Women’s Empowerment
through Economic
Inclusion Project

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:

Enhance the skills and abilities

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.

Help sustain and grow women-led SMEs

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.

Establish a virtual “Women’s Business Forum” platform

and virtual conference covering the southern coastal states of South Asia.

* Project Progress: September 2020 – September 2021 (Year in Review)

Ecosystem Research Report

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.

Read the full report

Strategic Partners

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.

Her Entrepreneurial Network (HEN) India

www.henindia.comHEN 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. 

More information

The American Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka (AMCHAM)

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. 

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HATCH Works – Sri Lanka

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.

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Indian Ocean Rim Association Women’s Economic Symposium

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: