Corsica is a very proud and beautiful island. Birthplace of Napoleon and home to Pascal Poali the first leader in the world to write in the constitution that women would be given the right to vote (where the woman was the head of the household ) in 1755. However, Corsica remains a very macho society with strong women sitting behind their men!
The event had been specially organised by the Corsican Business Women who had formed initially as the result of being part of a European project. Unlike most such conferences the male politicians and speakers often leave after a few minutes once the topic is about women. However I congratulated Jean-Christophe Angellili, Henri Malosse and Mr Miniconi for staying not just for the speeches but for the whole day’s events.
My objective was not to give a feminist speech to the 150 + women in the room (60 were expected) but to highlight their value in the economy. As the Congress was supported by the Vice President of Corsica who’s portfolio is economic development, and supported by the Regional Development Agency ADEC and Chamber of Commerce, I took the opportunity to highlight the key statistics on the job creation, SME creation, turnover and sector growth lead by women. I promoted the opportunities for innovation and especially in Corsica in the renewables sector. I used the hour long speech to share the recommendations of the following EESC opinions which all had specific interest to Corsica:
SOC – female entrepreneurship
SOC – Women in Science
TEN- Women in Transport
INT – Entrepreneurship a mechanism to exit the crisis
Employers Group priorities for Entrepreneurs and SME growth
I was also able to disseminate some EESC opinions/documents in French, thanks to the SOC secretariat who had sent copies for the participants.
Defining the outcomes or impact of such a presentation is difficult to quantify. However, I would like to share that I made my speech in English, not even a second language in Corsica, which was interpreted and so I did not expect a great deal of feedback at the end. However, I was swamped with people, questions and requests for help and offers for coffees by the majority of the participants as the first part of the conferences ended for lunch. I had several interviews with radio, tv and newspapers and have had other requests since. The Vice President of Corsica has requested a follow up meeting on how to implement some of the recommendations made. So I am now collaborating with the Corsican Business Women to work with the Regional Development Agency and to conduct workshops/mentoring to support the local female entrepreneurs. I know this is not within the role of my mandate in the EESC but the promotion and understanding on my role in sharing the work of the EESC, sharing how the policies made are influenced by the citizens and civil society, left a great impression as to the value of our work. The thank-yous I received can be found on Facebook and I was genuinely touched by the feedback I received.
I stayed with the ladies for lunch to answer more questions and to network, and was also invited for lunch by the Mayor of Sisco who’s wife is an entrepreneur in the concrete sector! In the afternoon I participated in the workshops on strengthening female entrepreneurship. To my surprise, these were not the normal workshop topics such as marketing/sales/employment. I was surprised to find a workshop on the Cosmetic Sector, which I joined because I am the rapporteur for CCMI 143 – personal health care sector. This was very valuable as the origin of the raw ingredients is very important in labelling the products but also in differentiating regional products which could then be certified European or in some cases regional specific.
The afternoon was an Awards ceremony where the women pitched their enterprises in front of a panel of judges, followed by an awards ceremony and cocktail. Almost all the business had a core focus of promoting Corsica, something which endorsed the pride the people have for their land. In the evening I had a dinner with several of the women from the event and the President of the Corsican Business Women to discuss their next steps and how I believed the EU could help.
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