Inclusive trade is an important dimension of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development to ensure that all actors of the society, particularly those being marginalised, should gain from increased trade. However, engaging in international trade, and joining global value chains pose significant challenges to women and small enterprises, due to various factors embedded in the ecosystem and their capability. Specific to women entrepreneurs in South Asia, their small scale of production, scattered and unorganised business, lack of knowledge to use ICT tools, lack of access to trade logistics and international market information, coupled with their daily family obligations are among major challenges which has deterred their economic growth. These are the factors which has slowed down the progress of South Asia in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality.
The present context of COVID-19 has further worsened the situation and has interrupted many existing supply chains. In such a context, e-commerce can provide unprecedented opportunities for women entrepreneurs to overcome those challenges and to explore the global and regional markets. However, to grasp these opportunities, some impediments – both at policy level as well as entrepreneurship need to be addressed. These include interalia bringing in regulatory reforms to improving business operation, creating awareness for changing the mindset, and upgrading the skills of entrepreneurs to use e-commerce as a tool to promote their business. EIF and UNESCAP are jointly organising this Forum to create awareness on the existing opportunities for promoting business through e-commerce.