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Women entrepreneurs connect across ASEAN

In Business
Feb 24, 2022

Networking event helps women entrepreneurs forge business relationships and draw strength and inspiration from their peers across ASEAN.

BANGKOK, Thailand (ILO news) - Hundreds of women entrepreneurs from across ASEAN member states have come together in a regional networking event “Power of WE: Connecting Across ASEAN”, organized to foster collaboration and enable the sharing of information, knowledge, and experiences across country borders.

A virtual regional networking event for women entrepreneurs operating small businesses in the ASEAN region took place today (February 24) organised by the International Labour Organization’s Rebuilding Better Project , supported by J.P. Morgan, in collaboration with the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) and the Philippine Women's Economic Network (PhilWEN).

The event brought together women entrepreneurs in the ASEAN region to enable them to forge new business connections as well as to motivate and inspire them to stay resilient during and after the COVID-19 crisis. “This event makes us feel like we are not alone”, said one of the women entrepreneurs at the end of the event referring to the situation they are finding themselves in during the COVID-19 crisis.

During the session, more than 150 women entrepreneurs participated in discussions focused on priority themes and joined a speed networking session to connect with others. The event also helped raise awareness among women entrepreneurs about export opportunities and shared information about available support programmes.

Women entrepreneurs actively promoted their businesses in the chat and exchanged contact details with each other. Participants also provided guidance to each other on topics such as how to scale your business or how to get in touch with suppliers in other countries. During the speed networking segment, a participant exclaimed “This is not speed networking, this is power networking!”

Business networks have proven to be of key importance for women entrepreneurs – during a crisis as well as in ‘normal’ times – as they enable them to forge new business relationships, acquire new knowledge and information, find inspiration and motivation as well as help with decision-making. Networks also help stimulate innovation and creativity. A study  undertaken by the Rebuilding Better Project in 2021 stressed that women entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19 wanted to network with other peers, to get business exposure, attract partnerships and to be linked to new markets and suppliers. Networking events were also highlighted as particularly useful to identify new suppliers, customers as well as to identify new market opportunities as women entrepreneurs could e.g. co-market each other’s brands and products.

“This collaboration is a great opportunity for women entrepreneurs in ASEAN to showcase unity in diversity and foster the spirit of resilience. We can be stronger and successful together,” said Madame Nita Yudi, Chairperson of AWEN.

“We are excited to partner with AWEN and PhilWEN on this initiative that enables women entrepreneurs in the ASEAN region to forge new business connections. While women entrepreneurs have been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 crisis, we hope that the session will inspire them to focus on more long-term plans and possibly assist in their expansion across country borders, and that it will result in more opportunities for women entrepreneurs to harness the ASEAN market,” said Graeme Buckley, Director of the ILO Decent Work Technical Support Team for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR.

“This is something we say time and time again: the COVID19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities that put women at a disadvantage. As we navigate the new normal and eventually transition into recovery, addressing the nuanced needs and concerns of women entrepreneurs with a gender lens will require a multisectoral effort. This collaborative event, which will provide support and resources to women entrepreneurs in ASEAN is exactly the significant step we need to take towards inclusive recovery,” said Ma. Aurora “Boots” D. Geotina-Garcia, Founding Chairperson and President of PhilWEN.

About the International Labour Organization (ILO)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognised human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that social justice is essential to universal lasting peace. As the only tripartite U.N. agency, the ILO brings together governments, employers and workers representatives of 187 member States to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

The ILO’s Rebuilding Better: Fostering Business Resilience Post-COVID-19 project, funded by J.P. Morgan, is supporting women-owned small businesses in Thailand, Malaysia, and Philippines to recover from COVID-19 related difficulties and adopt more sustainable and resilient business models. Delivering interventions to improve women entrepreneurs’ access to training, finance, market and networks, the project incorporates digitalization as a key theme.

About the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN)

ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Network (AWEN) is a regional network of national women entrepreneurs’ associations/organizations; enterprises and/or other economic entities owned or managed by women in all economic sectors in the ASEAN region. AWEN’s mission is to improve the capacity of ASEAN women entrepreneurs and boost ASEAN women entrepreneurs’ development and networking through the Network’s activities.

About the Philippine Women's Economic Network (PhilWEN)

The Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN) is a consortium of six women’s groups, representing a broad section of industries where women participate: business, professionals (middle management, CEOs, Board Directors), and entrepreneurs (start-ups, SMEs, established businesses). PhilWEN advocates the economic empowerment of women through initiatives that encompass a wide age and socioeconomic reach.

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