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31 March 2022, 08:30 - 09:45 Indochina Time / Bangkok | By invitation only

Accelerating Women's Economic Empowerment

The relevance and importance of agriculture as a sector in the ASEAN and its member states were underlined when the COVID-19 pandemic threatened food security and livelihoods. Women play an important role in agriculture and agricultural value chains (AVC) in the ASEAN, with 48–75% of employed women working in the sector in Cambodia, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Vietnam. Data shows that one-third of ASEAN workers in agriculture are women, although this figure is probably higher as women are usually part of unpaid family labor. At the same time, 58% of women in the ASEAN are paid less than their male counterparts. When women are engaged, their participation is often limited or constrained by unpaid care and domestic work responsibilities and other barriers such as limited access to resources, services, and under-representation in producers’ groups. In terms of land ownership, only 13% of agricultural land title holders in the ASEAN are women.

Even as women and men small-scale producers are the pillars of the agriculture sector, poverty has remained significantly higher among them and is expected to increase with the overall impact of COVID-19 on the region’s economy. Although ASEAN member states have started promoting inclusive agribusinesses, studies characterized these efforts as disjointed and not directed at key constraints that impact women and men small-scale producers.

In 2015, the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA) came up with a research that identified eight best practices among social enterprises and inclusive business models in AVCs in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. These models were considered as best practices because of their significant impact in improving the lives, livelihoods, and position of small-scale producers in their respective supply chains. The factors of success from these best practices were synthesized into a set of Benchmarks for Transformational Partnerships and Women’s Economic Empowerment in AVCs (Benchmarks). These serve as an aspirational standard for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), corporate agribusinesses, and AVC program holders and supporters to positively impact on marginal and small-scale producers, especially women, as well as contribute to the realization of the SDGs.

To elevate the Benchmarks to the level of policy in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the Guidelines for Transformational Partnerships and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Agricultural Value Chains (Transformational AVC Guidelines or Guidelines) was developed. The Guidelines are a set of policies and incentives being proposed to supplement existing ASEAN policies to become more responsive to the needs of women and men small-scale producers in AVCs. It has the following critical elements:

  1. Enabling innovations that support AVC development for food secure, resilient and empowered small-scale producer communities
  2. Enabling women's economic empowerment that spans all functions and organizations engaged in AVC development, management and governance
  3. Mobilization of investments on sustainable consumption and production systems that enable women and men small-scale producers as stakeholders in achieving a climate-resilient and green economy
  4. Recognition and support for social enterprises and inclusive businesses as innovators and key enablers of women and men small-scale producers in AVCs
  5. Mobilization of support for social innovation platforms that mainstream sustainable agriculture, transformational partnerships, and women's economic empowerment in AVCs toward measurable social impact and accelerating the achievement of the SDGs.

The Transformational AVC Guidelines promote food security, social protection, and resiliency that are critical to the effective recovery of women and men small-scale producers from COVID-19 and similar disasters or crises. These provide policy support to women in agriculture and the informal sector as subjects for empowerment beyond women in the formal economy and entrepreneurs that current policies on women’s empowerment in ASEAN focus on. The Transformational AVC Guidelines also promote inclusive economic growth that reduces poverty in the food, agriculture and forestry sector. Moreover, the Guidelines recognize and support critical stakeholders such as social enterprises and inclusive businesses in the process fostering mutually beneficial partnerships to transform the lives and livelihoods of small-scale producers.

The Transformational AVC Guidelines is a policy paper outlining concrete and measurable actions and policy recommendations that ASEAN and member states may consider. By adopting the Transformational AVC Guidelines, ASEAN and its member states would pave the way toward empowering women and men small-scale producers in AVCs as stakeholders in a poverty reduction and inclusive growth agenda that would accelerate the achievement of the SDGs.

To formally present the Transformational AVC Guidelines, ISEA and partners are organizing a virtual launch on March 31, 2022 from 08:30-9:45AM (GMT+7). The virtual launch is dubbed as ACCELERATING WOMEN’S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT IN AGRICULTURAL VALUE CHAINS: Launch of the Guidelines for Transformational Partnerships and WEE in Agricultural Value Chains.


The virtual launch has the following objectives:

  1. Formally launch and present the proposed Guidelines on Transformational Partnerships and Women’s Economic Empowerment to key stakeholders of ASEAN and its member states
  2. Generate support and affirmation from key stakeholders to commit to the recommendations outlined in the proposed Transformational AVC Guidelines
  3. Facilitate relevant inputs and perspectives to further strengthen the Transformational AVC Guidelines based on current initiatives of AVC program holders including governments
  4. Explore the potential application of the Transformational AVC Guidelines in other sub-regions in Asia Pacific
  5. Build champions from the public and private sectors in ASEAN on the Transformational AVC Guidelines.


Participants will include government representatives, private sector representatives, civil society concerned with women and agriculture and other institutions promoting women empowerment. This launch will also gather various interest groups and constituencies interested in the practice and promotion of transformational partnerships and women’s economic empowerment in agriculture and agricultural value chains.

