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The Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme aims to advance women entrepreneurship and market participation in the Asia-Pacific region, resulting in poverty reduction, improved livelihoods and economic growth. The programme works to create an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs to effectively start-up and/or expand their businesses. The programme takes a facilitative approach to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem, by enhancing women entrepreneurs’ access and use of financial services; strengthening women entrepreneurs’ use of ICT and digital solutions to support their business; and through policy and advocacy initiatives.

Creating an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem for economic transformation

Women entrepreneurs face complex barriers limiting their ability to start-up and grow their business. These barriers include access to finance and technology, low levels of financial and digital literacy, lack of opportunities for capacity development and discriminatory socio-cultural norms.

The Catalysing Women’s Entrepreneurship (CWE) programme takes a holistic approach to address these inter-connected and complex barriers. The programme works by influencing and working with an ecosystem of stakeholders, to create systemic changes, which break down the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs. CWE does this through three interconnected pillars of influence, which include: policy and advocacy, innovative financing, and ICT and business skills.

Where We Work:
  • The programme undertakes on-the-ground implementation activities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Samoa and Viet Nam.
  • With policy and advocacy support across South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific.

The project has been formally launched in its six target countries over 2019 and 2020:


Policy & Advocacy

The Policy and Advocacy workstream leverages its expertise in Gender and Social Development to generate evidence through in-depth national and sub-regional research, develops knowledge products and provides technical advisory support to advance successful policies and programmes for women entrepreneurs. Through systematic capacity development efforts, the programme assists policy makers and regulators to develop gender‐responsive policies and programmes.

Innovative Financing

The Innovative Financing workstream undertakes its activities through partnerships aimed at leveraging public and private capital to pilot, test and scale financing models that support women entrepreneurs. Currently, three key financing mechanisms are being undertaken these include: a FinTech innovation fund, a women’s livelihood bond and an impact investment fund. Utilizing multiple affordable, regulated and tailored financial services enables the programme to address the financial access and usage challenges of women entrepreneurs from start-up to growth stage businesses.

Find out more about business models supported under the Women MSME FinTech Innovation Fund.

The Innovative Finance workstream also engages and collaborates with policy makers and regulators to support the creation of an enabling policy and regulatory financial ecosystem for women entrepreneurs. 

Click here for our recent MSME Access to Financing reports:

ICT & Business Skills

The ICT and Business skills workstream provides a series of capacity building workshops for women entrepreneurs and policymakers. Employing ESCAP’s flagship programme of the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for ICT for Development (APCICT) called Women ICT Frontier Initiative (WIFI), an integrated entrepreneurship and ICT training programme, our aim is to strengthen the skills of women entrepreneurs to use digital tools or platforms in managing their businesses, alongside augmenting the capacities of policymakers to implement ICT-enabled policies and programmes to foster women’s entrepreneurship.