BANGKOK, 3 December, 2015 – Twenty-five established women entrepreneurs gathered in Bangkok for a two-day meeting on Nov. 30-Dec. 1 to discuss ways and means to formalise the GREAT Women in ASEAN Initiative (GWAI) as a regional entity and platform. It aims to further benefit small businesses especially those that are women-owned and/or managed by or employ women. GREAT Women stands for “Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women.

The workshop identified core participants and product groups in the GWAI as well as finalised the governance structure in the organization. This will enable the formal establishment of GWAI and determine the next steps in moving the organization forward in support of gender business empowerment and better access to markets through competitive supply-chain integration in ASEAN.
The President of Business and Professional Women’s Associations of Thailand, Khunying Natthika Wattanavekin Angubolkul urged participants to “make the most of this opportunity to share with other entrepreneurs your own experiences and insights in charting the approaches and the focus areas in the development of GWAI as a truly regional initiative.” She further noted that “our Federation is very pleased to be part of any concerted efforts to foster and support greater gender equality in business and in the professions.”

Dr. Wimonkan Kusumas, Deputy Director-General of the Office of SME Promotion (OSMEP) of Thailand added that she shared the workshop participants’ strong aspiration that the GREAT Women in ASEAN Initiative can serve “as a business lever to link up many exciting communities of women suppliers and producers under fair-employment and fair-trade conditions across the region.” Further, she said that “Thailand, as Chair of the ASEAN SME Working Group, and OSMEP continue to work with various donors and development partners to mobilize support and cooperation for the development and commercialization of goods and services from women artisans and entrepreneurs in ASEAN.”

The GREAT Women development model had its start in the Philippines in 2011, motivated by the need to assist women entrepreneurs to overcome challenges of product sourcing, design, production, packaging and marketing. GWAI was launched at the ASEAN SME Showcase and Conference (ASSC) 2015 in May as a regional platform for gender economic empowerment as well as competitive supply-chain integration in ASEAN. At this workshop, participants discussed the development of a strategic plan as well as the core functions and governance structure for the GWAI. These would lay the foundation for programs and activities to support women entrepreneurs’ mainstreaming in business and access regional and international markets under GREAT Women branded products in ASEAN.
The workshop was convened with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development and in partnership with the Business and Professional Women’s Association of Thailand under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty The Queen of Thailand (BPW Thailand), the ASEAN SME Working Agencies Group (SMEWG) and its focal point in Thailand, the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion.

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For more information about the GREAT Women in ASEAN Initiative, please contact Ms. Lisa Wijayani (lisa.wijayani@asean.org)