Unprecedented virtual Women’s Entrepreneurship Expo connects 500 investors, companies, business associations and women entrepreneurs

Date: Friday, April 30, 2021

Clockwise: Alisa Basyrova, CEO and Founder, Holy Corn; Nazli Uanik Yildiz, Co-Founder, Nebyan Dogal; Aikanysh Saparalieva, Country Lead of Glovo; Aida Kaumenova, Owner of Aida KaumeNOVA Fashion House
Clockwise: Alisa Basyrova, CEO and Founder, Holy Corn; Nazli Uyanik Yildiz, Co-Founder, Nebyan Dogal; Aikanysh Saparalieva, Country Lead of Glovo; Aida Kaumenova, Owner of Aida KaumeNOVA Fashion House

30 April 2021 – The first virtual Women’s Entrepreneurship Expo provided business training, coaching, and networking opportunities to hundreds of women across Europe and Central Asia, where one-quarter of all self-employed women lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organized by UN Women from 27-29 April, with financial support from the Government of Japan, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Expo brought together more than 500 participants from 50 countries. Among them, more than 200 women entrepreneurs from a dozen countries in Europe and Central Asia connected with investors, private companies, and women’s business associations. Most of the participants came from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey.

The entrepreneurs set up nearly 100 booths to showcase their businesses and share experiences and challenges of running their small enterprises. Improved access to finance and business networks were among the leading issues that they discussed, along with the importance of digitalization, e-commerce, and mutual support for each other as entrepreneurs.

The Expo speakers emphasized the heavy impact and negative economic consequences of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs. They agreed that support to women’s businesses must be an integral part of all stages of recovery from the pandemic.

“Women are once again the hardest hit in a crisis, and the pandemic has exposed and deepened existing inequalities,” said UN Women Regional Director, Alia El-Yassir, in her opening address. “Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, too many women in the region were financially insecure in lower-paid, part-time, and informal employment, with little or no social protection,” she said.

Globally, 82 percent of women-led companies have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, noted Ms. El-Yassir. She added that in the Europe and Central Asia region, one-quarter of self-employed women have lost their jobs. Nearly half of women are now working from home. “As the world begins to emerge from the impact of COVID-19, boosting women’s entrepreneurship must be part of the plan,” she said.

Shigeki Maeda, Ambassador of Japan to the Kyrgyz Republic, noted that the struggle of women to juggle teleworking with housework and childcare during the lockdown is universal. “The Government of Japan will continue to commit to promoting women's entrepreneurship,” he said.

Reyhan Aktar, Vice President of the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TURKONFED) and President of the Commission on Women in Business, said that supporting entrepreneurial women is more important than ever due to the global pandemic. “At TURKONFED, we support the strengthening of women in the economy, and also believe that their active participation in all areas of life is the most important leverage of a prosperous society,” Aktar said. TURKONFED is one of the main partners of the future stages of the Expo.

Useful business networking transpired, despite the ‘virtual’ online aspect of the Expo, due to the pandemic. The online networking sessions triggered hundreds of connection requests between the participating women entrepreneurs. Many of them set up private calls with investors and partners. Nearly over 300 private and network meetings took place during the three-day Expo.

Turkish Milliyet newspaper the main media partner of the Expo.

For more information contact: Gizem Yarbil Gurol, gizem.yarbil@unwomen.org