Promoting Women Entreprenuers

Speech of UNDP Resident Representative Ayshanie Medagangoda Labe during women conferece

September 15, 2023

Respected Chair of the conference, Deputy Mayor of Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Ms. Manjali Shakya Bajracharya  

Chief Guest, Mayor of Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Mr. Chiri Babu Maharjan  

EU Ambassador to Nepal, Her Excellency Nona Deprez  

Australian Ambassador to Nepal Her Excellency Felicity Volk  

Chief Administrative Officer LMC  

Representative from the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen  

Representatives from the Ministry of Industry Commerce and supplies  

Distinguished guests

Namaste

This is truly an invaluable conference of remarkable people, an assembly of committed and fierce Nepali Women Entrepreneurs.  

We are here because we believe in the power and imperative of gender equality and women empowerment. We are here to celebrate and build on the women’s entrepreneurial movement in Nepal, to applaud those who have shattered glass ceilings, and to chart a path to shatter more and more.  

As we are talking about breaking glass ceilings, I want to remember the founder of “Girls in Technology”, Rojina Bajracharya who broke the barrier when tech world was not considered suitable for women in Nepal. Laxmi Sharma the first female tempo driver and a single mother who fought all the odds of her life and circumstances and carved the way for women entrepreneurship. Similarly, the contribution of social entrepreneur and activist Radha Paudel to address gender-based violence, human trafficking, and menstrual hygiene management is equally significant.  

Even though few names came off the top of my head I want to recognize every single woman who have been breaking barriers and contributing to various sectors, demonstrating their entrepreneurial spirit and resilience in the face of challenges.  

Gender equality is a central force for realizing the transformative promise of Agenda 2030, and women’s economic empowerment is both an enabler and prerequisite to make this promise a reality.

Economic empowerment is a uniquely potent way for women to achieve greater control over their own lives. Yet, too often, women are unpaid or underpaid and unable to be dynamic economic actors.  

Women are valued very low, and so is their work. It doesn’t matter whether they are operating at a senior level, or just starting work. There is a pattern of discrimination against women that in the SDGs we expect to address, as we act to end all forms of discrimination against women.

Women are also refrained seats at the decision-making table. In Nepal there are zero women CEOs in over 100 banks and bilateral finance institutions. But the time for a seismic shift in power is now! We need women decision-makers to shatter the echo chambers and bring in fresh, diverse voices. Because when women decides, she reshapes the world, turn challenges into opportunities and foster a more equitable and inclusive future for all.  

As per the latest census, the literacy rate in Nepal has been progressing over the years and currently lies at 76% up from 66% in 2011. There is however a gender gap. Around 84% of men are literate compared to 69% of women. Investing in education for girls and women is the first step towards empowering them. Ensuring access to quality education will enable women and girls to unlock their full potential and contribute significantly to society's progress.  

Additionally, Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Asia, despite laws against it. In Nepal one in five women (22%) marry as children. 3% are married before turning 15. Child marriage poses a major obstacle to women's economic empowerment. It robs girls of education, limits job opportunities, and perpetuates gender inequality.

Sexual harassment is an insidious barrier to women's economic empowerment. In Nepal, 54 percent of women reported experiencing harassment and being silenced or forced to tolerate harassment to retain their employment. It creates toxic work environments, shatters confidence, and limits career growth. As we strive for gender equality, we must end sexual harassment to ensure women can thrive professionally and unlock their full potential. The UN calls on your action to lead by example on issues of women’s leadership, equal pay, and sexual harassment policies.

We all are responsible towards creating a world where women and men have equal access to opportunities in all spheres of life, including education, employment, and entrepreneurship.  

But we also are responsible to break gender discriminatory norms and stereotypes, and structural gender inequality that has barred women from entering, staying, and growing in the market economy, in education and in all spheres of life.  

One of the first priorities of the new cooperation framework of the UN and GoN aims to advance sustainable, resilient, and inclusive economic transformation. Supporting Nepal and the people to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, securing further progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), graduate from Least Developed Country (LDC) status, and implement programmes aimed at accelerating nationwide social and economic transformation are the key priorities within the framework.  

The UN wants more people, especially women, youth, the most marginalized and poor, increasingly benefit from, and contribute to, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable socio-economic transformation at federal, provincial, and local levels.  

We do this by creating an enabling business environment for sustainable, inclusive, green, climate resilient and diversified economic growth at all levels of the government.  

We do this by ensuring the private sector, in particular MSMEs has improved access to skills, markets, services, technology, finance and infrastructure that facilitates enterprise growth, participation in regional and global value chains, job creation, and the transition to a more formal and green economy.  

For e.g. UNCDF’s digital literacy program to women led MSMEs under FNCCI and FNCSI to access ecommerce platforms like Sato deal and Thulo has enabled women entrepreneurs to expand their business through increased sales and customer outreach.

Similarly, ILO has been working to enhance skills of women working in both formal and informal economy on demand driven work-based learning for women in various occupations including animal husbandry, mithila art, Dhaka weaving, vegetable farming, Dhakki (cane-basket) weaving, floriculture, housekeeping etc.  

UNDP Nepal has been working with different Ministries, local governments, development partners and stakeholders on Women’s entrepreneurship. While there are multiple, often inter-connected complex barriers like lack of access to finance, family support, insufficient support network and lack of skills to starting and operating business across many countries in the region, these barriers tend to be significantly higher for women than men. Some of the main challenges facing women across the region include: (a) legislative frameworks that discriminate, or do not incorporate the specific circumstances, needs and interests of women; (b) limited access to finance, information and communication technologies (ICTs); (c) lack of opportunity for capacity development; (d) discriminatory socio-cultural norms and beliefs (e) Duel role of women as home maker and business owner. Overcoming these challenges is essential to unlocking the potential of many women to manifest their full economic aspirations and capacities for building better livelihoods, prosperous communities and thriving societies.

According to a report by the Central Bureau of Statistics, women owned 29 percent of the 922,356 establishments in the country.  Covid-19 has directly and disproportionately jeopardized women’s social and economic capabilities.

Lalitpur Metropolitan City and UNDP Nepal recently signed an MOU where we are promoting environment-friendly initiatives particularly involving youths, eco-clubs and relevant institutions, strengthening capacities various personnels including LMC police forces, IT officials on chatbots, promoting GESI and developing GESI strategy plan for tjo promote women entrepreneurship through Women Entrepreneurship Facilitation Center. Last year, we worked together to organize a similar program like today. The program helped in identifying issues and challenges that women entrepreneurs are facing in Lalitpur. The same exercise helped the Women Entrepreneurship Facilitation Center to plan for their work. We are now building on the identified issues and challenges and currently working together to develop a 5-year strategy plan for women entrepreneurship development in LMC. Annual Conference like these helps the policy makers, local governments, CSOs (Civil Societies Organizations) and UN Agencies to design their interventions to ameliorate entrepreneurship challenges in the country. Programs like these helps better understand women entrepreneurship and create networking opportunity for women entrepreneurs at local level.

Lastly,  the ambition of achieving the sustainable development goals cannot be achieved without putting women in the center of our efforts. Women and marginalized communities must be supported to have better access skills, and assets including ownership and control over land and other forms of property to increase individual and collective productivity, access to decent work opportunities and more sustainable and resilient livelihoods are quintessential to reaching the present and future women and girls want, need for a sustainable, peaceful and prosperous future for all of humanity.

Thank you.