Today, ESCAP, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Government of Canada launched the Policymakers’ Toolkit “Strengthening Women's Entrepreneurship in National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Policies and Action Plans”.
Empowering women - especially women entrepreneurs running micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) - is a prerequisite for achieving the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - and its promise of 'leaving no one behind'. In recognition thereof, MSME agencies are championing women's entrepreneurship by taking concrete steps towards improving the policy ecosystem for women-led businesses in ASEAN.
The Toolkit - developed by ESCAP in close collaboration with all 10 ASEAN Members States - has been designed as a practical tool to enable policymakers involved in promoting women entrepreneurship, especially the MSME development agencies, assess gaps, take stock of opportunities and design gender-focused interventions through national policies to advance women’s entrepreneurship in the ASEAN region.
“We are convinced that women-led businesses can be a vital engine for our region’s inclusive, resilient, and sustainable development, and have been working on removing the institutional, financial, and capacity hurdles that many of these businesses still face. The Toolkit we are launching brings together what we have learnt from our interactions with dozens of Governments and thousands of entrepreneurs into an essential guidebook for the transformation of women-led business and in turn for the sustainable development of the ASEAN region”, said Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP.
“Ensuring women are economically empowered is not just for social equality purposes but a critical policy approach for ASEAN to forge innovative, inclusive and sustainable growth” said Satvinder Singh, Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Economic Community. He further added, “We are living in an age where technological advancements and social innovations have opened up new doors of opportunities for women to engage in income-generating activities – entrepreneurship being one of them.
“Canada values the partnership with ESCAP in the CWE (Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship) project to support the production of this Toolkit in collaboration with the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSMEs. Gender-responsive national policymaking means better design of policies and initiatives for MSMEs to stimulate large-scale economic productivity that creates jobs and improves household income,” said Vicky Singmin, Chargé d’affaires, Mission of Canada to ASEAN. “The Toolkit can also be used to establish frameworks for advancing the inclusion of gender provisions in Free Trade Agreements in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The Toolkit is a Priority Economic Deliverable under Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2022 and was endorsed by the ASEAN Economic Ministers at their 54th Meeting in September 2022, subsequently acknowledged at the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits in November 2022. It is an initiative spearheaded by the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, supported by ESCAP, and funded by the Government of Canada under the Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme.