US Ambassador Julie Chung
- WEConnect International emphasizes the urgent need to build business resilience
WEConnect International hosted a full-day event that included investment readiness and business resilience training, a roundtable on supplier diversity and integration, and a company matchmaking session for more than 100 women entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka.
The special event was part of the “Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion” project funded by the US Department of State’s Office for South and Central Asia Affairs. US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung delivered the keynote address to an audience of women entrepreneurs and local and multinational companies.
“The United States is a proud supporter of WEConnect International and its work in Sri Lanka,” said Ambassador Chung. “We are inspired by his mission to create a world where women have equal opportunities as men to build and run businesses and create prosperity and sustainable prosperity for their communities and the country.”
The event was designed to address the urgent need to support women-owned businesses in dealing with the negative impact of the current economic and political downturn. The capacity building training covered topics such as pricing strategy to stay competitive, contacting financial institutions for low interest loans, basic business finance for growth, digital marketing for local and regional trade and using the WEConnect International network to partner with women business owners in others countries like India.
Representing a variety of industries including professional services, manufacturing, IT and agriculture, the women entrepreneurs met with dozens of local companies to discuss opportunities for their businesses and learn how to interact with potential buyers and market their solutions . The female entrepreneurs also networked with each other and used the community to exchange ideas and learn about new ways to grow their business.
The Supplier Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable was hosted for more than 30 company participants to raise their awareness on gender-responsive sourcing ahead of the matchmaking session with the women entrepreneurs and participants represented companies such as Aitken Spences, Hayleys, Ceylon Biscuits Ltd. , Handelsbank, HNB and Maliban.
“Women entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka are still recovering from the negative impact of the pandemic and are now grappling with the economic crisis and political unrest,” said Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and co-founder of WEConnect International.
“It is imperative that we all step up our support for what women are saying about keeping their businesses running and their teams busy, and today’s event is a first step in providing much-needed training on business resilience . I am grateful to the companies involved and I expect to benefit from their connections with these growth-oriented women-owned companies in the near future.”
The US-funded Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion includes programs in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and the Maldives. It focuses on creating long-term opportunities for women-led businesses to connect and do business with major buyers, including local and multinational companies, government agencies, and non-profit and non-governmental organizations.
To date, 615 women-owned businesses have participated in capacity-building training and networking with dozens of companies, many of which have committed to sourcing more from women-owned businesses. The program is just one component of the longstanding partnership between the American and Sri Lankan peoples to support Sri Lanka’s development and promote economic sustainability.
In addition to ongoing projects such as the Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion initiative, the United States has announced more than $179 million in new assistance to Sri Lanka this year, including nearly $32 million in new humanitarian and technical assistance alone since June.