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Bridging Digital Gender Gap Empowers Women Micro-Entrepreneurs

March 11, 2023

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo stressed the importance of bridging the digital gender divide in empowering women micro-entrepreneurs.

In the session, Empowering Women Micro-Entrepreneurs in the Digital Economy, one of the side events at the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), Lamentillo said that the use of digital technologies presents opportunities for the formalization and growth of enterprises. However, there is a need to level the playing field and make sure that these opportunities are equally accessible to all existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of gender.

“For women micro-entrepreneurs, while access to a mobile phone could be a barrier, we think the greater challenges include slow or no internet connectivity, especially in the rural areas; lack of awareness, technical know-how, and skills; and low access to digital financing products, such as e-wallets and other banking services,” she explained.

A study by the International Finance Corp. (IFC) showed that women entrepreneurs could better compete if they have the necessary digital selling skills as well as access to credit. But 61 percent of women in the Philippines still do not own a bank account and were not part of the formal economy.

Various government agencies have existing programs to support women entrepreneurs in a digital economy.

The DICT’s Free Wi-Fi program intends to provide broadband connectivity in all parts of the country, particularly the unserved and underserved areas. Its Tech4ED Centers provide critical e-government and ICT-enabled services in communities with minimal to no access to information and government services.

Meanwhile, the Startup Grant Fund (SGF) will provide financial grants for new and early-stage startups relating to startup development, capacity building, and network building.

“We are also advancing E-governance. The streamlining of government services is crucial to help women micro-entrepreneurs easily access government services, including the application of necessary permits that will allow them to expand their businesses and access credit,” said Lamentillo.

Other agencies of government have established their respective programs for women’s economic empowerment, such as the SheTrades PH Hub under the Department of Trade and Industry that allows Filipina-led businesses to network, sell products and services, and access e-learning programs and market tools to enhance their participation in international trade.

The Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Kabuhayan Program helps women venture into entrepreneurship by providing a grant assistance for capacity building on livelihood for the working poor, vulnerable, and marginalized workers, either for individual or group livelihood projects/undertakings.

The Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP) benefits women entrepreneurs to adopt technological innovations to improve their products, services, operations and increase their productivity and competitiveness. The program provides technical assistance and consultancy services for design of product packages and labels and assists MSMEs in securing product certifications.

“These initiatives help provide our women micro-entrepreneurs the needed boost not only to continue, upgrade, or start their business, but also to utilize mobile services and other digital technologies,” said Lamentillo.

Lamentillo is part of the Philippine Delegation to the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, USA.

The Commission on the Status of Women is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The CSW67, scheduled from March 6-17, 2023, carries the priority theme: “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”

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