Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship

Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem


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.

By 2023:

  • 20,000 women entrepreneurs directly impacted
  • 500,000 people indirectly impacted
  • 6 enabling policies which support women entrepreneurs
  • 50 policy makers and regulators actively engaged
  • 10 innovative financing solutions brought to market


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.

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.

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. To date the programme has successfully supported the revision of Small and Medium Enterprise Policies to include special provisions for women owned and led enterprises.
| Policy recommendations for supporting women owned micro small medium enterprises affected by COVID-19 pandemic in Cambodia |

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.

Click here for details of the winners from the first round of the Women MSME FinTech Innovation Fund.

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.

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

For enquiries, please contact:
Ms. Sudha Gooty, Programme Manager, Social Development Division, sudha.gooty@un.org
Ms. Deanna Morris, Programme Management Officer, Trade Investment and Innovation Division, morrisd@un.org
Mr. Robert De Jesus, Programme Officer, Asian and Pacific Training Centre for ICT for Development (APCICT), dejesus3@un.org

| Download flyer | Read more about ESCAP’s work on gender equality | Read more about Women's Entrepreneurship in ASEAN |