In Asia and the Pacific, entrepreneurship is one of the main pathways for women’s economic empowerment and strive towards equality, which may - in turn - create ‘multiplier effects’ on family well-being, poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth. Thus, creating an enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem where women can freely participate to reach their full potential, can yield expansive socio-economic gains stretching from households to communities and economies.
Women’s entrepreneurship has been on the rise over the past twenty years in the Asia-Pacific region. While there are multiple, often inter-connected complex barriers to starting and conducting business across many countries in the region, these barriers tend to be significantly higher for women than men. Some of the main challenges facing women across the region include: (a) legislative frameworks that discriminate, or do not incorporate the specific circumstances, needs and interests of women; (b) limited access to finance, information and communication technologies (ICTs); (c) lack of opportunity for capacity development; (d) discriminatory socio-cultural norms and beliefs. Overcoming these challenges is essential to unlocking the potential of many women to manifest their full economic aspirations and capacities for building better livelihoods, prosperous communities and thriving societies.
ESCAP actively supports its member States in efforts to enhance women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship as a strategy for poverty reduction, social wellbeing and sustainable economic growth, towards the progressive realization of SDG 5 on Gender Equality and multiple related goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As part of its support, ESCAP is implementing a five year (2018-2023) regional project on “Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship - Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” funded by the Government of Canada. The project endeavors to advance women’s economic empowerment and contribute to poverty reduction in the Asia-Pacific region. It aims to increase women entrepreneurs’ access to capital through innovative financing mechanisms, increase women entrepreneurs’ use of business development services and financial technologies, and support the development of gender-responsive business development and investment policies and programs.
ESCAP is formally launching the project in Cambodia on 29 April 2019, in conjunction with a national consultation on “Enabling Environment for Women’s Entrepreneurship”. The purpose of the event is to increase the capacity of public and private sector stakeholders to integrate gender and ICT considerations into entrepreneurship development and financial inclusion measures at all levels, contributing to efforts towards achieving gender equality, poverty reduction and economic growth in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The national consultation will further serve as a forum for policy dialogue, capacity building and networking for key concerned stakeholders across public and private sector to discuss the needs, constraints and actions to foster women’s entrepreneurship in Cambodia.
Moreover, to fully leverage on ICT’s potential in catalyzing women’s entrepreneurship, it is necessary that policymakers understand and appreciate the enabling role of digital technologies, the gaps and barriers that constrain women from using ICTs in their businesses, and the need for gender-responsive policies and programmes to support ICT-empowered women entrepreneurs. In this regard, a national training for Cambodian policymakers will be conducted on 30 April 2019 in Phnom Penh, immediately following the National Consultation on Enabling Environment for Women’s Entrepreneurship on 29 April 2019.