On August 28, 2015, hundreds of entrepreneurs, industry leaders, USAID representatives, and media gathered in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to celebrate the close of the Women’s Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises (WLSME) project. Over the course of three years, WLSME reached nearly 1,000 female owners of SMEs with business management capacity building, industry-specific technical assistance and consultations, networking and social capital building activities, and support in access to finance.

At the event, USAID/Kyrgyzstan Mission Director Michael Greene lauded the program and explained WLSME’s focus on businesses for broad-based economic growth within three priority sectors: apparel/garments, tourism, and agro-processing. WLSME Program Manager Gulmira Asanbaeva discussed some of WLSME’s key results and introduced engaging panel discussions from technical experts and female entrepreneurs who discussed the impact of WLSME along with their perspectives on the future of the national garment, tourism, and agro-processing industries. As sewing shop owner Jamilya Kabilova shared, the knowledge she gained from WLSME’s business development training and capacity-building events “was almost like giving sight to a blind person.”

WLSME is part of a global effort by USAID to understand the factors that drive the growth of women-owned enterprises. The project had a strong research and evaluation component, and utilized randomized control trials. Longitudinal impact surveys will be conducted by an independent evaluator into summer 2017– up to two years after ACDI/VOCA’s interventions end–to understand the long-term effect on business growth. For more information on the project, visit the WLSME profile here.

Read more about our work in Kyrgyzstan.

Read more about WLSME.

Read about our USAID Agro Horizon project in Kyrgyzstan.

Read more about our Gender Integration and Women’s Empowerment work.

Read USAID’s article on the event.