31 Mar 2022

Moderator:                       Wardarina

                                           Deputy Director, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

                                           Co-chair, Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism

Welcome Remarks          Ruhimat Soerakoesoemah

                                           Head, Sub-regional Office for Southeast Asia, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific


Roundtable resource speakers sharing various initiatives on gender, women’s empowerment in agriculture:

                                         Dr Chusana Han

                                         Assistant Director and Head of Poverty Eradication and Gender Division, ASEAN Secretariat

                                         Lenlen Mesina

                                         Program Manager, WeEmpowerAsia, UN Women

                                         Emilia Setyowati

                                         Executive Secretary, Trubus Bina Swadaya

                                         Dr Marie Lisa Dacanay

                                         President, Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia

Open Forum

Next Steps

Closing Remarks              Ashley Aarons

                                           GRAISEA Team Leader, Oxfam International

Co-chair, Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism
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Wardarina works at Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and is co-chair of Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (AP-RCEM), which is a platform for civil society organizations (CSOs) in Asia Pacific region to engage with different processes at the United Nations (UN).

She has worked with rural, indigenous, migrant, and urban poor women organizations for Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR) in 8 countries (Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, and Kyrgyzstan).

Ruhimat Soerakoesoemah
Rony Soerakoesoemah
Head, Subregional Office for South-East Asia
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Mr. Soerakoesoemah is Head of the Subregional Office for South-East Asia at UN ESCAP. He initiates work on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in eleven member countries, in partnership with governments, international institutions, civil society, and private sector entities. He also leads the cooperation for the UN with ASEAN in the economic and social-cultural areas. Prior to UN ESCAP, he managed economic development programmes and delivered technical assistance in the ASEAN and the Pacific region. He has extensive experience in policy analysis, development cooperation, and regional integration in Asia and the Pacific.

Dr Chusana Han
Dr Chusana Han
Head, Poverty Eradication and Gender Division, ASEAN Secretariat
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Dr. Chusana Han is the Assistant Director and Head of Poverty Eradication and Gender Division for the ASEAN Secretariat. Dr. Han received her PhD in Gender and Development from the Asian Institute of Technology. She also published a report in 2013 on food security risk and vulnerability where she explores the impact of gender on nutrition, food security, and community resilience in Lao.

Lenlen Mesina
Lenlen Mesina
Program Manager, WeEmpowerAsia, UN Women
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Lenlen Mesina is currently the Program Manager of WeEmpowerAsia, UN Women and has been an advocate for the advancement of women and women’s rights since 2000. She has also written a paper exploring Violence Against Women (VAW) in the digital world. She’s worked both in an individual and organizational capacity with different women’s groups for this cause and purpose.  While a champion for women’s rights, she also advocates for MSME development and recognizes its role in poverty alleviation.

Emilia Setyowati
Emilia Setyowati
Executive Secretary, Trubus Bina Swadaya
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Emilia Setyowati is currently the executive secretary of Bina Swadaya Foundation and has been involved in community development in her career. She has supported mainly the development of micro-economies, agribusinesses, and social enterprises. She has helped businesses develop programs to become more sustainable and produce a positive impact on the community. She has worked previously as the director of Wisma Hijau.

Marie Lisa
Dr Marie Lisa
President, Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia
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Marie Lisa (Lisa) M. Dacanay, PhD is the founding President of the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA) and is a pioneer in social entrepreneurship education and research in the region. She was awarded as Outstanding Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year 2019 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and the World Economic Forum.  Lisa is a coach and mentor of social entrepreneurs and social enterprise resource institutions. She has been teaching social entrepreneurship courses at the Ateneo de Manila University since 2008.  She was Associate Professor and Program Director of the Master in Entrepreneurship for Social and Development Entrepreneurs (MESODEV) at the Asian Institute of Management from 2001-2007. She has authored many books, book chapters and articles on social entrepreneurship including Creating a Space in the Market: Social Enterprise Stories in Asia (2004); Measuring Social Enterprise: A Resource Book on Social Enterprise Performance Measurement (2009); Social Entrepreneurship: An Asian Perspective (2009); Social Enterprises and the Poor: Transforming Wealth (2013); Social Enterprises and Agricultural Value Chains in Southeast Asia (2019); Social Enterprise in the Philippines:  Social Enterprises with the Poor as Primary Stakeholders (2019) and Social Enterprises as Game Changers in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (2020) . Lisa has more than 25 years of experience in development management and consulting, social entrepreneurship and international development cooperation. She holds a Master in Development Management (With Distinction) from the Asian Institute of Management (1996) and a Doctorate in Organizational and Management Studies at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark (2012).

Ashley Aarons
Ashley Aarons
GRAISEA Team Leader, Oxfam International
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for more information, please contact

Subregional Office for South-East Asia + 66 22 88 2902 [email protected]
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