Women Entrepreneurs Strengthen Market through ‘GREAT Women in ASEAN’ Brand

2015 05 04 ASEAN S&T Fellows

KUALA LUMPUR – Women entrepreneurs from around the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region this week launched the Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of women (GREAT Women) in ASEAN initiative to promote their products for greater sales and business growth that can employ more workers and improve livelihoods.

“The support, links and collaboration in the GREAT Women in ASEAN initiative makes the regional, integrated supply chain an answer to women entrepreneurs’ dreams to reach the global market,” said GREAT Women representative, Jeannie Javelosa of ECHOsi  Foundation, Philippines.

The GREAT Women in ASEAN initiative is helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) led by women to sell their products beyond their own countries’ borders and protect their products’ intellectual property rights from being illegally copied and sold. Initial product categories in the initiative include food items and spices, textiles and silk-based goods and high-fashion jewelry and accessories that are manufactured under fair labor and trade standards.

The GREAT Women in ASEAN launch is a main feature of this week’s ASEAN SME Showcase and Conference (ASSC) 2015, at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, which was attended by YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and Guest of Honor at the ASSC 2015; Mr. Le Luong Minh, Secretary General of ASEAN; and Nina Hachigian, U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN.

The GREAT Women in ASEAN initiative is a collaborative effort between the ASEAN SME Agencies Working Group and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs. The Business Alliance is an innovative public-private partnership involving some 20 leading U.S. corporations from the US-ASEAN Business Council (USABC), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through USAID’s ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment project that closely partners with the ECHOsi Foundation from the Philippines to further promote this initiative.

The women entrepreneurs also participated in a panel dialogue on GREAT Women in ASEAN at the Showcase on May 27. “One of my top priorities as U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN is to promote opportunities for women in ASEAN,” said U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN, Nina Hachigian while addressing the panel dialogue. “Volumes of research show that the more women are educated and join the work force, the more societies improve and economies grow. Investing in women has a well-documented multiplier effect.  Women reinvest a large portion of their income in their families and communities.”

Chief Executive Officer of SME Corporation Malaysia, Dato’ Hafsah Hashim, noted the importance of ASEAN as a platform for investment by and for women of the region. “The formation of the ASEAN Economic Community this year has presented an opportunity for SME Corp. Malaysia to organize the ASEAN SME Showcase and Conference 2015 in support of efforts to promote not only the region’s vast cultural heritage, diversity and natural resources, but also highlight the importance of reducing the gap of economic disparity, especially for women entrepreneurs,” she said.

Speakers at the event noted that consumers are willing to pay higher prices for handmade, artisan products that support local communities, are environmental friendly and have strong cultural and emotional appeal.

Further support for entrepreneurs taking part in the GREAT Women pavilion also came from the host and organizer of the ASSC 2015, the SME Corporation Malaysia. Members of USABC, such as Baker & McKenzie and Procter & Gamble, have also generously offered to provide, respectively, legal and marketing expertise.

For more information about the GREAT Women in ASEAN initiative, and the Panel Dialogue on GREAT Women in ASEAN, , please contact Ms. Penchan Manawanitkul  at the ASEAN Secretariat (penchan.manawanitkul@asean.org).

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