Prishtina, October 14, 2020 – The uncertain economic landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic produced negative results to all businesses and industries, especially to vulnerable groups such as women-owned businesses. This was said during the publication of the ‘’The Impact of COVID-19 on Women-Owned Businesses in Kosovo’’ study, compiled by the American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo.
The author of this study, Ardita Hajra, AmCham Policy Officer, while presenting its main findings, emphasized that this study aims to provide insights on the current trends, forms, and level of damages caused by coronavirus, but also identify key problems faced by women in business during these hectic times. According to this study, the biggest challenge women entrepreneurs have faced has been economic well-being, 40.94%, followed by the increased need to undertake more unpaid work, such as the need for additional care and attention towards family 28.19%. Another worrisome finding in this study is the number of businesses which have shut down completely during lockdown, roughly
65%, while data show that there has also been a high decrease in sales at approximately 90%.
Amending the Labor Law still remains essential to boosting women’s employment, with the study finding that about 90% of the women surveyed are optimistic that changing this law would boost the number of employed women. Although women face specific challenges and obstacles and they are under-represented in leadership positions, 35.71% of them believe that improving the business environment in general would directly increase women’s participation in the market, as various issues in business are similar for both women and men. As the findings of this study point out, special grants from the Government would be an ideal measure for the recovery of women’s businesses as was agreed upon by 74.81% of the surveyed women.
During the roundtable discussion on the same topic, Mrika Gashi, Executive Director at RDA Center, and also a member of AmCham Board of Governors, stressed the need to raise women’s awareness and access to information on grant applications, especially for those in rural areas who have limited access to the resources needed to further develop their businesses. Gashi emphasized that the support through the funds provided by the Government of Kosovo, no matter how useful, is unfortunately insufficient. She also called for organizing informative and training sessions, promoting women in business, and strengthening their position in the local, regional, and international market.
Besa Ilazi, Project Management Specialist at the USAID Office of Economic Growth, stressed that in Kosovo, women’s participation in the labor force is quite low, however, women’s economic empowerment is essential for the country’s development. Ilazi also briefed participants on USAID’s next five-year strategy, which focuses on comprehensive development regardless of gender, ethnicity, or age. According to her, this strategy aims to ensure equal inclusion in the economy, while within it, women entrepreneurs will be assisted through technical assistance. Ilazi also mentioned another project which aims to increase the presence of women in the international market, with a focus on exports, respectively in the ICT sector as well as that of wood and food processing.