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On September 15th, 2020 The Center for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality and Civilizology co‐hosted a remarkable webinar between women entrepreneurs and institutional experts to discuss the Priority Action Roadmap for Women’s Economic Empowerment in the wake of COVID‐19 (PARWEE).
Dilip Chenoy: Secretary General of FICCI, former CEO of NSDC
Rajesh Agrawal: Executive Director, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Department of Commerce, GOI
Anand Selvakesari: Head‐US Consumer Banking at Citigroup, Inc.
Meg Jones: Former Chief, Economic Empowerment, UN Women.
Ela Lonescue: Partnership Specialist with UN Women
Bhavani Rao: UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and Director of AMMACHI Labs and CWEGE.
Kuiljeit Uppaal: Image Scientist & Impact Strategist, CEO‐ Krea
The event followed a series of interviews and workshops in which women entrepreneurs co‐ created knowledge with researchers regarding their coping actions in the wake of COVID‐19, lessons learnt and needs. Women entrepreneurs are facing this unprecedented economic crisis with much resilience and looking forward for solutions to revive their business and support the people they employ. The findings that emerged from this co‐creation process were compiled in a common wish list which was the subject of discussion during the webinar. Seven women representatives addressed the panelists with one item of the wish list which relates to access to public and private finances, opportunities for capacity building, marketing, public‐private partnerships and forming advocacy groups. UNESCO Chair‐holder Dr. Bhavani Rao discussed the future plans to build and grow the community, including the access to all resources shared by the panelists and its brief assessment, ongoing research and publications along with future collaboration. “As we have witnessed, COVID‐19 has exacerbated the vulnerabilities in the system making it important to address them immediately in light of the times to come,” said Dr. Bhavani Rao. “The study shed light on the vulnerabilities but it also revealed great resilience and adaptability from the women who pivoted their business strategies to ride the times. However, this does not make their struggle any less significant. If anything, it makes it more so.”
The Center for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality will create a dedicated Facebook group and page for PARWEE to keep supporting women entrepreneurs and advancing women’s economic empowerment. The main takeaways from the webinar is the power of collective
empowerment to raise voices with institutional stakeholders along with the need for awareness and information to be circulated to all women entrepreneurs.
Gender equal access to finances and economic opportunities were also largely discussed.
“These voices need to be raised, in politics we have seen reservation for village bodies and things like that. It has helped to some extent, but I think it is time to also see changes in the financial sector, so that Women Entrepreneurs can be empowered with softer loans.” Rajesh Agrawal, Executive Director, India Trade Promotion
Meg Jones from UN Women encouraged all women to be part of a women’s business organizations and invited them to be active with government initiatives.
“I think that something that is very important is an accountability framework which shares best practices. I would like to commend the Center for Women’s Empowerment & Gender Equality on an excellent publication about vulnerability mapping they just put out. We need to recognize that women’s economic impact is part of a bundle of overall issues which are not always unpacked.” Meg Jones, Former Chief, Economic Empowerment, UN Women
Dilip Chenoy recommended women to turn to online borrowing services and MSME upgraded registration to avail schemes. He said, “We see the PSP loan in 59 min and it is gender‐neutral because it is online.”
“What could PARWEE do? Most villages have common service centers. If we could connect the dots we could reach a larger section of society by offering telemedicine at low cost.” Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General of FICCI, former CEO of NSDC
Ela Inoescu highlighted another tool:
“The platform WE connect maximizes impact and investments with different partners on the ground!” Ela Inoescu, Partnership Specialist with UN Women