TALLINN - On Sunday, 50 women who had fled from the war in Ukraine began participation in the Empowering Women business program to restore their independent coping in Estonia through entrepreneurship.
In the course of three months, the participants in the program will get acquainted with the entrepreneurship environment and digital society in Estonia and take their first steps towards establishing their own business with the help of experienced international mentors.
"While in Estonia, this program is taking place for the first time, in Ukraine, the Empowering Women entrepreneurship program has been already underway for three years with support from the Estonian Refugee Council and Garage48, aiding internally displaced people and women who have lost their income because of the war in creating their own family and microbusinesses in eastern and central Ukraine. Over three years, 59 microenterprises have been launched in the program and we have met some great entrepreneurial women. Our aim is to support entrepreneurial Ukrainian women who have arrived in Estonia in a similar way," project manager of the program and member of the management board of Garage 48 Kadri Tiisvelt said.
In Estonia, the Empowering Women program will be carried out in cooperation between Garage48, the Estonian Refugee Council, British Council, Swedbank and the European Commission's representation in Estonia.
"Ukraine is fighting for its own freedom as well as for the freedom of Europe. Estonia together with Europe are manifestly on Ukraine's side and we're doing everything we can to help Ukraine. Supporting Ukrainian refugees in Estonia is an important part of this assistance. The project aimed at entrepreneurial women was something we definitely wanted to be a part of and in which we wanted to introduce the dimension of European values -- because where else does Ukraine belong if not in Europe," Vivian Loonela, head of the European Commission representation in Estonia, said.
On the opening day of the program on Oct. 30, participants from across Estonia gathered at the Tallinn School of Music and Ballet. While the largest share of participants are from Tallinn, women in Saaremaa, Viljandi, Tartu, Johvi, Sillamae and Setomaa are likewise interested in starting their own business. Participants' ideas are most numerous in the areas of catering, education, mental health, beauty services and handicrafts.
"There are currently around 60,000 Ukrainian refugees living in Estonia, a large share of whom are looking for opportunities to rebuild their life at least until they can return to their homeland. The program provides entrepreneurial Ukrainian women an opportunity to be active, start a business here and be in charge of their income," Anu Viltrop, head of support services and member of the management board at the Estonian Refugee Council, said.
The participants are being mentored by over 40 business heads and entrepreneurship specialists from Estonia and Ukraine, including by small entrepreneurs with a migration background.
The best five participants will receive 1,000 euros' worth of entrepreneurship support by the end of the three-month program and, with support from program partners, computers as work tools and favorable conditions for the use of business premises.