Photo: Azertaj News Agency. UNDP Resident Representative Alessandro Fracassetti presenting a certificate of business excellence to Natavan Azizova, Bilasuvar's pioneer fisherwoman., who was able to establish her fishery business with substantial financial support from the European Union

As prepared for delivery

International Forum

Development of Women’s Entrepreneurship: experiences, opportunities, achievements

speech by Mr. Alessandro Fracassetti, UNDP Resident Representative

Fairmont Hotel, Baku

21 June 2019

Honourable Deputy Prime Minister Mr Ali Ahmadov

Madame Chairwoman Hijran Huseynova,

Esteemed guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure and honour to be here today on behalf on UNDP at this international forum on women’s entrepreneurship.

Women entrepreneurs are a growing force in the 21st century in countries around the world, who are making transformative changes in their own lives and in the lives of many in cities and rural communities.

This conference takes place at an important moment. In 2020, the global community will mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). It will also be five years since the adoption of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals, one of which, Goal 5, pertains to gender equality.  

In its national report for the Beijing+25 review, the Government of Azerbaijan identifies women’s economic empowerment as one of its strategic priorities. It highlights a number of measures undertaken in recent years to assess obstacles and advance opportunities for women’s equal participation in the economy.

UNDP shares this commitment. Women’s economic empowerment is an integral part of our mandate for gender equality. We have extensive experience in this field, and work with our national and regional partners in Azerbaijan to turn opportunities for women into achievements. What we do in this sector is exactly in the title of this conference captures the essence of the work we do.

Economic power is key to women’s advancement. Guided by this principle, UNDP in Azerbaijan has, since we opened our offices here, worked closely with the Government, particularly with our main partner, the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs, and with the wider international donor community such as EU, USAID, SDC, UN agencies, UNFPA and UN Women, and the private sector such as Coca-Cola, to expand women’s economic opportunities through advocacy, policy development and programmes.

In recent years, we have jointly tackled women’s socio-economic empowerment by investing in individual women, to strengthen their skills and directly support their economic activities and organizational capacities. The Women Resource Centres, established by UNDP with the support of the Government, have been a breakthrough initiative for women to emerge as entrepreneurs, and are rightly highlighted in the national report for Beijing+25 as a centrepiece of our joint efforts.  

Today, we have eight such centres with 3000 members. They have helped around 6,000 women, especially in rural areas, to engage in social issues in their communities, network, and gain the information, knowledge and experience needed to establish a business. 2,000 men and women in rural communities benefited from gender awareness raising sessions; WRC’s facilitated number of job fairs and as a result 36 women were employed. 135 women opened their businesses and additionally employed 24 women.  Five WRCs out of eight are already acting as independent Organisation, apply for grants and implement small projects and initiatives supported by the NGO Council, Ministry of Education, EU and US Embassy etc.

Earlier this year, the UNDP Regional Director for Europe and CIS, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, inaugurated the Women’s Resource Centre in Baku’s Khazar district, established in partnership with State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs, SDC and UN Women. She saw the results of our work, spoke with business women and today, in her capacity as global champion for gender equality in UNDP, actively promotes our achievements in Azerbaijan. 

During the course of our work, we have been privileged to meet numerous creative and energetic women in different regions in the country. We have helped women entrepreneurs to start local farms, establish beekeeping businesses and art skills courses, open beauty salons, fitness centers, tailoring enterprises and computer centres to name but a few.

Please visit the stands of all our WRCs in the hall of this conference room and meet their who have travelled far to exhibit their products. Several WRC members and leaders will share their experiences at the conference today – their presence here speaks for the singular success of the WRCs.

Our experience in working with women entrepreneurs proves that the impact of our work goes far beyond economic growth. Women entrepreneurs have been inspired to contribute and even lead their communities’ work. We have seen women-led businesses open opportunities for families and communities and encourage women and girls to overcome gender stereotypes and other challenges.

We are proud of these achievements. Today, I emphasize our commitment to continue to work with women in Azerbaijan, to share our worldwide experiences and good practices with them, to create more opportunities for them, and make their achievements grow in number and quality.

I take this opportunity to express our thanks and support to the organizers and wish participants all success in their discussions today.

Thank you.

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