Image: UNDP Uzbekistan

Assalomu alaykum, muhtarama Narbaeva khonim,

Dear colleagues, partners and friends!

On behalf of UNDP, I express my gratitude to you, Madam Narbaeva, for initiating the series of B2B meetings. Warm greetings to all other members of the Caucus.

It is great to be part of this meeting of women entrepreneurs from CA, to see so many women entrepreneurs! My deepest appreciation for your contribution, energy and passion to the economic development of CA.

Importance of the meeting: Gender gap in business

Our focus today - on women’s economic empowerment in business could not be timelier. In recent decades, the gender gaps in education, health, and life expectancy in CA has been narrowing. But the economic gap remains significant and has even widened due to COVID-19.

When comparing men and women in the business world, inequalities are visible. For example, according to the World Economic Forum, for every dollar a man gets paid, a woman only gets paid on average 54 cents.

Female-founded startups tend to perform better than all-male ones. However, women are severely underestimated by investors.

Moreover, in Central Asia, as elsewhere, the pandemic has had disproportionate impact on women in business. As UNDP study of the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic in CA pointed, a shocking 68% of women-run enterprises suspended activities because of COVID-19, versus 56% for businesses owned by men. With less access to assets, property, and financial services, women are struggling more to recover their enterprises.

The pandemic has thus made the need to support women entrepreneurship more urgent than ever.

Priorities on women’s economic empowerment

3 broad priorities UNDP considers important in terms of women’s economic empowerment and women’s entrepreneurship:

First, along with mainstreaming entrepreneurship support such as skills building, micro-credit, income-generating activities, we need to combat social norms, ensure women’s access to and control over economic assets and resources, services, and remove legal and regulatory barriers that constrain women from full and free participation in the economy.

Second, reducing and redistributing women’s unpaid care burden, by investing in quality social care services, is fundamental to gender equality in the labour market and in business sector in particular. This is a critical priority in Central Asia, where women aged 20 to 34 are most likely to leave formal employment to care for children.

Third, we need to close the gender gap in science and technology.  A crucial pathway to women economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, today and in the future world of work, is in the STEM. We must tackle discriminatory stereotypes that deny women and girls a chance to realize their potential – depriving the world of the talent and innovation of half the population.

 

B2B initiative

With this in mind, today’s meeting is opportunity to discuss the challenges you face in your sectors, learn from each other, find solutions that can be used in CA and hopefully set lasting cooperation among your businesses.

There is need to convince ourselves that intensive interaction among business communities of CA countries promises to boost local, national and regional economic growth.

This is second B2B meeting in a series of the meetings planned within the Women Leaders Caucus Initiative. Last week, the Kyrgyz-Uzbek women entrepreneurship business forum took place in Bishkek. It was rather productive: 20 agreements and memoranda were signed for a total amount of more than $ 21 million, about trade in paints and varnishes, machinery, fruits and vegetables, textile products, elevators and textile products, along with cooperation in education and tourism.

Conclusion

Let me conclude by saying that the world needs women's skills, talents, innovation, perspectives and leadership to solve its biggest challenges – from tackling climate change to rebuilding economies.

There is no doubt that women’s equality and full participation in economic life and particularly in business is in everyone’s interest.

UNDP will continue working with our partners to ensure that women are not left behind. We will continue to bring to light the superb talents of women of the region – to keep making a difference.

I thank again the organizers, including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan and its counterparts in the neighboring countries, and wish you every success.

E’tiboringiz uchun katta rahmat.

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