Payment technology firm MasterCard and Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC)  have partnered to launch an initiative to support entrepreneurship in the UAE.
Under the initiative called Ro’Ya, meaning vision in Arabic, DBWC and MasterCard will hold an annual event where female entrepreneurs can present their business proposals before a panel of judges and avail of a year-long mentorship programme and networking opportunities.
A microsite, dedicated to the competition, will be open to all female entrepreneurs starting today so that they can submit their ideas. A joint panel of experts from DBWC and MasterCard will then screen entries and selected applicants will be asked to present before a judging panel in a gala event.
The top three women entrepreneurs  will receive a cash prize of $50,000, $30,000 and $20,000 respectively to be used towards start-up costs. In addition, five candidates will also receive $5,000 each based on the sole criteria of innovation.
The winning ideas will be then be mentored by a team from MasterCard.
“The success and growth of SMEs are vital indicators of any country’s economic progress and it is imperative that every effort is made to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship and nurture budding entrepreneurs,” said Michael Miebach, president, Middle East and Africa, MasterCard.
“Ro’Ya will give women across the UAE a real opportunity to pursue their dreams while also enabling them to support the country’s economy, resulting in long-term benefits for them, their families, and their societies.”
Raja Easa Al Gurg, president of DBWC, said that there is an immense potential for entrepreneurship among women living in the UAE. However she noted that they are still struggling with a number of challenges when looking to start a business.
“Many of them learn the nuances of the business only after they start a particular venture,” she said.
“But the nature of the business they undertake and the manner in which they handle their businesses are main factors that determine their relative success or failure.”
She said that the objective of DBWC in this initiative would be to serve as a networking platform and a stage for knowledge sharing among women entrepreneurs in the UAE. 
SMEs constitute around 95 per cent of the private sector in the MENA region, of which women, according to the Carnegie Endowment Centre, own only 2.5 per cent. 
This pales in comparison to global figures from the International Finance Corporation, which suggests that 37 per cent of international enterprises are women-owned.
Miebach said that the objective of Ro’Ya is to empower women in the UAE.
“We will take the winners and work with them till the end of this year. We will seed, fund, incubate and help them to launch viable business ideas,” he said.
“But the focus in the first phase would be to take these ideas and work on them.”