Feminist Finance Forum in Bangkok Calls for Action to Bridge Gender Gap in Access to Finance

By: GWL Team | Friday, 18 August 2023

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) hosted the major Feminist Finance Forum, which came to an end today in Bangkok. In order to overcome the gender gap in access to financing for entrepreneurs throughout the Asia-Pacific region, the forum's conclusion issued a resounding call to accelerate efforts and improve multistakeholder engagement. The occasion offered a forum for important regional players to plan joint initiatives targeted at easing the difficulties experienced by female entrepreneurs.

Only 7% of private equity and venture capital investments worldwide go to female-led firms, while 70% of small and medium-sized businesses controlled by women lack appropriate access to financial services. This urgent issue is particularly acute in the Asia-Pacific region, where over 1 billion women are not included in formal financial institutions and there is an estimated $300 billion financing gap for formal women-owned small companies.

This disparity, which has its roots in cultural norms and gender-discriminatory practises, makes it difficult for women to access and use financial services. Rupa Chanda, Director of ESCAP's Trade, Investment and Innovation Division, emphasised the necessity of swift action and the need for creative solutions in her opening remarks. According to Chanda, "More action is needed to ensure that the financial ecosystem in the region is able to respond to the needs of women and underserved populations."

More than 200 participants, including policymakers, female business owners, investors, financial service providers, academics, members of civil society and grassroots organisations, and development partners, discussed many facets of closing the gender-finance gap throughout the course of the two-day interactive conference. Women's financial inclusion and resilience were discussed, as well as ways to combat gender bias in funding procedures, support services for female entrepreneurs, and insights into gender lens investing and responsive financial products. Discussions also covered the intersection of climate finance and gender equality.

A ground-breaking initiative by ESCAP saw the publication of a paper titled "Policy Approaches for Financial Inclusion: An Examination of Approaches across Asia and the Pacific and Latin America," which was created in partnership with the Government of Colombia. A Community of Practise on Women's Financial Inclusion was also started with the intention of promoting information sharing between Latin American and Asian-Pacific region governments.

Leading figures in feminist finance provided cutting-edge technologies and efforts to narrow the gender-financial gap in connection with the event. The Orange Bond, which Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) introduced, is expected to unleash $10 billion to empower 100 million women. The Women's Livelihood Bond Series, created in collaboration with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and ESCAP, served as the foundation for this effort.

With assistance from ESCAP, SWEEF Capital, an impact investing company located in Southeast Asia, developed its Gender ROITM tool to demonstrate the advantages of implementing gender-conscious practises within organisations. The winner of the competition for women-led companies from the Mekong region was Vietnamese entrepreneur Dung Claire Tran's AI-powered browser, Rayo. She Loves Tech is the largest acceleration platform in the world for women in technology.

Before the event came to a close, ESCAP and 2X Global signed a collaboration agreement. In the Asia-Pacific area, from September 2023 to March 2024, training programmes for female-led or gender-balanced fund managers will be offered as a result of this agreement. ESCAP has announced plans to coordinate efforts with 2X Global and other partners through a combined initiative called "Women Investing for Women" to unlock gender-smart finance on a bigger scale. Additionally, it was reported that a research will be ordered on the South East Asian FemTech Industry.

The Catalysing Women's Entrepreneurship Programme, supported by Global Affairs Canada, served as the backdrop for the Feminist Finance Forum. By encouraging women's entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region, this programme seeks to economically emancipate women, decrease poverty, and improve gender equality. The forum's results seek to build even further on these successes by attempting to create a real and encouraging environment for female entrepreneurs throughout Asia and the Pacific and beyond.