Women in South Asia: Entrepreneurial skills & role towards Regional Integration, Paro, Bhutan

SAARC Chamber women Entrepreneur council under the aegis of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and in collaboration with Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs and in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation organized Roundtable Conference under the theme “ Women in South Asia: Entrepreneurial skills & role towards Regional Integration” at Paro Bhutan on 26th July 2015.

The seminar was designed to bring policy makers and women Entrepreneurs together and to deliberate upon the role of women Entrepreneurs in economic developments of South Asia and to learn that how more and more women can be engaged in entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region, enabling them to play important role towards regional integration in South Asia.


Group Photo of Women Entrepreneurs with participants at the conclusion of Seminar


Mrs. Shaista Pervaiz Malik, Chairperson, SCWEC, Ms. Qantara Khaleda Khan, Director of Multiplex Energy Ltd, Bangladesh, Ms. Damchae Dem, Vice Chairperson, SCWEC-Bhutan, Ms. Archana Garodia Gupta, President, FICCI Ladies Organization, India, Ms. Rita Bhandari, Vice Chairperson, SCWEC- Nepal and Dr. Maria Sultan, Director General, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, Pakistan addressed the seminar. During the seminar the speakers exchanged ideas to attune to the women entrepreneurs with new global changes, asserting the need for stepping forward in income generating activities. The speakers also highlighted the challenges and problems faced by the women in South Asian Region.

Ms. Qantara Khaleda Khan, Director of Multiplex Energy Ltd., Bangladesh, pointed out the ingredients required to address the challenges faced by women in South Asia, the important ones being change in attitude, building on the confidence, networking & and connectivity, and the access to adequate finance.

Ms. Damchae Dem, Vice-Chair, SCWEC-Bhutan revealed that though inequality in Bhutan is decreasing, a  huge disparity in gender existed in Bhutan as such men generally inherit property rights , which unfortunately shackle women, rendering them unproductive. He highlighted the role of BAOWE towards women economic empowerment through entrepreneurship, which has enabled hundreds of women to live meaningful life”.

Ms. Archana Garodia Gupta, President, FLO, India made a presentation on how FICCI Ladies Organization is working towards creating and empowering women entrepreneurs at all levels of society in India.

Ms.Rita Bhandari, Vice-Chair, SCWEC-Nepal was of the opinion that in the present scenario of Nepal it was women owned SMEs which sustained the economy but most were in the informal sector and need to be brought within the formal net. She pointed out that the constraints to the barriers will not end with just the policies, the policies has to be implemented too. She identified lack of information as one of the prime reason for many women not being able to take advantage of the opportunities.

Ms. Rita informed that Nepalese Government has now identified priority areas for improvement and focused on 19 products where17 of these products/ sectors have medium to high export potential and medium to high socio economic impact. Out of the 19 identified products more women were involved in 15 sectors, remaining 4 sectors namely labor, engineering services, hydro-electric and IT and BPO services , have less involved the of women. Nepalese Government has also given priority to buy made in Nepal products even if it is 15% more expensive than imported ones.

DR Maria Sultan, DG, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute in her address urged upon the on women empowerment through education and economic independence to encourage entrepreneurship in south Asia, which could pull the masses out of poverty, illiteracy, disease and crime. She appreciated the formation of SCWEC platform which is very much essential in the current globalized world. She added that women leaders should unleash entrepreneurial complementarities and forge ahead with economic partnerships between the neighboring nations to promote core values of unity and peace.

The seminar concluded with set of suggestions as follows:
  1. The speakers suggested introduction of a SAARC Business Model (LEST), which would provide a guideline for planning and growth of women entrepreneurs in the SAARC region.
  2. The platform received through SAARC CCI and SCWEC needs to be more enhanced, more inclusive and in partnership
  3. Lack of data base on the number of women in various sectors, has made it difficult for the government and other stakeholders to formulate a policy or talk about what women require. The speakers requested if SAARC CCI could support SCWEC in collection of these data.
  4. Establishment of SAARC Women’s Craft village in all the SAARC countries and promotion of already established Crafts village, for promoting women owned businesses in the region.


Glimpses
Women in South Asia: Entrepreneurial skills & role towards Regional Integration, Paro, Bhutan.
 

(L-R) Mrs. Damchae Dem, Vice Chairperson, SCWEC-Bhutan and President BAOWE, Ms. Rita Bhandari , Vice Chairperson (Nepal), Ms. Archana Garodia Gupta, President, FICCI Ladies Organisation,  India,  Mrs. Shaista Pervaiz Malik, Chairperson, SCWEC.

 
Ms. Rita Bhandari , Vice Chairperson (Nepal)

 
Dr. Maria Sultan, DG, South Asian Strategic Studies, Islamabad, Pakistan
 
Ms. Qantara Khaleda Khan, Director of Multiplex Energy Ltd , Bangladesh

 
Ms. Archana Garodia Gupta, President, FICCI Ladies Organization, India