Forum Focused on Enhancing Access to Markets and Finance for Women-owned Businesses

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WEConnect International hosted a forum that included U.S. Ambassador Kelly Keiderling, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA), delegates from the U.S. Embassy to India multinational business leaders and roughly 200 women-owned businesses across South Asia. The event provided a platform to discuss opportunities for women-owned businesses to gain greater access to markets and finance.

Forum on Womens Economic Empowerment hosted by WEConnect International

The forum was part of WEConnect International’s “Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion” project funded by the U.S. SCA. The 3-year project focuses on generating long-term opportunities for women-owned businesses to connect and conduct business with large buyers, including local and multinational corporations, government agencies, and non-profit and non-governmental organizations in India, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

When a woman participates in the economy her community develops and health and education improve, too,” said Ambassador Keiderling. “Private companies play a crucial role in advancing women’s economic empowerment.”

We recognize that an investment in women and girls is an investment in our future prosperity,” said Mr. Drew Schufletowski, Minister Counselor for Economics, Energy, Science andTechnology (EEST), U.S Embassy-Delhi, India. “As an Indo-Pacific nation ourselves, the United States wants to be your partner in empowering women and women owned businesses, achieving inclusive growth, and creating sufficient opportunities for all our citizens to prosper.”

Recently, Ten of WEConnect International member organizations have collectively committed to source at least USD 22.4 billion in goods and services by 2025 from companies with diverse ownership, with a focus on women-owned firms.

Representing some of the largest companies in the world, the member buyers – Diageo, Goldman Sachs, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Kyndryl, Logitech, Moody’s, P&G, Sanofi and Unilever – each specifically noted the importance of buying from women-owned businesses to drive business growth, as well as the value of working with WEConnect International to identify suppliers that are verified women-owned businesses.

It was exciting to see women-owned businesses at the forum learn how to conduct business with large corporations, understand the procurement process and relevant opportunities, and connect with banking institution offering access to finance for growth,” said Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-founder of WEConnect International. “Providing an opportunity for women business owners to network with WEConnect International member buyers is a unique experience that helps fuel business success.”

Forum participants included global business leaders from IBM and Unilever, who provided insights on how women-owned businesses can best work with their respective markets. Additionally, executives from India’s Standard Chartered Bank, City Bank and Hatton National Bank led breakout sessions to discuss access to finance. Some of the local women-owned businesses that participated in the forum included K-Nomics Techno Solutions Private Limited, Babies Bloom Store, Astu Eco, and FiveS Digital.

WEConnect International is a global non-profit that helps women-owned businesses compete in the global marketplace through capacity development and connections to large buyers seeking women suppliers.

For more information, please visit www.WEConnectInternational.org.

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