NUR-SULTAN – UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, initiated the first regional Women’s Entrepreneurship Expo for Europe and Central Asia virtually with the participation of women entrepreneurs from 12 countries from April 27-29. Some 150 women entrepreneurs from Kazakhstan also attended the exhibition.
More than 23 sectors featuring the clothing, fashion and retail industries, education and training, food and agricultural production were represented at the event. Entrepreneurs also had the chance to further showcase their businesses via Expo Booths, available online throughout the virtual event. They received professional coaching to develop and fine-tune business pitches for their own business plans and product ideas.
In her opening remarks, Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, noted that the pandemic disproportionately impacted women entrepreneurs.
“As the world begins to emerge from the impact of COVID-19, businesses have to work on women’s entrepreneurship as part of their plan for recovery. We need a recovery that includes measures to secure women’s income, offer opportunities to expand livelihoods and to bolster economies. We need inclusive recovery that helps women to withstand and cope with the shocks of COVID-19,” she said.
To support women entrepreneurs at the regional level, it is recommended to open direct financial lines for low interest loans for women’s businesses, to provide stimulus in the care sector to foster small women’s firms, child care, elderly care and care for people with disabilities. It is necessary to expand business training and financial literacy and to include women in value chains.
Entrepreneur Aida Kaumenova, who represented Kazakhstan at the exhibition, said that women’s economic empowerment is essential for the progressive society of the future. “We need more women and girls in all spheres so that they can fulfill their own potential and the opportunity to find their way. I am glad that I can financially support not only my family, but also women in my country. More than 95 percent of our staff are women,” she said.
The exhibition is one of the response measures to support the region where one-quarter of self-employed women have lost their jobs during the pandemic. The organizers believe that “the expo will connect women entrepreneurs to national, international companies, investors and mentors to help bring their marketing ideas and businesses to the next level.”
The Expo is being funded by the government of Japan.