Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship

Women’s entrepreneurship is a key pathway to advance women’s economic participation with positive ripple effects on decent employment, poverty eradication and economic growth. Indeed, in Asia and the Pacific, entrepreneurship is one of the main pathways for women’s economic empowerment and equality, which can in turn have a ‘multiplier effect’ on family well-being, poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth. Thus, creating enabling entrepreneurial ecosystems where women can freely participate to their full capacity can yield expansive socio-economic gains stretching from building better livelihoods at the household level, to thriving communities, inclusive societies and progressive economies.

However, women entrepreneurs face a number of barriers or disadvantages which hold them back from achieving their full potential. Among these, research consistently points to their limited access to finance. Access to finance is the biggest obstacle for women-owned small and medium enterprises, with 69 per cent underserved by financial institutions in developing countries. Innovative technology could be deployed to reduce gender barriers and promote digital inclusion, especially with respect to women’s access to a wide range of services and economic opportunities.

ESCAP actively supports its member States in efforts to enhance women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship as a strategy for poverty reduction, social wellbeing and sustainable economic growth, in fulfillment of SDG 5 on Gender Equality and multiple related goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

ESCAP’s new regional initiative on ’Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship’ deploys a multi-pronged approach, including an enabling environment for women to build and grow their businesses, improved access to financial services and capital, as well as increased use of ICT tools and innovative technology in their business operations. Funded by the Government of Canada, this regional initiative brings together Governments, civil society organizations, the private sector and development partners to galvanize support for scaling up investments toward closing gender gaps in economic participation, and unleashing women’s creative potential.

The project aims to strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems that foster women’s entrepreneurship, enhance women entrepreneurs’ access to capital through innovative financing mechanisms, and increase women entrepreneurs’ use of ICT through relevant training and tools. These results are envisaged to be achieved through the following project components:

  • Gender-responsive entrepreneurial ecosystem capacity development: focusing on policy development and improving legal/regulatory frameworks, and other barriers that discourage women-owned enterprises.
  • Innovative financing mechanisms: mobilizing capital by developing innovative financing instruments to crowd in public and private funding, and supporting piloting of innovative digital or FinTech solutions for MSMEs by piloting innovative digital solutions to improve the operational efficiency of and/or increase access to finance for women-owned, managed or led MSMEs.

    A Women Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Fintech Innovation Fund has been launched to support companies to pilot innovative digital and financial solutions that improve access to finance and/or enhance operational efficiency of women-led MSMEs. It will prove successful applicants with technical assistance, mentorship and early stage co-funding to pilot and upscale their solutions. For more info:

  • Women ICT Frontier Initiative: strengthening capacity of government leaders and policy makers to create an enabling environment for ICT-empowered women entrepreneurs, and enhanced capacity of women entrepreneurs to utilize ICT tools in support of their businesses.

The project will be formally launched in its six target countries over the coming months:

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Click here to read more about ESCAP’s work on gender equality.