GARD Center Launches Business Development Unit

The Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development Center (GARD Center) in partnership with the European Union on 7th March, 2013 launched its Business Development Unit, a critical component of its latest project – The Empowerment of Vulnerable Young Women in Antigua and Barbuda in Their Income Generation (YWEP).
The Business Development Unit will  be a one-stop venue providing  a number of support services to GARD Center graduates of the Entrepreneurial stream of the YWEP programme as well as to other vulnerable young women seeking to start or develop their own enterprises.  It will offer training, advisory services and access to funding.  The services will initially be offered from the GARD Center’s head office at Mercer’s Creek and will then be transferred to a convenient location in St.  John’s later in the year.
The Business Development Unit was launched as part of a recently held forum called ‘Going Against the Grain’ which featured a panel of women who have either successfully started their own businesses or engaged in fulfilling vocations, many in the traditional male dominated areas.  The presenters which included an egg farmer, plumber, disc jockey, graphic artist, architect, caterer and construction engineer all rendered captivating and poignant life stories about their passion for their chosen careers and their grit and determination in overcoming various obstacles in order to be successful.  Some key issues that were brought to the fore included the challenges of operating a small business, overcoming gender stereo-typing and the importance of training and education.
A number of young women who attended the event spoke of it as being an encouraging and inspiring experience and are looking forward to further pursuing courses at GARD Center to prepare them for their own endeavours. Also in attendance at the event were the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Errol Samuel; president of the Employers Federation, Mr. Acres Stowe and representatives from the Directorate of Gender Affairs. The event was co-sponsored by CIBC First Caribbean International Bank and Community First Cooperative Credit Union.
According to the Executive Director of GARD Center, Roberta Williams: “We thought it important to formally launch the BDU as part of a forum such as this to highlight to our young women that they too can defy the odds and be anything they want to be.”  She further stated: “It is critical that our young women start believing in themselves and thinking outside of the box in order to grasp the myriad opportunities for income generation.”
This project is funded by the European Union