Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP141125 - Opening of the APEC Project to Assist Women-led SMEs

Welcome Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Opening of the APEC Project to Assist Women-led SMEs
Access Global Markets Residential Workshop
The Peninsula Manila
25 November 2014


Dear entrepreneurs and government officials, some familiar faces, some new, welcome to Manila.

It is a pleasure to see participants from so many APEC economies, including those from Latin America who have travelled a long way to be here.

Today is an important day on the international calendar – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, or White Ribbon Day.

Globally, more than one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way, most often by someone she knows, including her husband or another male family member.

Violence against women is a significant human rights violation which severely limits women’s social, economic and political participation.

We should take pause during today’s activities to think about victims of violence, especially women.

Whereas violence has the effect of disempowering women, economic development is an effective way to empower women, and I turn now to the topic of this workshop, which is about helping women-owned small and medium enterprises to access global markets.

It is fitting that this workshop is being held in the Philippines, which is ranked ninth – and the highest among APEC economies – in overall performance in closing the gender gap, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum.

Just last week, I hosted a reception for women in diplomacy, and noted that the Philippines also has a very strong history when it comes to empowering women in government. The Philippines has had two female Presidents: President Corazon Aquino, who I understand was Asia’s first female President, and President Gloria Arroyo signed into law the Magna Carta of women in 2009. Personally, in my almost three years in the Philippines, I have encountered many impressive women working in business, the legislature, government, community leadership and of course diplomacy.

Furthermore, it was here, in Makati City in 1998, that APEC Leaders endorsed the recommendations of the first Ministerial Meeting on Women.

I am pleased that work to close the gender gap and empower women continues to be a priority area for APEC, and I am pleased that this work will continue here in the Philippines.

Gender equality is also a priority area for Australia’s aid program, and it is a personal priority for Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, who said

“Empowering women is one of the best ways to promote economic development and growth”

That is why around half of Australia's global aid budget is spent on initiatives, policies and programs that have at their heart a significant focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

In fact, Australia is working with governments, business groups and NGOs to empower and assist women entrepreneurs in many of your countries.

Our shared goal is to promote opportunities for women to participate in global business. Some of you are entrepreneurs with first-hand experience of the challenges faced by women-led SMEs trying to access global markets; others are government officials helping your economy to engage in international trade.

This workshop will give you all a chance to tell your story and learn from the experiences of others, facing similar challenges, and it will, I hope, also give government officials some ideas about how to improve the number of women-led SMEs in your home economies.

APEC has been actively promoting women’s economic empowerment and women’s crucial role in the economy. At APEC meetings and through working groups, member economies have adopted resolutions and committed to policies that will promote women’s economic participation.

Domestically, many APEC economies are working to promote the role of women in the economy and in global markets. We know that around 600 million women currently participate in the labour force across APEC’s 21 member economies. But just over 60 per cent of women in the region work in informal economic sectors and their full productivity is still largely untapped.

So more needs to be done to help women realise their full potential and enhance their economic empowerment, and this workshop aims to help to do that.

Over the next three days you will hear about member economies’ programs to assist women in global business, including Australia’s Women in Global Business program.

This will be the first in a series of workshops that Australia will conduct to improve women-led SMEs’ access to global markets and value chains.

Approximately 40 per cent of entrepreneurs in our economies are women.

Over time, and through initiatives like this workshop, we aim to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in APEC economies, to help women to network effectively across the APEC region, and link them to Global Value Chains.

I hope that over the next few days you are able to share your experience with, and learn from, each other, and return to your economies with inspiration and ideas to help improve women-led SMEs’ access to global markets.

Thank you and good morning.