Funded by the U.S. Department of States Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA), WEConnect International is implementing a 3-year regional project on Women’s Empowerment through Economic Inclusion. The project is being implemented in Sri Lanka, India, Maldives and Bangladesh.
The primary goal of the pilot project is to promote sustainable development and gender equality by increasing women’s economic participation, with a focus on connecting at least 300 women-led SMEs to training, finance, or corporate supply chains over three years. The project goal will be achieved through three focus areas:
1. Facilitating private sector-led growth
2. Increasing women’s economic empowerment
3. Strengthening regional cooperation
This project will contribute to the main SCA strategic objectives through the following project level objectives:
that women entrepreneurs leading women-owned businesses (with a focus on SMEs or high potential smaller businesses) need to sustain and grow their businesses, including by entering and succeeding in local and global value chains.
by networking them with public and private partners able to work towards business environment reforms, provide access to finance, and increase access to new corporate, government and multilateral procurement markets and other resources.
and virtual conference covering the southern coastal states of South Asia.
Conducted survey and research to map the economic ecosystem and identify market linkages, procurement related challenges of corporations and women-owned businesses(WOBs) in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. The ecosystem research included a survey of 399 WOBs (suppliers) and 119 corporate buyers, a literature review and focus group discussions with key stakeholders.
Hosted a virtual stakeholders roundtable on Supplier Diversity and Inclusion in Sri Lanka on June 17th, 2021, to share the findings from the ecosystem research and to initiate a dialog among corporations on the benefits of Suppler Diversity and Inclusion. This was the first ever Supplier Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable held in Sri Lanka and 39 participants from 27 large corporations along with 16 other stakeholders attended.
Developed four training curriculums to build the capacity of women business owners and improve their business readiness to do business with large corporations. Training curriculum topics included Business Strategic Planning, Marketing and Sales, Financial Planning and Digital Marketing and Social Media.
Trained 45 women business owners across South Asia on Business Strategic Planning.
Signed partnership MoUs with Women’s Business Associations and Business Chambers in the project implementing countries to help build the ecosystem for gender-inclusive sourcing.
* Project Progress: September 2020 – September 2021 (Year in Review)
This report shares the impact of the Women’s Empowerment though Economic Inclusion Project after 2 years of project implementation on the ground. The project has contributed significantly to improving the capacity of women-owned businesses in project-focused countries (India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives) while continuing to educate large corporations on the business case of gender-inclusive sourcing. Thousands of business connections were made between women-owned businesses and corporations that have started to yield the results of driving money into the hands of women-owned businesses. The report includes “Impact Stories,” capturing a glimpse of the impact of this project on women’s economic empowerment.
The Ecosystem Research Report conducted by WEConnect International provides an assessment of the current situation of women-owned businesses (WOBs) in Bangladesh, Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka. Intending to explain why so few WOBs win procurement contracts from corporate buyers, WEConnect International surveyed 399 women-owned, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and 199 large corporate buyers across a variety of industries. Supplemented by literature reviews and focus group discussions, the research explores the needs and constraints of WOBs, the attitudes, views, and policies of corporate buyers, current legal frameworks, and local market opportunities to understand ways in which better and more permanent linkages could be made between corporate buyers and WOBs across South Asia.
During the reporting period, WEConnect International signed partnership MoUs with Women’s Business Associations and Business Chambers in the countries to help build the ecosystem for gender-inclusive sourcing.
HEN India is a community of women entrepreneurs, who inspire, inform and support each other to create successful businesses along with balanced lives. HEN India has a reach of over 12,000 women across various social media platforms. HEN India 2.0 is an exclusive networking community platform for members. It brings all the offerings under one umbrella and provides a go to community for members. It offers four levels of networking—networking with peers, networking with mentors and experts, networking with products and networking with new markets.
AMCHAM is one of the most influential business chambers in Sri Lanka. It is recognized as the leading forum for facilitation and development of trade, investment and business relations between Sri Lanka and the United States. AMCHAM has over 350 members made up of top blue-chip organizations in the island, represented by their senior leadership/CxOs, and provides them with a multi-dimensional resource network which delivers information, tools and vital knowledge needed to succeed in bilateral business relations between the two nations through information share, LQAs, seminars, workshops, webinars, B2G and B2B networking and exclusive connect and advisory services of the Trade and Commercial sections of the Embassy of the United States in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
HATCH is the centre of gravity for all things startups. It is a coworking space for innovation, growth and collaboration in Colombo. With HATCH, ordinary people do extraordinary things together. HATCH envision an economy fueled by innovators reshaping the way they work and live. Hatch is determined to provide all the services people might need to innovate, grow and succeed. HATCH welcomes deep-thinkers, innovators and mischief-makers of all shapes and sizes to brush shoulders and inspire each other to stand tall together with the world at large. It builds a tribe of smart, sassy and fun entrepreneurs to take on the next big challenge and make Sri Lanka the hub of innovation in Asia.
The Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Sri Lanka (WCIC) was inaugurated in 1985 by a group of entrepreneurs with a visionary mindset. Each of them were already successful in their own business ventures, together with a few professionals they created an organization which has today, reached high standards. They envisaged that the organisation could be a pivotal force in leveraging women entrepreneurs into the mainstream of business activity in the country, encouraging greater economic contribution to the country from women. Today the WCIC is geared to take that path. The organization is steered with a clear vision, sharp mission, and a strategic plan which delivers on the identified expectations.
e-Commerce is an emerging sector in Bangladesh and already women are playing a very critical role in this sector. Majority of the online shoppers in Bangladesh are women. More than 10 thousand female entrepreneurs are selling a wide range of products and services through Facebook pages. Many female entrepreneurs are also selling products from their online stores. Women & e-commerce Forum (WE) addresses the needs of these female entrepreneurs. WE’s goal is to help the female e-Commerce entrepreneurs to sustain their businesses and empower them. WE Provide a platform where meaningful discussions can occur and an exchange of ideas can take place, equip entrepreneurs with the education to overcome challenges/obstacle by hosting relevant personal and professional development workshops, and nurture a tribe of entrepreneurs who can inspire generations of women in Bangladesh to build successful enterprises.
The Small & Medium Enterprise Foundation, widely known as SME Foundation, is a not for profit organization established by the Government of Bangladesh through Ministry of Industries as an apex institution for SME development in the country. The major activities of SME Foundation are implementation of SME Policy Strategies adopted by the Bangladesh Government, policy advocacy and intervention for the growth of SMEs, facilitating financial supports for SMEs, providing skill development and capacity building training, facilitating adaptation with appropriate technologies and access to ICT, providing business support services, etc. It is mentionable here that the Foundation is working for the development of enterprises and entrepreneurs who belong to micro, small and medium categories as per Industrial Policy 2016. Besides the general supports to the development of SMEs and entrepreneurs the Foundation is providing diversified supports to the existing and potential women entrepreneurs in order to position them into the mainstream business community.
Chittagong Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CWCCI) is one of the leading Chambers involved in economic empowerment of women in Bangladesh. It was formed by a group of innovative women entrepreneurs in 2003. Currently chamber is working as common platform for Women Entrepreneurs and Business Women in Chittagong region. The main aim of CWCCI is to protect, develop, support & promote all measures towards ensuring a favorable environment for the business enterprises owned by women. The member of the Chamber include individual enterprises, co-operatives, private companies, NGOs and institutions either owned or operated by women, working for entrepreneurship development amongst women. The objective is to increase the number of women who are able to transform their talent potentiality into reality. CWCCI also provides the overall technological and business solutions for sustainability of women entrepreneurship.
SheUnite is a member’s only community and world’s first digital platform for Women Entrepreneurs. It’s a global community of like-minded female entrepreneurs and business owners who love to support, encourage and inspire.
A perfect go-to platform for women entrepreneurs and women from corporate where one can connect to Engage, Experience & Evolve along with other females to create a successful business and balance life. A business networking community for women where connections are nurtured and where business contacts are exchanges not cards. A Community where fellow entrepreneurs share strategies and support each other in Scaling Up.
IDF (India Diversity Forum)-India
India Diversity Forum is an independent industry body formed to create awareness and bring all issues about diversity, and hence inclusion, in Indian companies in all areas around us in general, and at the workplaces in particular, on one platform. It will also bring single minded focus to the discussion around diversity and inclusion in India at a company, government and national level. India Diversity Forum is a company-agnostic and industry-agnostic forum that strives to make a difference at workplaces across the nation by imbibing the best practices in diversity and sharing them. India Diversity Forum aims to increase employee engagement and confidence, help reduce conflict at workplaces and make the workplaces more humane and happy places.
Established in 1983, FICCI Ladies Organisation, currently led by Ms. Jahnabi Phookan, National President FLO, 20-21, is an all India forum for women with headquarters in New Delhi. The organization has 16 chapters set-up across India, representing over 6800 women entrepreneurs and professionals. With over 36 years of experience, FLO has been promoting entrepreneurship and professional excellence in women through various workshops, seminars, conferences, talks, training and capacity building programs, etc. to encourage and facilitate inclusion of women’s talents, skills, experience, and energies across all sectors and levels of economic activity.
ASCP is India’s leading association for supply chain professionals, with a vision to Develop trained and competent supply-chain professionals as value-based leaders with a global mindset and a blend of efficiency and collaboration with the commitment to deliver and inculcate professional discipline, expertise, and sound ethical practices. It aims to articulate the genuine needs and concerns of supply chain professionals in the country, encourage and promote interactions among members, stimulate and enable innovative practices, create skilled manpower and opportunities to generate employment, facilitate and sponsor events and take up policy issues and legislation needed for the sector, ensuring harmonious growth of all stakeholders, focusing on the best industry solutions and influencing sound practices and all-round industry engagement by creating a deep knowledge base and proactive sectoral solutions.
The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the U.S. State Department partnered to fund the 2021 Women’s Business Resiliency Webinar, “Global Symposium: Rewriting Business Strategies for the Global Pandemic,” in collaboration with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). The virtual Global Symposium was an action packed two day online event for women-owned businesses seeking strategies for accessing new market opportunities, with an emphasis on building their resiliency in the face of a global pandemic.
The 77 women business owners from the IORA member states participated in the event on the 8th and 9th of September 2021 and were based in: Australia, Bangladesh, the Comoros, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The primary objective of the Global Symposium was to advance gender inclusive sourcing by building the business capabilities of growth-oriented women-owned businesses in IORA member states and connecting them to buyers that can share their needs.
The secondary objectives included: