UN Women China and the All-China Women’s Federation, Joint Efforts on Empowering Women-led SMEs in the Context of COVID-19 Recovery
Beijing, China — The brunt of the pandemic has been borne by women and girls. Emerging evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded existing vulnerabilities faced by women and girls and threatened to further widen gender and socioeconomic inequalities. Yet, during this difficult time, women around the world have exhibited remarkable resilience in contributing to the response effort as well as economic recovery.
Responding to this issue, UN Women China and the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) jointly organised an event—Building Back Better for a Sustainable Future: Symposium on Empowering Women-Led SMEs in the Context of COVID-19 Recovery, on 10 May in Beijing.
The symposium convened a wide range of stakeholders, including high-level government officials from Asia and Africa countries and United Nations, policy makers, practitioners and experts, to take stock the impact of COVID-19 on women-led SMEs around the world, and explore good practices as well as lessons learned from country experiences that are replicable and could be scaled up. The symposium has brought over 80 participants online.
At the opening, Ms. Smriti Aryal, Country Representative of UN Women China mentioned in her opening speech, “Intentional deliberate focused approach is needed to empower and support women-led SMEs in COVID-19 recovery and building back a more resilient enterprise and industries. Future emergencies including pandemics can’t be ruled out again. Hence, building a strong preparedness into the development and sustainability of enterprise is extremely important.”
Ms. Huang Xiaowei, Vice President and First Member of the Secretariat of the All-China Women’s Federation, Vice Chairperson of the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council of China, pointed out that “In the context of COVID-19, countries need to take concrete and effective actions to support women's entrepreneurship, innovation and participation in high-quality development, deepen international exchanges and cooperation, and build together a better world of gender equality and inclusive development.”
Mr. Zhang Yi, Deputy Director-General, China International Centre for Economic and Technology Exchange, Ministry of Commerce, said that “we hope to continue to work with all parties to make new and greater
contributions to women’s participation in fighting against COVID-19, economic and social development and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
At the round table sessions, H.E. Mr. Siyabonga C. Cwele, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, emphasized that “South Africa joined Generation Equality…setting aside 40 percent of public procurement for women-owned businesses…. [because] …South Africa seeks to build a country in which women's right to dignity, security, safety, and protection and through the intersectional approach from government, civil society, and the private sector, we hope to create meaningful change.”
H.E. Mr. James Kimonyo, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda pointed out that "Whether it is building afresh or building back better we need strong political will, progressive laws and policies that undergird Gender Equality and Women empowerment. In response to adverse effects of COVID-19 the Government of Rwanda developed Economic Recovery Program and created Economic Recovery Fund. A minimum of 30 per cent of the fund is dedicated for Women –led SMEs."
Ms. Lenny N. Rosalin, Deputy Minister for Gender Equality, Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection of the Republic of Indonesia emphasized that “As the world transitions to a digital economy, doing business over the internet is unavoidable. Data shows that 54 per cent of our women-owned micro businesses use the internet, compared to 39 per cent of men-owned micro businesses. We still need to ensure they have access and knowledge in the factors that support economic empowerment, including digital and financial literacy.”
Mr. Stephen Kargbo, Country Representative of UNIDO China highlighted that “The costs of gender inequality are far greater than we thought. In today's industrialized world, we need to strive for greater emphasis on gender equality in policy adjustments.”
The symposium hosted by Ms. Lin Yi, Member of Party Group of the All-China Women's Federation. Ms. Jade Ai-wah Cochran, Programme Manager from UN Women headquarter shared the impacts of COVID-19 on women-led SMEs globally. China Centre for Promotion of SME Development introduced the Ready for Risk: A Business Continuity Management Toolkit for Women SME Entrepreneurs, developed in collaboration with UN Women China to empower women-led SMEs globally.
In order to help women recover from the impact of COVID-19, UN Women and the All-China Women's Federation have been working together to initiate the “Supporting Women to Recover from Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19 Project" in Tianjin and Wuhan since May 2021. At the symposium, experts from the China Association of Women Entrepreneurs, Hubei Women’s Federation, Tianjin Women’s Federation, Wuhan Women’s Federation, Entrepreneurial Training Camp of Peking University, gathered to examine the barriers and measures to unlock women’s full entrepreneurship potential, and highlight good practices on strengthening the emergency response and preparedness of women SMEs.
Rockcheck Puji Foundation, Hubei Women's Federation, Wuhan Women's Federation and Tianjin Women's Federation supported the symposium.
About the co-organizers
UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. Working in China since 1998, UN Women provides technical and financial assistance to innovative programmes and strategies for gender equality and women's empowerment. UN Women’s China Office in Beijing supports and carries out work on (i) enhancing women's economic empowerment; (ii) providing support for advancing normative agenda on gender equality and women’s empowerment, particularly to address gender-based violence and discrimination; and (iii) ) innovative partnerships to address gender issues in China and bring good practices from China to other countries globally. In addition to the above, UN Women also actively participates and contributes to various UN inter-agency processes and collaborates with UN organizations around specific programme areas.
All-China Women’s Federation
The All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), founded in April 1949, is a people's organization that unites women of all ethnic groups and from all walks of life in China, and strives for their further emancipation and development. As a people's organization under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), it serves as a bridge linking the party and the government with women and as an important social pillar of the state power. Its fundamental tasks are to establish links with and serve women, while its main responsibilities are to represent and safeguard women's rights and interests, and to promote gender equality and women's all-round development.
Communications Consultant, UN Women China Office
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