Starting a small business can jumpstart an individual’s escape from poverty, but in some parts of the world bureaucratic processes keep people out of the formal marketplace. Without legal recognition, informal businesses struggle to access banking institutions and are more exposed to abuse from authorities. To break this cycle in their country, Atlas Network partner Centre for Development and Enterprises Rwanda (CDE Rwanda) launched their “Breaking Barriers in Rwanda'' initiative. Aimed at helping women and girls start formal businesses, this project both educated the target population and convinced the government to reform the business registration process.
CDE Rwanda used a multi-channel approach to empower women and enable them to legally register their enterprises. The organization reached out to the media to distribute and discuss the results of their research and educate women about their right to earn a livelihood through entrepreneurship. CDE Rwanda also sent their research to academics to prompt conversation and garner support. Convinced by the evidence in favor of reform, the government decentralized the business registration procedure, removing many of the obstacles that prevented Rwandans from entering the formal marketplace.
Entrepreneurs can now register their businesses in their local regions, cutting out much of the cost and difficulty of starting or formalizing an enterprise. Since they no longer have to make the journey to the national capital or use a website in a language they may not understand, CDE Rwanda estimates that more than 2,500 women and girls will benefit from this policy change. With legal status comes improved entrepreneurial opportunity, a recognition of human dignity, and a path out of poverty for these individuals.