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Enhancing Women’s Economic Empowerment in Asia-Pacific


Women’s economic empowerment is fundamental to realising women’s rights and achieving gender equality. Despite women's rising levels of education and the priority given to women’s economic empowerment in development agendas, women’s labour force participation remains relatively low -with wide intra-regional differences- in Asia and the Pacific.  Moreover, women continue to be significantly underrepresented in high-paid and high-level managerial positions in most sectors. 

Gender-based inequalities in the labour market lead not only to lower productivity and income levels but also hinder economic development. Although the number of women entrepreneurs is increasing, they often face more challenges and barriers compared to their male counterparts. Improving the conditions for women’s entrepreneurship not only enables women to empower themselves but also contributes to inclusive and sustainable development through creating jobs, eradicating poverty and contributing to socio-economic growth.


Our Activities


The Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme aims to foster women’s economic empowerment, reduce poverty, and increase gender equality by supporting women’s entrepreneurship in selected countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

The programme works to create an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs to effectively start up and/or expand their businesses. It takes a facilitative approach to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem by i) enhancing women entrepreneurs' access and use of financial services, ii) strengthening women entrepreneurs' use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and digital solutions to support their businesses, and iii) promoting policy and governance initiatives.

The programme undertakes on-the-ground implementation activities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Samoa and Viet Nam with policy and advocacy support across South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific. To date, ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme has empowered over 200,000 women entrepreneurs and unlocked nearly USD 90 million in capital. 

© iFarmer

Innovative Financing

Women Entrepreneurs with their Products. Photo credit: Samoa ObserverCaption


The Innovative Financing workstream undertakes its activities through partnerships aimed at leveraging public and private capital to pilot, test and scale financing models that support women entrepreneurs. Currently, three key financing mechanisms are being undertaken. These include a FinTech innovation fund, a women’s livelihood bond and an impact investment fund. 

The use of multiple affordable, regulated and tailored financial services enables the programme to address the financial access and usage challenges of women entrepreneurs from start-up to growth-stage businesses.

The Innovative Finance workstream also engages and collaborates with policymakers and regulators to support the creation of an enabling policy and regulatory financial ecosystem for women entrepreneurs.

Progress Update

Policy and Governance Environment

CWE Meeting in Nepal. Photo Credits: United Nations ESCAP 0401_NPLCaption

The Policy and Governance workstream leverages its expertise in Gender and Social Development to strengthen policy and enable an environment to support women entrepreneurs.

The workstream has five key elements:

iconPolicies, Laws and Processes: Reviewing national small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) policies, laws and legislations for integrating targeted provisions for woman-owned businesses.

iconResearch, Evidence and Impact Measurement: Developing evidence and capacity amongst Government partners to address gaps and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, as well as monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks to measure the impact of policy reforms.

iconKnowledge and Networking Hubs: Improving access to information and services for women entrepreneurs through digital one-stop hubs and portals to facilitate business enlisting, access to schemes and e-learning services.

iconGovernance Mechanisms: Enabling multi-stakeholder cooperation on women's entrepreneurship which includes national advisory committees comprising policymakers, the private sector, industry experts and women entrepreneurs.

iconRegional Impact: Advocacy and regional partnerships (for example, with ASEAN) to strengthen institutional capacities and cooperation for supporting women entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Progress Update

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Business Skills

CWE ICT Workshop. Photo Credit: UNESCAPCaption


The ICT and Business Skills Component aims to provide capacity-building opportunities for women entrepreneurs and policymakers to leverage digital technologies for women’s entrepreneurship. To this end, the Women Entrepreneur Track has been created to promote training activities and workshops for women entrepreneurs on ICT for financial management,    e-commerce and digital marketing. This is complemented by a Policymaker Track to enhance the capacities of civil servants in implementing ICT-enabled policies and programmes for women entrepreneurs.

Progress Update

Latest News

Launch of the Toolkit on Strengthening Women’s Entrepreneurship in National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Policies and Action Plans

Meeting Poster
Latest Events

Regional Dialogue on Enabling Women's Entrepreneurship through Smart Legislative and Policy Reforms