ASEAN women entrepreneurs to harness technology and innovation for growth
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n celebrating the women’s month in March, the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) and the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines (Womenbizph) brought together some 200 women leaders—many from ASEAN—for a two-day conference focusing on opportunities for women entrepreneurs in the Southeast Asian region to grow their business through the use of technology and innovation.

Held on 16-17 March 2017 at the Microtel Mall of Asia (MOA), Manila, the gathering is tagged “Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) Ahead in ASEAN” and was attended by a number of prominent business leaders from the region.

“Today’s discussion has reaffirmed how technology and innovation have been a game changer and a major disruptor on how we spend our daily lives. The Philippines is honored to host a forum such as this as it showcases the strength of ASEAN women: they are naturally resilient and skilled in adapting to the constant changes and trends brought by technology and innovation,” said Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado of the Department of Trade and Industry – Philippines.

Currently, AWEN has a network of almost a hundred organisations in the ten Member States of ASEAN as each country has a federation of women’s economic groups. AWEN was first chaired by Viet Nam until May 2016 when the leadership was turned over to the Philippines for the 2016-2018 period.

“We are happy to have hosted our ASEAN counterparts and we know this is just the start of many collaborations and partnerships given the access to technology and innovation afforded ASEAN women entrepreneurs. We hope to bring policy changes to make women in business even more competitive to empower them to realize their true potentials. We hope to remove the gender pay gap and propose policies for ease of doing business in ASEAN especially by women-owned enterprises,” says Pacita Juan, Chair of AWEN.

AWEN also collaborates with ASEAN Business Advisory Council to push towards the adoption of innovation and technology in business by and between ASEAN Member States.

The conference is part of the series of events for the ASEAN Women’s Business Conference 2017 with an overall theme: ASEAN Women: Leading Change. Its sub-themes namely: Women in ASEAN; Women in Trade and Business; and Women and Human Capital Development are aligned to the Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016-2025 or SAP SMED 2025 particularly under Strategic Goal E (Promotion of Entrepreneurship and Human Capital Development), in which the Philippines is one of the country champions.

The two-day conference was co-organised with the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) through its ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment (ACTI) Project, in cooperation with ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (ACCMSME). USAID-ACTI was instrumental in forming the network of ASEAN women entrepreneurs in Ha Noi, Viet Nam in 2014. USAID-ACTI has continued to support AWEN’s policy advocacy plans to empower women through business and enterprise and to improve access to finance and markets.

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