Dundee initiative aims to harness entrepreneurial potential of 'hard-to-reach' women

A pilot programme is under way in Dundee to help disadvantaged women develop skills that could see them launch their own businesses.

The launch of the Aspiring Women programme, run by the city’s Women’s Business Station, came after the appointment of Fatima Ramzan as project manager.

The initiative aims to motivate women in hard-to-reach audiences, including BAME communities, “who suffer from hardship and disadvantage but aspire to be in a better situation”. It intends to help them make progress in areas including setting up their own enterprise, volunteering, work experience or employment.

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Fatima Ramzan aims to help disadvantaged women gain enterprise skills. Picture: Claire Grainger.
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The first cohort of 20 delegates come from a range of countries including Pakistan, Morocco, the Philippines and Malawi.

Ms Ramzan, who is originally from Pakistan, and then moved from Yorkshire to Dundee in 1993, said: “Aspiring Women focuses on those from deprived backgrounds who feel isolated or vulnerable. They have skills and a passion, some with the seeds of a business idea, but they’re hampered by a range of barriers.

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“For some, it’s a lack of childcare, finance or time – for others, they live with extended family and can’t get time to themselves to develop a business idea, or need a helping hand or to make contacts in a particular area. Through deep-root engagement, we’re going to be that guiding force they need, to help them see the potential, and become strong role models for the next generation.”

Ms Ramzan has worked in community-led projects for the past 25 years and is credited with having played a pivotal role in the success of Dundee International Women’s Centre.

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The Aspiring Women programme was made possible by a £20,000 donation from Dundee business leader and entrepreneur Tim Allan. He is the owner of Tricorn Capital, and also chair of V&A Dundee and president of Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

Additional funding from construction company McLaughlin & Harvey, The Matthew Trust, Northwood Trust and The National Lottery has enabled the programme to be extended to 50 participants from 20.

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Additionally, the Overgate shopping centre has helped by offering the group the use of its top-floor community space Gather throughout 2022. As well as running all programmes from there, Gather will also host a pop-up shop for Women’s Business Station members, allowing them to test the market with their products and services within a retail space.

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