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Position of women in the labor market is less favorable position than the one men have, and that is the reason women are usually the first ones lose their jobs and suffer in times of economic crisis. On the other hand, firing women seems like an easy solution. Why not, they have enough to do around the house and kids, it seems useless using all that time for work and career management. Nevertheless, it's not that simple. Economic empowerment is crucial and the solution can be found in self employment. Easier said than done.

What is the current situation in Serbia? Women enterprises make 26% of all active, registered private shops and businesses (companies) in Serbian economy. 22% of them are self dependent entrepreneurs, while 4% are both (co)owners and directors of companies (statistics for their male counterparts show a four times higher figure- 17,5%). In terms of profiles of women entrepreneurs in Serbia, women usually opt for micro entrepreneurship (with 99% of them employing less than 10 people), and most often in the local market's service sector (76% of them act exclusively in the local market).

Why do women opt out of starting their own businesses? Reason is usually unsuitable economic situation and lack of funds needed to start a business caused by the gender gap. These reasons combined with the fact that it is not easy to get a credit-loan make for an environment unsuitable for risk taking. Moreover, factor that has a high impact on confidence and risk taking preparedness are widespread patriarchal values.

What are their reasons for starting a business? The most often reasons women start businesses for are that they see a real opportunity and a chance not to sit at home. Also, women see an advantage in being their own boss, working from home with flexible working hours. Yet, it turns out private business is just the opposite. Being their own boss there is no limit to working hours, and no holidays.

What are the chances for a successful business? In case of entrepreneur being a young woman, she will start a business in the field she has previously worked in and has certain knowledge and contacts in. She will constantly educate herself and work on improving her skills, introducing innovations in products and services and will continuously collaborate with other enterprises. But, all in all, knowledge, energy, motivation and enthusiasm trigger success!

What about support? Unfortunately, women entrepreneurs are not encouraged nor supported in Serbia. Legislative framework and surroundings are rather demotivating than motivating. Running a business today is hard, but things are getting better and certain institutions are stimulating new businesses.

Is there another way?
Social enterprises are a new concept of doing business, taking into account and realizing needs and interests of the society as a whole as their primary goal (as opposed to profit in traditional entrepreneurship), while at the same time using tools of traditional entrepreneurship. Social enterprises can easily be linked into a local context, with a clear aim of benefiting the communities, having more than one effect: a) work integration of “difficult to employ" categories of the population; b) social inclusion of vulnerable groups; c) reduction of state welfare expenditures.

What’s the history of social entrepreneurship?
The first social enterprises were introduced in Italy in 1991. and they were known as social cooperatives. Since then there has been 7,000 social cooperatives created, employing around 200,000 workers that benefit 1.5 million people. Soon, other countries began to follow in their footsteps. In Portugal there are "social solidarity cooperatives", in France "cooperative societies of collective interest”, which provide services and products primarily at a local level.

Where do they get the support from? Importance of the social economy has been recognized on the level of EU institutions. Social Business Initiative shows the advantages of EU’s single market and its role in social entrepreneurship development. Partnerships between different sectors (for-profit companies, public and third sector) are particularly important in order to encourage social inclusion, and therefore social cohesion.

What is the situation in Serbia? Social economy exists (1.1% of total employment) and there is a real need for social entrepreneurship. There are positive experiences and concrete support (through a variety of programs and projects) and most importantly, there is a tradition of a joint acting on the market, with a social mission and authentic new experiences, recognized in 6 legal forms: cooperatives, NGOs, the spin-off (registered as an Ltd.), a company of vocational training and employment of people with disabilities, agency for small and medium enterprises development and business incubators.
What do they do? They provide support to vulnerable groups in society, promote environmental protection and local development - primarily in poorly developed areas.

What are the challenges? The main problems facing social enterprises are lack of funds and unfavorable conditions for their development. This means that the institutional and legal framework is inadequate, while the obstacles can differ depending on the type of organization. On the other hand, issues of the majority of those who are still not entering social entrepreneurship area are lack of entrepreneurial aptitude and appropriate knowledge and skills.

What is the solution? Coalition for Social Entrepreneurship Development (CoSED) and its individual members, as well as other interested parties, are focused on three important elements that can support the development of social entrepreneurship in Serbia: legal framework, financing and human resources.

If you decide to become an entrepreneur or social entrepreneur, determination and perseverance are cardinal components of success for all. With a clear aim you will get the support you need, because you will know where to look for it. That way you will become another mechanism of support for all the ones who will follow in your footsteps.

Message! It is of greatest importance for you to follow your visions and goals, because only the things we don’t have a strong desire for are impossible.

Svetlana Stefanović and Dina Rakin 


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