Yolène & Nicolas – Hi, thank you for receiving us. Can you explain what is AWEN’s story?
A.M. – The inter-governmental Association “ASEAN” (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) was established in 1967 to provide cooperation between Asian Nations and is composed of 3 pillars: the economic, social and political pillars. “AWEN” (The ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network) works under the social pillar and collectively with the economic pillar of ASEAN Organisation.
What is the main goal of the network?
A.M. – AWEN’s main purpose is to exchange knowledge and experience, by developing and proposing initiatives to promote economic and trade activities. Today, AWEN is a network of business women in 10 Asian countries*.
Our goal is to enhance gender equality, empower and strengthen entrepreneurship skills for women in the ASEAN Community; create favorable environment for female-led enterprises and support for women entrepreneurship in the region.
How does AWEN work with government institutions?
A.M. – AWEN’s country members have a relationship with their government to push for women’s agenda at the country level. In each country AWEN also collaborates with the government institutions to champion women’s rights and to promote the women entrepreneurs. For instance, AWEN Cambodia collaborates with the Ministry of Women Affairs and AWEN Lao collaborates with Lao Women’s Union.
In Thailand, we collaborate with the Ministry of Social Security and Human Development as our main partner. We understood that every 2 years, the Chair is led by a new country member. This year is Thailand, coming right after Philippines.
Could you explain AWEN’s agenda for the next 2 years?
A.M. – Indeed, this year is an important year for Thailand as it has been decided to be the coordinator of AWEN’s actions. Thailand has been named AWEN chair for 2018-2020.
On November 2018, the 10 countries being part of AWEN have established a new work plan for 2018-2020, targeting seven areas that will focus on women empowerment.
1) Digitalization of market access and outreach: AWEN will focus on improving the knowledge on digital tools to increase business performance. Through workshops and training programs for SME’s, the network will provide some practices on digital marketing for AWEN members.
2) Fostering financial inclusion, literacy and discipline: realizing the lack of knowledge on financial management, AWEN will continue to work in collaboration with Thailand Stock Exchange and the Thailand Chamber of Commerce to combine both mentorship and training programs on financial planning for entrepreneurs. We will develop learning tools and modules to share knowledge to our AXE members.
3) Re-skilling SME’s, women entrepreneurs and their workforce: a new program will be launched next year to give opportunities to women entrepreneurs and their workers to adapt their knowledge considering the changes in the business environment.
4) Promoting sustainability and self-sufficiency for SME’s: to strengthen companies’ solidity through autonomy and business independence, AWEN shares plenty of best practices from companies who successfully run on self-sufficiency concept.
5) Enhancing ASEAN women information sharing: this program will reinforce data storing, combining all the experiences, practices, policies and welfare of each country to emphasize ASEAN’ strength.
6) Empowerment of ASEAN women’s leadership in the international arena: next year, Thailand will hold the Women CEO summit to bring forward women leadership through examples of success driven by outstanding women.
7) Addressing the environmental issue and climate change: Vietnam wishes to bring climate issues as a new area starting next year and affiliating with women entrepreneurs.
We have heard about a project that help women entrepreneurs going global. Can you explain us what is it about?
A.M. – We have an ongoing project named “Great Women” that aims to promote women’s regional products worldwide. For instance, in Thailand, clothes made with Thai silk will be part of the “Great Women” program, as silk is a regional product. Our goal is to help those women entrepreneurs to expand their business and go international.
Do you also provide a financial support to entrepreneurs?
A.M. – Our purpose is not to offer financial support directly to entrepreneurs. However, we work with strong partners such as National Banks financing SME’s projects that will be happy to help promising projects.
Our role is to make connections between all the parties for ASEAN members but also for any foreign nationality that needs advice in settling a business in Asia.
Everyone who will seek our help to start their entrepreneurship journey will be welcome to ask!
* Countries members of AWEN: Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Singapore.