Groundbreaking new Church of Scotland charity launches enterprise initiative for women

Scottish women are to become entrepreneurs thanks to a groundbreaking new charity supported by the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Government, using a successful business model from India dubbed "brilliant but simple".

WEvolution is the UK's first charity to use the group enterprise model responsible for creating more than eight million businesses in India.

WEvolution is the result of a Church of Scotland project which, in 2011, enabled a group of Glaswegian women to travel to Mumbai and Gujarat in India to learn more about how women from poor backgrounds were using the self-help group model to generate income and create sustainable livelihoods. The group's excitement at the possibilities of adopting a similar approach in Scotland led to the creation of WEvolution.

Speaking at the WEvolution launch at St Paul's in Glasgow's Provanmill, the Very Rev Dr Alan McDonald said

"This is such a good news story. The Church of Scotland is delighted to be playing a part in making this kind of positive change happen, in some of the most challenging situations in Scotland."

The self-help model has already worked for a group of eight women in Provanmill. Two years ago they each began saving £1 a week to start a lunch club at St Paul's church. It generated enough profit to help them launch their successful 'Fluff & Fold' launderette service operated from the church basement six months ago. Group member Jacqueline Crawley says they're immensely proud of what they've done:

"Our wee heaven, hiding away down here at the bottom of the church. Our washing machine, our dryer, our irons on and now it's all up and running. It's a great sense of achievement for us all, sometimes it's hard work, but we've done this and all this is ours. Brilliant."The Scottish Government has provided initial financial support for WEvolution. After meeting women who've already benefitted from the initiative and seeing their achievements first hand, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney MSP said:

"I'd like to congratulate all of the women involved in Self Reliant Groups across the country, and WEvolution for supporting them. The launderette here at St Paul's is a concrete example of what women working together can do for themselves."

The ladies from the Provanmill Self Reliant Group in the launderette they have created at St Paul's church. From left to right they are Kate McHuchon; Margaret Blair; Jacqueline Crawley; Maggie Taylor; Maureen McFadden; Helen Barclay; Anne McQuillen and Liz Taylor.

"Our people are our greatest asset and it is crucial, perhaps more now than ever, that we see their economic potential unleashed. That is why I am delighted to say that the Scottish Government will work with WEvolution to see how our support for their crucial work could be extended for a further year."

WEvolution now aims to give groups of women practical support and access to finance at low rates to start their own businesses. WEvolution plans to create 50 self-reliant groups across Scotland in the next 5 years, involving over 350 women in some of our poorest communities. This aim is backed by a range of business leaders.

Scottish financial entrepreneur Jim Spowart is on the WEvolution board. Mr. Spowart, who has founded major businesses including Direct Line Financial Services, Standard Life Bank and Intelligent Finance, said:

"I am delighted to be associated with WEvolution. It gives ordinary people a chance to develop their business idea by providing financial and any other support required. This helps both individuals and communities, particularly in poorer areas, and the Church of Scotland and Scottish Government have to be highly commended for becoming involved in such a brilliant but simple concept."

Liz Cameron, who's the Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

"Empowering Scottish women to embody the spirit of entrepreneurship is a pioneering step forward which will positively influence society in Scotland and also contribute to the health of our economy. I am excited by the potential of WEvolution and look forward to supporting the initiative to success."

The group enterprise model has benefitted more than 100 million women in India and is now a key part of the Indian government's strategy to eliminate poverty. Speaking of the challenges ahead, WEvolution Managing Director Noel Mathias says:

"Through its Self-Reliant Groups, WEvolution has set out on a rather courageous journey of supporting a generational change; one that I know will resonate within Scottish families and communities in the long term.'

For more information visit the WEvolution website.