Economic Opportunity

Women hold critical yet often untapped potential to improve the economic prospects of communities and societies as a whole. When women are afforded equality of opportunity, a whole society will see economic advancement. The Economist estimates that over the past decade women’s work worldwide has done even more to fuel the global economy than the growth of China.

To increase growth of economic opportunities for women, UN Women supports:

  • Building Entrepreneurship. Promoting women's business ownership, microfinance efforts, and financial markets
  • Asset-Building. Financial empowerment through women’s land rights and property ownership
  • Financial Literacy. Improving women’s financial literacy and providing training
  • Better Jobs. Strategies to improve wages, working conditions, labour standards, benefits, and training opportunities for women workers

Reviving traditional textiles and economic opportunities for women
The Lao Women’s Economic Empowerment in Pakthaep project has helped revive traditional textiles skills in a Lao village, giving the women there the opportunity to earn from, and play an active role in managing a successful cottage industry.

The aim of the project is to control as much of the value chain as possible as a means of increasing direct revenue to the village. For example, by building their own silkworm houses rather than buying silkworm saplings, beneficiaries saved money and increased revenue. Because of the silkworm trade the number of families involved in the venture grew from seven to fourteen.

As women implement the project they are building their skills in every aspect of running their own cottage industry including making, marketing and selling products. As members of the Lao Handicrafts Association women have access to a wider network of handicrafts professionals, international networks and buyers.

Gender impacts of Viet Nam’s accession to the WTO

A report on the socio-economic impacts of Viet Nam’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on rural women was launched by the Institute for Labour Science and Social Affairs (ILSSA) in conjunction with the UN Country Team and the Australian Government’s Aid Program in Hanoi on 20 October, 2009. The report is the result of over a year’s work, led by ILSSA’s Research Center on Female Labour and Gender, with ongoing technical support and advice from UN Women.

According to the report:

  • There are enhanced employment and poverty reduction opportunities for rural women in Hai Duong and Dong Thap following the accession to WTO in 2007 and Viet Nam’s broader economic reforms. These benefits have been particularly strong for younger women working in the industrial sector and for middle aged women in small-scale trade and services.
  • Rural women’s opportunities often remain limited to low skilled jobs and they remain vulnerable to unregulated working conditions. Access to credit, education and vocational training is also limited, restricting rural women workers’ ability to access higher quality jobs. Groups of women already marginalized – such as young, single and disabled women – are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
  • Migrant women, especially younger migrant women, often experience poor living conditions and insecurity. The report further details the sobering reality that these women are exposed to risk of exploitation and fraudulent job brokers, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking.

The report includes qualitative interviews with about 250 women and contains several policy recommendations including:

  • strengthening education and training opportunities for rural women
  • raising awareness of risks and rights in relation to migration and employment
  • promoting a greater understanding of gender equity among local officials
  • increasing investment in job creation, self-employment and vocational training in rural areas

For further information, contact Huyen Nguyen, UN Women Viet Nam, huyen.nguyen[at]

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