Distinguished Delegates of the Women Leaders Network, Distinguished Guests,

First of all, I wholeheartedly welcome you to Viet Nam. As you know, this year I shall be the host of the 13th APEC SME Ministerial Meeting and I am looking forward to the outcomes of your deliberations, so that I can bring them to the attention of the APEC SME Ministerial Meeting o­n the 28th and 29th of this month.


The Government of Viet Nam attaches the highest importance to ensuring equal rights for women and men in all political, economic and social areas. In this respect, support to women entrepreneurship has a high priority within the agenda of enterprise and entrepreneurship development in Viet Nam. For example, the very first Government Decree no. 90 issued in November 2001 o­n support for SME development, specifically mentions that women entrepreneurs shall be given priority in all of Government support programs covering domestic investment encouragement, access to finance, land and work premises, and access to business development services.


We also realize that ensuring equal rights to women and men in laws, regulations and public support programs does not guarantee women immediate and unfettered access to all the opportunities that men have in our societies. Empowering women with the requisite entrepreneurial skills through the education and training systems, providing for appropriate childcare, support systems and social safety nets, ensuring that society in general values women’s entrepreneurial activities beyond those related to basic sustenance of the family unit and eliminating deeper running gender biases are significant challenges that need to be moved higher up o­n the agenda of Governments as well as the society as a whole.


I am aware that in your deliberations in Ha No this year you will be discussing some of these issues, and specifically the role of information technologies in improving the competitiveness of women owned businesses, sustainable development and women, and how the Women Leaders’ Network could strengthen its role vis-à-vis APEC economies to influence the APEC agenda.


I personally believe information and communication technologies have much to offer to micro and small businesses owned by both women and men, but they could be more significant for women entrepreneurs. Mobile phones, access to e-mail and Internet are practically shortening the distances, and enabling home based work and businesses throughout the world. Introduction of these technologies in rural areas in developing economies have opened up markets to micro entrepreneurs, including to farmers. As these examples illustrate it is not whether information and communication technologies are useful, but it is a matter of improving access of women entrepreneurs to these technologies. Awareness raising among women entrepreneurs of the potential these technologies offer for their business, enabling them access to ICT through micro credit, and facilitating public-private partnerships, including with multinational corporations to disseminate these technologies are among some of the strategies that immediately come to mind.


As I indicated in the beginning, I look forward to your recommendations o­n how we can move women entrepreneurship upward o­n the agenda of APEC SME Ministerial Meeting and wish the conference great success.


Thank you for your attention.