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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

13 July 2022


Ms. Sue Szabo, Director General of the Innovative and Climate Finance Bureau, Global Affairs Canada,

Distinguished participants and colleagues,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening! It is indeed my pleasure to deliver the opening remarks at this side event at HLPF.

I thank you all for participating in this very important exchange.

Let me, first of all, recognize the Government of Canada that has shown immense commitment in strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women in Asia and the Pacific through its support of ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women Entrepreneurs (CWE) programme. 

The programme which started in 2018, has reached over 45,000 women with innovative finance, policies and digital skills and mobilized almost 65 million dollars in capital toward supporting women entrepreneurs across Asia and the Pacific.

For these results, we thank Global Affairs Canada for their commitment,  support and dedication to our shared goal of leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs.

Across the spectrum of SDGs, women – and specifically women entrepreneurs - play a very critical and strategic role. An equitable post-pandemic economic framework and recovery for sure must have women at the center. Women led MSME's have provided the much needed lifeline for families that have been severely impacted by the fallout from the pandemic.

Among the many barriers that have compounded the challenges of doing business for women entrepreneurs is access to capital.

For geographic, capacity, or cultural reasons or combination. Actually, of all these reasons,women entrepreneurs lack access to the drivers for growth in their own businesses. They may lack collateral directly or a data trail that supports direct lending.

Evidence has also shown that laws, regulations and policies continue to pose barriers for women entrepreneurs to start and manage their businesses, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2022 World Bank Women, Business and the Law survey, which looks at laws and regulations under eight indicators relating to women’s economic inclusion, found that a typical woman in East Asia and the Pacific has just under three-quarters of the rights of men in the areas measured.

Evidence also suggests that a more equal legal environment is associated with a higher share of female entrepreneurs.

Under the CWE programme, specific provisions for women entrepreneurs have been incorporated into the policies and laws of five partner countries. For example, in Viet Nam, the SME law was re-evaluated and, based on the recommendations, a new Decree with targeted support measures for women-led SMEs was developed in partnership with the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

The programme has also generated and supported policymakers to address the impact of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs. For example, access to information emerged as a key challenge. To address this challenge, the CWE programme established a One-Stop Hubs in Viet Nam, are establishing a similar hub in Bangladesh.

Each country, sector, size and scope of business demands an equally diverse set of solutions for these challenges, as is well-evidenced in the work of CWE.

Across several countries, the CWE programme has invested in a Women’s Livelihood Bond – a first-of-its-kind impact bond focused exclusively on women, a Challenge fund to identify early-stage start-ups with a potential for impact, a guarantee fund for women-led entrepreneurs in the “missing middle” – too large for microfinance, and too small for commercial finance, in addition to a number of research areas which examine barriers, solutions to innovative financing for women entrepreneurs.

We have also been working closely with governments and training providers to build the capacities of women entrepreneurs to use e-commerce platforms and digital devices – tools that have become indispensable during the pandemic - to manage and grow their businesses.

The HLPF and associated side events such as this one contributes greatly to our collective knowledge. Through sharing knowledge and devoting “think space” to initiatives, including those we are discussing today on women’s economic empowerment, we can understand the nuances, explore examples, analyze and come up with effective and innovative solutions. 

Let us enter into this conversation with an eye to bettering our collaboration and cooperation and humbly learn from the successes and challenges faced by all countries.

Thank you very much.

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