EU, EBRD and Turkey celebrate International Women’s Day with launch of mentoring service for women entrepreneurs

By Olga Rosca

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Initiative part of the Finance and Advice for Women in Business Programme in Turkey
The Finance and Advice for Women in Business Programme, funded by the European Union (EU), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Republic of Turkey, launched its mentoring activities in Ankara today. The first group of participants, both mentors and mentees, gathered in the Turkish capital to discuss the programme and celebrate International Women’s Day. 
The Programme, which aims to strengthen the role of female entrepreneurs in the Turkish economy and help firms led by women to grow, provides a comprehensive package of financial and technical support. Dedicated credit lines to local commercial banks for on-lending to women-led companies are combined with a risk-sharing mechanism as well as advice for banks to better address the financial needs of women-led SMEs. In addition, a package of advisory services, mentoring and networking helps women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.
The EBRD is providing up to €300 million in credit lines to interested Turkish banks. The European Union, the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security and Turkish Employment Agency are supporting the programme with €38 million for credit enhancement, advice to small businesses and technical assistance for partner banks. So far the first two participating banks, VakıfBank and FinansBank, have signed loan agreements with the EBRD, for US$ 30 million and €50 million, respectively.
Mentees will be able to improve their personal impact and overcome challenges by drawing on the knowledge and experience of a successful mentor. They will also have a chance to develop the management and leadership qualities that are vital for success in business.
The EBRD is partnering with the Turkish Women’s International Network (TurkishWIN) in the implementation of the mentoring service. Mentors are selected from among successful businesswomen like Didem Altop, the Managing Director of Endeavor Turkey, Neslihan Tombul, Board Member at Turcas Petrol and Özge Yılancıoğlu, HR Director of UPS Turkey. In total, 80 women will benefit from the mentoring facet of the programme.
Ms Şule Kılıç, EBRD Deputy Country Director for Turkey, said: “The entrepreneurship of women plays a key role in driving the economic growth of a country and we firmly believe that creating equality of opportunity for women in business is not only a gender issue, but also an economic priority. That’s why we are happy to see the progress of the Finance and Advice for Women in Business Programme in supporting Turkey’s women entrepreneurs. It is a pleasure to launch the mentoring component on International Women’s Day.”
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Head of EU Coordination Unit, Mr Ömer Ayçiçek, commented: “The great success and effort that women demonstrate in all aspects of life is proof that they should be more extensively involved in the workforce. At the Ministry, we think it is vital to increase the role of women in business life in order to bring more dynamism to our economy and enable Turkey to rank among the 10 biggest economies in the world.”
Ms Laura Zampetti, Deputy Head of Section for Economy, Trade and Agriculture at the EU Delegation to Turkey, said: “Advancement of women’s rights and ensuring gender equality are fundamental principles and goals of the European Union. The EU Delegation appreciates the commitment of all our partners in Turkey to empowering women through the Finance and Advice for Women in Business Programme. The mentorship programme that we are starting today is an excellent opportunity that can ensure synergies among participants and encourage the sharing of lessons learnt.”
Deputy General Manager of the Turkish Employment Agency, Mr Asım Göker Keskin, stated: “At İşkur, we believe that the participation of women in the workforce is critical in our fight against unemployment. That is why we work on innovative practices to empower the women of this country. The Finance and Advice for Women in Business Programme is one of our most important initiatives for empowering women. İşkur has taken an important role in the Programme, assuming responsibility for encouraging both women entrepreneurs and commercial banks.    
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