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When Sewasew Hailu was a little girl, her grandmother taught her how to do handicrafts. That first experience sparked a lifelong interest and a profession. Today, Sewasew is a clothes designer and part of a growing fashion industry in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She has built her business over the last seven years and won customers locally, from Europe and from other African countries for her wedding dresses, suits, dinner and graduation dresses. All are handmade by Sewasew and five employees in her Addis Ababa shop. Sewasew’s challenges include being a single mother of three following a divorce. Obtaining financing has also not been easy and is the biggest challenge for anyone starting a business, because of the need for collateral, she says.

Research shows that women in Ethiopia are at a disadvantage compared to men in accessing finance to start or expand a business. To help close the gender finance gap, the World Bank-financed Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Project provides a $50 million line of credit to financial institutions financing women-owned micro and small businesses in Ethiopia. The project aims to unlock capital, particularly for growth-oriented businesses that need bigger loans equivalent to $10,000 or more. About 76% of borrowers benefiting from the project had never had a loan before, yet the repayment rate is 99.4%. The project has also provided entrepreneurship training to more than 5,000 women. © Stephan Gladieu / World Bank

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Taken on June 30, 2015