Slovakia's Integra helps women get back to work

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The unemployment rate in Slovakia has been coming down in recent years as the country enjoys an investment driven boom. But unemployment among women remains stubbornly high and many women have trouble getting back into the workforce after maternity leave. Employers apprently fear a mother with a young child may not provide the commitment and flexibility they demand. But help is at hand from an NGO called Integra which has been helping women set up their own businesses. Anna Rajska is the head of Integra in the city of Ruzomberok and she's been speaking to Radio Slovakia's Maria Bulkova

“We support women in any field of business. Our training does not refer to a particular business field. We focus on business skills. Those interested can deal with production, business or services. At our training we talk about market research, finances, price calculation, communication, solutions of crisis and about characteristics that businessmen or women should have. Sometimes we also invite representatives from the Trade or Hygiene authorities. We organize different types of training. The basic one is one week long for those who want to set up their own business. But we also provide additional training, designated for women who have already conducted business, have some experience but want to develop their company. We are also trying to help women to orientate in legislative changes, taxes, accountancy, changes in the work code and so on.”

Are there specific conditions that a woman must fulfill if she wants to train and set up the business with your support?

“All the training is for free and our only condition is that a woman needs to have a business idea at the time she decides to attend training. It is important because we mastermind the training interactively. We are trying to discuss concrete plans.”

What sources of financial means are available for a woman who wants to set up her own business?

“Both men and women can use a grant from the Office of Labor, Social affairs and family. NGO Integra can provide micro-loan of up to 3,000 euro. ”

What are your results in the region?

“There is a high interest in our activities. For example: last year we were supposed to organize two training periods. The interest was so high that we had to organize two more. Since we have started 140 women have attended our training and about 47 of them run their own business. Most women started their business in tourism. But some of them opened their own stores with baby’s clothing, footwear, ceramics and handmade carpets. Some of them offer services such as hairdressers, a nail design or even accountancy. “

Do the municipal authorities support you?

“The city of Ruzomberok is a partner of our project Equal and supports us mainly in marketing activities. They organize different markets such as the Christmas market, the Easter market or the market of St. Andrew, where women can sell their products or present their services.“