The year 2006 is the 11th consecutive meeting of the APEC Women Leaders’ Network, marking the 10th anniversary of WLN. During the past 10 years, WLN has focused on many issues but all have had to do with the economic contribution of women to the APEC region. 2006 will also mark the 10th consecutive year that WLN has presented its recommendations to APEC Ministers. We have many achievements of which to be proud. This year, we have chosen the theme: ‘Towards a Dynamic Community: Enhancing the Competitiveness of Women’s Businesses for Sustainable Development and Prosperity”.
WLN’s theme coincides with the theme of the SME Working Group and Ministerial: ‘Strengthening SME Competitiveness for Trade and Investment’. In keeping with our commitment to the MEWG, SMEWG and the SME MM, we have identified the following sub-themes for this year’s WLN meeting:
1. Women entrepreneurs vs. dynamic and effective economic development
Women account for more than half the labour force in the APEC economies, making major contributions to trade and investment. Without the input of women, economies would not reach their full potential. Therefore, it is vital to continue to promote women entrepreneurs and enhance their competitiveness in the APEC region, especially if their economies are to gain long-term strength. Particularly, increased opportunities and support for women involved in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is crucial to all economies.
Participants will have the opportunity to talk about the next generation of women entrepreneurs, especially those involved in SMEs, and ways to further support and promote them in the APEC region.
Subject 1– Enhancing ICT capacity and promoting Business Development Services (BDS) to support women entrepreneurs
In order for women to become contributing members to the economy, opportunities and information to increase their skill set and technical proficiency must be provided. The continuous advancement of ICT and the Internet is a vital ingredient in economic development and is changing the way business is done throughout the APEC region. For entrepreneurs involved in SMEs, services to help overcome barriers such as access to markets, improving the skills for management and staff and identification of suitable network partners need to be increased.
Participants of this workshop will examine ways of making women more aware of ICT as well as discussing ways of making it more accessible, affordable and available to women, especially those living in isolated and rural areas. Problems and issues facing women owners of small and medium businesses will be examined and recommendations for improving business development services will be developed.
Subject 2 – Creating a business-enabling and gender-sensitive legal environment for women to develop business in the context of globalization
Without a gender sensitive legal system, women will not have equal opportunities as men to develop businesses and effectively contribute to the economy’s growth and prosperity, which is the very purpose of APEC. Legal restraints are also marginalising a huge part of an economy’s workforce the majority of who are women.
In this workshop, participants will discuss the necessary legal instruments that must be put in place to enhance and protect women entrepreneurs involved in SME as well as examine ways to advocate for greater legal support for women. This will involve building on gender sensitive legal documents and measures to reinforce the women-entrepreneur-supporting laws and regulations.
Participants in this workshop will also examine some of the challenges that women face in discriminatory laws and regulations and make recommendations as to how to best ensure that women are not subject of unfair and unequal treatment under the law.
2. Women entrepreneurs and sustainable development
Sustainability is a vital component to any development initiative. If an initiative is not viable in the long term, more often than not it will have negative impacts on the women it was intended to assist. Helping women and women entrepreneurs to help themselves in a sustainable and environment-friendly way is one of the keys to an economy‘s sustainability.
Subject 1 – Promoting women-owned Micro Enterprises (MEs) and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs): an effective measure for poverty eradication and sustainable development
As noted by the World Bank, 90% of the population in developing economies have no access to formal financial services. Micro-credit has proved its effectiveness in helping solve the problem by giving seed capital to form MEs and SMEs. The establishment of these enterprises have many positive spin-offs: empowering women, creating livelihoods, alleviating poverty and contributing to long-term sustainable development.
In this workshop, participants will discuss best practice methods and strategies to increase support for women entrepreneurs through micro-credit schemes, growth and development initiatives, and sustainable ways to strengthen the SME capacity of women. Recommendations will be made as to what needs to be done to continue to support women’s micro enterprises as well as what can be done to increase women’s access to markets and to help them grow their businesses.
Subject 2 – Women entrepreneurs coping with social and environmental issues
As the world becomes smaller due to globalisation, women entrepreneurs need to be aware of and able to cope with current social and environmental issues. The APEC region has faced a number of emergency situations or ‘events of scale’ over the last ten years which have included both man-made and natural disasters. All of these dramatically affect the well-being of women in the region. In this workshop, topics such as human trafficking, migration, HIV/AIDS, Avian Bird Flu, natural disasters and emergency relief efforts will be discussed. Recommendations will be developed as to the role that women can play in avoiding and responding to disasters. These recommendations shall be forwarded to the chairs of the APEC Health Task Force as well as the APEC Task Force on Emergency Preparedness.
3. WLN the second decade: Where do we go from here?
Moving into its 11th year, the WLN has built strong relationships and partnerships to voice the concerns of women in general and women entrepreneurs in particular. It is now important that the network looks at ways to further communicate the work WLN does, to both people of influence in APEC as well as the wider development community, and more importantly to put in place practical initiatives for the promotion of women entrepreneurs.It is anticipated that at the end of this session, WLN will have a ‘roadmap’ to go forward and achieve an even greater impact than it has in its first decade. All WLN members and focal points can then agree to work more closely with their officials and key stakeholders in their own economies between WLN meetings.
Subject 1 – Capacity and networking development of WLN
This session will focus on WLN capacity building, particularly in gender mainstreaming, and networking with the aim to make WLN a stronger network that addresses the very concerns of women entrepreneurs in the coming decade.
In this session members will discuss ways to continue to mainstream gender into the APEC framework and to promote the WLN within APEC and APEC member economies. It is important that these communities are aware of the broad range of expertise present within the network and what an important tool it is for advancing the economic status of women in the APEC region. Participants will also identify ways of creating/improving linkage and mechanisms for discussion, comment and action.
Subject 2 – Identifying priority concerns of WLN to better influence the APEC agenda
In this session members will re-examine WLN priority concerns and develop several initiatives in order to make WLN more relevant to women and women entrepreneurs and at the same time more relevant to APEC agenda. In order to achieve this, WLN members shall have to have a better understanding of APEC and the manners in which it works. Issues for WLN will be taken from the recommendations provided in the first two sub-themes as well as a review of all declarations and recommendations WLN has developed and presented to Ministers since 1996.