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APEC forum adopts statement to enhance women’s empowerment

Update: September, 30/2017 - 09:00
Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Đào Ngọc Dung (standing) gives a speech to close the 2017 APEC Women and the Economy Forum. — VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuấn
Viet Nam News

THỪA THIÊN – HUẾ — The 2017 APEC Women and the Economy Forum (WEF) issued a statement yesterday which aims to enhance women’s economic inclusion and empowerment. 

The statement, adopted by ministers and heads of delegations of APEC economies at the High Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy on the last day of the WEF, includes policy recommendations for the 21 APEC economies. 

They focus on promoting gender equality for sustainable, innovative and inclusive economic growth, enhancing the competitiveness and innovation of women-owned micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises and narrowing gender gaps in human resources development. 

The WEF statement is set to be submitted to APEC leaders at their meeting in Đà Nẵng city this November. 

At a press conference following the WEF’s closing on Friday, Việt Nam’s Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Đào Hồng Lan said forum delegates also agreed to implement the APEC Gender Inclusion Guidelines (GIGs), initiated by Việt Nam. 

Ministers and heads of delegations affirmed that the GIGs are an important tool to carry out gender equality programmes and policies in APEC. They pledged to work with other APEC forums to ensure gender inclusion is important to policy makers and those who implement policies. 

The WEF also approved the Eligibility Criteria and Guidelines for Accessing the Women and the Economy Sub-Fund. The sub-fund is scheduled to become operational in 2018, promising to bring more opportunities and resources for economies that implement women’s empowerment projects. 

Deputy Minister Lan said the four-day forum attracted about 700 delegates from 19 of the 21 APEC economies. They included ministers, leaders of government agencies and international organisations, CEOs of big businesses from APEC and non-APEC regions, along with experts and scholars. 

The WEF was among a series of APEC events throughout 2017, hosted by Việt Nam. Asia Pacific’s premier economic forum has 21 member economies that account for 39 per cent of the world population, 57 per cent of global GDP and 47 per cent of global trade.

Experts encourage tapping on women potential

On Friday, experts at a forum held in Huế to connect women-owned businesses encouraged economic sectors, especially banking, to target women’s untapped potential.

Gretta Schettler, COO of WEConnect International, said women-owned businesses have untapped potential for the banking sector to help women grow their own businesses.

According to a report released by World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), only 37 per cent of women-owned small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in Việt Nam have accessed bank loans in the last two years, 10 per cent less than businesses owned by men.

Joana Romero, a SME and Gender Finance Specialist of IFC said banks across the world are focusing more on women and more women are using credit cards or accessing loans to set up businesses.

Women borrowed capital primarily for investment, purchase and accessing new markets, Romero said. She added that 94 per cent of Vietnamese female entrepreneurs started their first businesses close to the age of 40.

The report showed an increasing number of women setting up businesses, with about 21 per cent of enterprises, 95,906, in Việt Nam owned by women. But most of them are micro-sized enterprises.

The forum noted the regional senior director of Southeast Asia Walmart Global Sourcing, Jocelyn Tran, as an activator that helps involve more women in the region in business.

“At my first arrival in a country, I set up network with agencies to make them understand the global market from Walmart and then sought women-owned businesses for our supply chain,” Tran said.

Tran said Walmart is an international market of 260 million customers and she targeted female products for women customers.

She added that she prioritised working with women-owned businesses and she learned to understand cultural, social and legal challenges for women in running the businesses involved in her supply chain.

Tran also spent time with each women-owned business and traveling to them to build relationships and make commitments.

Forum participants summed up the recommendations to tap the huge potential of women in Southeast Asia for economic growth, including the recognition women-owned businesses as a strategic segment and raising awareness of banks of the opportunities from women SMEs.

The forum was a sideline event of APEC Women and Economy Forum in Huế. — VNS

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