Women’s Economic Empowerment through Regional Economic Cooperation

In addition to introducing a new criteria to foster more “bankable projects” that are attractive to both private and public investors, the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan’s new approach has sought to bring greater complementarity between the priority projects under RECCA and the National Priority Programs (NPPs) in areas such as infrastructure development, agriculture development, and private sector development. These efforts have also sought to integrate a women’s economic empowerment component into the RECCA agenda, which will contribute, among other objectives, to the implementation of the Government of Afghanistan’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Program. Major aspects of this program include a focus on promoting access to economic markets, targeted training in literacy and business management skills, and removing legal barriers to women’s economic participation.

This new initiative is underpinned by the recognition that women are poised to become even more influential economic drivers across the region by tackling the barriers to their participation, including through better connections between the women of Central, South, and Southwest Asia and other innovative empowerment tools that enable them to realize their full potential.

Building on these elements aimed at women’s empowerment as an integral part of national economic progress, the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs calls for a regional cooperation strategy that engages women in all RECCA regional cooperation and investment projects, given that women have much to contribute to their implementation and stand to benefit from their success.

Initiating the Women’s Economic Empowerment through Regional Economic Cooperation component of RECCA at RECCA-VII in Ashgabat

The RECCA Secretariat is partnering with the Office of the First Lady of Afghanistan, H.E. Rula Ghani, the Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan to convene a special event on women’s entrepreneurship at RECCA VII. The event aims at assisting a select group of women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Afghanistan and the wider RECCA region with value chain development and access to regional and global markets by connecting them with each other and international enterprises further afield. It represents the first in a series of activities under RECCA aimed at the inclusion of local women-owned SMEs from Afghanistan and the region in the supply chains of multinational enterprises and seeks to raise their international competitiveness.

A two-day exhibition of women’s products from Afghanistan and the region will also be convened as part of the broader RECCA VII exhibition. To further progress on this Women’s Economic Empowerment component of RECCA, a policy paper will be produced that highlights obstacles to progress for women entrepreneurs across the region and a set of operational recommendations for improving their prospects. This proposed initiative, once agreed upon by regional partners, will be supported, in part, by the Government of Afghanistan’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Program.

Budget & Funding Status USD $200 million (for the Government of Afghanistan’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Program)
Institutional Partners Afghanistan and all neighboring countries and their Women Chambers of Commerce & Industries across the region (including the Ministries of Women’s Affairs, Ministries of Commerce, Ministries of Finance, and investment and export support agencies in the participating countries), as well as regional organizations and programs such as SAARC, ECO, SCO, CAREC, UNDP, UNSPECA, and the ITC

Recommended Actions by RECCA-VII and Beyond:

  • Establish a new Women’s Economic Empowerment through Regional Economic Cooperation component of RECCA as an integral part of all activities to engage governments, businesses, scholars, and youth in the RECCA community.
  • RECCA countries and organizations should undertake a joint work plan to ensure that gender diversity serves as a “plus point” for economic development in the full implementation of all RECCA regional cooperation and investment projects.

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