Women entrepreneurs in Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand looking to recover from the pandemic and build long-term business resilience can receive support through a new initiative launched today by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and J.P. Morgan.
The 18-month project, titled ‘Rebuilding Better: Fostering Business Resilience Post-COVID-19′, targets small businesses owned by women in the manufacturing, service and retail trade sectors in urban areas, all of which have been hard hit by COVID-19 restrictions and the economic downturn. The project will leverage digital tools to enhance women entrepreneurs’ access to critical support services, such as financial resources, training, market information and networks.
The launch was marked by a virtual event where women entrepreneurs were invited to share how they adapted to unprecedented circumstances during the pandemic, from shifting from physical stores to online platforms, to adopting agility and flexibility in their business plans that became critical in navigating the crisis.
In his opening remarks, Graeme Buckley, Director of ILO Decent Work Technical Support Team for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and Country Officer for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR, said, “We have seen the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbate existing inequalities in Asia as well as globally. With the new Rebuilding Better project, the ILO, in partnership with J.P. Morgan, will contribute to a more equitable, gender-responsive and inclusive recovery in Southeast Asia.”
The event also included a panel discussion where partners and industry experts including Ma. Aurora “Boots” D. Geotina-Garcia, Chairperson of the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN), and Ulrike Guelich, Assistant Professor at Bangkok University who is a team leader of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in Thailand as well as a board member of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association (GERA), engaged in discussions about the impact of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia.
It was clear from the forum that targeted support to help women entrepreneurs recover from the pandemic is key to inclusive economic growth and building resiliency in these communities for the long term.
“We are excited to partner with ILO on this new initiative that addresses inequality challenges in the business environment across the ASEAN region. The pandemic has dramatically changed business models and we want to help women entrepreneurs pivot towards sustainable business operations with a focus on innovation and digitalization. An economy that is fair is good for the communities we serve, our employees and our business; this conviction is reflected in how J.P. Morgan does business every day,” said Murli Maiya, J.P. Morgan CEO for South and Southeast Asia.