Hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Feminist Finance Forum closed today in Bangkok with a call to accelerate efforts and enhance multi-stakeholder cooperation. to close this gender gap in access to financing for entrepreneurs throughout the region. The Forum provided an opportunity for key stakeholders in the region to strategize on collaborative efforts to alleviate the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs in Asia and the Pacific.
Approximately 70 percent of women-owned small and medium-sized businesses around the world lack adequate access to financial services. Composing this, only 7 percent of private equity and venture capital is invested in companies run by women. In Asia and the Pacific, the gender finance gap is a frequent problem, with an estimated USD 300 billion gap in financing for formal small businesses owned by women, and more than 1 billion women excluded from formal financial systems.
This gap results and leads prevailing social norms and entrenched gender discriminatory practices, which continue to limit the acceptance and use of financial services among women. In her opening words, rupa Chanda, Director of ESCAP’s Division of Trade, Investment and Innovation, highlighted the need to accelerate action and promote innovative solutions. “More action is needed to ensure that the region’s financial ecosystem can respond to the needs of women and underserved populations. This will require channeling investment capital into gender-sensitive transformative solutions to climate change and economic disparities; encourage allocators of capital to move capital into gender-responsive funds for the first time; create financial products that support the security, stability and success of women; build public-private partnerships to strengthen blended finance solutions, as well as a regulatory environment that facilitates financial inclusion and success for women.”
Cam Do, Director General, Climate and Innovative Finance Office, Global Affairs Canada shared: “Feminist finance goes far beyond providing access to services and opportunities. It also involves transforming existing social norms, power dynamics, and structural barriers to equality. When women can fully participate in the economy, whether as entrepreneurs, agricultural producers, managers, employees or business leaders, economies thrive and more people benefit from growth.”
The two-day interactive forum brought together more than 200 participants, including legislators, businesswomen, investors, financial service providers, academics, grassroots civil society and women’s organizations, and development partners.
During the event, participants explored the link between climate finance and gender equality, the need to boost investment in the regional care economy, financial inclusion and women’s resilience, tools to overcome gender bias in financing processes, support services for women entrepreneurs and practical knowledge on gender-sensitive investing and gender-sensitive financial products and services.
At the Forum, ESCAP launched its report: Policy approaches to financial inclusion: a review of approaches in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, developed in collaboration with the Government of Colombia. A Community of Practice on Women’s Financial Inclusion was also launched, with the aim of bringing together policymakers in Asia-Pacific and Latin America to engage in a mutually beneficial exchange on key priority areas identified during the Forum.
On the sidelines of the event, regional thought leaders and Feminist Finance practitioners unveiled new tools and innovative initiatives to close the gender finance gap. The Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) launched its Orange Bond, aimed at unlocking $10 billion to empower 100 million women, building on the success of the Women’s Livelihoods Bond Series, implemented in partnership with the Women’s Livelihoods Bond Fund. United Nations Capital Development Program (UNCDF) and ESCAP.
run by women Impact investment firm based in Southeast Asia, SWEEF Capital, which was established with the support of ESCAP, presented its recently launched Gender ROI™ tool to participants, demonstrating the positive impact of adopting a gender approach within organisations.
She Loves Tech, the world’s largest technology and women’s accelerator platform, hosted a competition for women-led start-ups from the Mekong region to pitch in front of the region’s top investors and funding institutions. The winning speech was given to Vietnamese businesswoman, Dung Claire Tran, founder and CEO of Lightning, an AI-powered browser to make websites accessible to people with disabilities.
During the closing of the Forum, a A partnership agreement was signed between ESCAP and 2X Global ahead of the launch of two introductory and acceleration training programs for gender-balanced or women-led fund managers from across Asia-Pacific, to run from September 2023 to March 2024. ESCAP also announced its intention to forge a joint initiative for Women Investing for Women, in collaboration with 2X Global and other partners, to unlock smart gender capital at scale in Asia-Pacific, as well as plans to commission a study on the FemTech Industry. in Southeast Asia.
The Feminist Finance Forum was organized in the context of ESCAP’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Catalyst Program, funded by Global Affairs Canada. Through the Program, ESCAP is working to foster women’s economic empowerment, reduce poverty and increase gender equality by supporting women’s entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region.
To date, a total of 176,000 women entrepreneurs have accessed financing through the project, and the program has unlocked more than $89.7 million in capital. The Forum sought to build on these achievements, with the goal of driving tangible action for a feminist entrepreneurial ecosystem in Asia and the Pacific, and beyond.
For more information: https://www.unescap.org/events/2023/feminist-finance-forum