up received $30,000 and $20,000, respectively.
“These amounts are the same as those awarded to the top three winners of Ro’Ya 2014,” said Nadin Halabi, manager of business development at the the DBWC.
According to the UAE Ministry of Economy, women in the country contribute to nearly half of the small-and-medium enterprise sector and, interestingly, 48 per cent of female business owners are the sole owners of their firms, she added.
The UAE is ranked as a leader in gender equality in the region, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Gender Gap report.
“The Ro’Ya programme was launched to mobilise and encourage women to participate in the economic sector by pursuing their goals to own and run their own businesses,” Halabi said.
Leyla Lahsini, an MBA graduate of London Business School, grabbed the grand prize of Ro’Ya 2015 for her idea, KenziBox.
Lahsini started her business in partnership with Shirin Benamadi, who is an MBA from Smith School of Business — University of Maryland. Benamadi has worked on the trading floor at Fannie Mae and spent three-and-a-half years at an investment bank at the Dubai International Financial Centre, before utilising her expertise with KenziBox. Their business provides arts and craft activities specially-designed to stimulate children’s learning through creativity and imagination and inspired the judges for its originality and innovative approach to education.