- An initiative from the three partners, Monaco, the UfM and UNIDO aims to facilitate access to finance, markets, technology and business networks for women-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
- Hajer Derouiche, the founder of an innovative startup that produces plant extracts based on natural raw materials from the Mediterranean, shares her story.
8 March 2021 – “Promoting the empowerment of women for inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Tunisia” is the objective of the joint declaration recently signed by Monaco’s Department of External Relations and Cooperation, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
The initiative aims to contribute to the overall effort to facilitate women’s micro, small and medium-sized enterprises’ access to finance, markets, technology and business networks. Moreover, this successful project is another link in the series of tangible projects or initiatives that the UfM fosters as a testimony of its action-driven agenda towards gender equality and women empowerment.
In Tunisia, this pilot project supports women entrepreneurs who invest in cosmetics and parapharmaceuticals based on natural products. Within this framework, technical assistance, training and study trips were set up for around ten women companies.
This promising sector has benefitted from growing demand over the past 10 years and Tunisia has some useful assets, including: easily available raw materials, organic crops, an organic certification system approved by the European Union and the Swiss Federation, among others.
This project also honours companies, including startups, created by young women with degrees in fields as varied as biology, industrial chemistry or pharmacy. Their career paths are gradually transforming a sector where women are still too often confined to low-skilled jobs.
A first step of in-depth mapping of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises headed by women and operational in this sector was carried out to identify potential direct beneficiaries of the project. The first year is a pilot year and aims to support at least 10 women-led SMEs. With the high rate of feminization in the value chain in the natural cosmetics and parapharmaceuticals sector, the empowerment of the initial 10 companies is expected to generate multiplier effects and have an effect on women involved in production activities.
This International Women’s Day, we salute the will, commitment and courage of these women entrepreneurs, one of whom, Hajer Derouiche, has kindly shared her experience below.
Hajer Derouiche, founder of an innovative startup
On her very first day at engineering school in Tunis, Hajer Derouiche was warned by the director of the institution “to become entrepreneurs rather than job seekers, since there is a lack of sufficient outlets”.
Degree in hand and inspired by her mother’s own entrepreneurial career, Hajer Derouiche founded ACTIFS PRECIEUX, an innovative startup that produces plant extracts based on natural raw materials of Mediterranean origin. Her company now employs around twenty people, two-thirds of whom are women, mostly university graduates.
The journey wasn’t always easy. In particular, Hajer admits to having “wasted a lot of time raising funds … three years in all!”. Competitive and driven by a love of learning, Hajer trained herself in many areas, putting in “a lot of personal effort” to ensure her company’s survival. “In the extraction business, you need certain expertise but there are other facets of the job that mean you’re always learning. You need to have a lot of love, patience and ask yourself a lot of questions … you have to be very flexible.”
Above all, it’s a question of supporting these innovative companies through technical assistance to strengthen their capacity to access markets, both national and international, which requires support in terms of digital marketing and compliance with standards. Hajer hopes that “with our brand, we will touch consumers’ hearts and our expertise in botany and natural extracts will be recognised. That’s how we can achieve our sales goals and establish the right international reputation.”