Dushanbe, Tajikistan, November 23, 2016 – Today, the U.S. Embassy in cooperation with the American Chamber of Commerce, the State Committee on Investment and State Property, and State Committee on Women and the Family organized the 2nd annual Women’s Business Forum and Entrepreneurship Expo at the Sheraton Hotel in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The Forum was the last event of Global Entrepreneurship Week Tajikistan, a week-long series of events dedicated to highlighting the activity of entrepreneurs and start up enterprises.
The Forum aimed to complement the state-sponsored Women’s Entrepreneurship Day held in October and demonstrates the potential of women entrepreneurs in Tajikistan. Investing in women is a key way to alleviate poverty and promote stability within communities. Nearly 100 women entrepreneurs from all regions of Tajikistan, members of the government of Tajikistan, representatives of the diplomatic and international community, leaders of business associations from Central Asia as well as local and foreign investors participated in the day’s activities.
The Forum opened with remarks from the Deputy Head of the State Committee on Investment and Property Management, Nigina Anvari, the Deputy Chairwoman of the State Committee on Women and Family Affairs, Davlatzoda Zulfiya, and from the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Tajikistan, Elisabeth Millard. Ambassador Millard discussed the Alliance for Artisans Enterprise, an initiative launched by Secretary Kerry and Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues at the Department of State, to support and connect artisans, of whom 90% are women, to local and international markets. The event, she said, is just the first step to making sure investors and governments recognize the potential of women artisans in Tajikistan and connect them to the organizations and markets in Central Asia to see them succeed.
Following the opening remarks, Idigul Kosimzoda, the Chairwoman of the State Committee on Women and Family Affairs, delivered a keynote speech on the positive effects on society by empowering women economically. The keynote address was followed by two business panels. One featured presentations from six leading heads of women’s business associations in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. The leaders of the women’s business associations discussed the challenges and opportunities for regional integration through women’s economic empowerment. The second business panel featured presentations by the winners of the Farah competition, discussing their businesses and women entrepreneurship in Tajikistan.
After the presentation, the women entrepreneurs participated in a women-led Social Entrepreneurship Pitching competition. Run by the National Association of Small and Medium Business (NASMB), fifteen finalists were selected by a panel of experts through a national application process that closed a month before the forum. On the day of the forum, the fifteen finalists defended their project ideas and five top winners were chosen for cash prizes to provide seed funding for their businesses. All of the women received a prize for their participation in the event.
Finally, the Women’s Business Forum featured an expo aimed at promoting textile, handicraft, agro-produce, and technological products produced by women entrepreneurs, mostly from rural areas from all regions of Tajikistan.
The event was sponsored by the UN Women, DFID, OSCE, Save the Children, Oxfam, Open Society Institute, National Association of Small and Medium Enterprise, National Association of Business Women of Tajikistan, Kadbonu – Women’s Business Association of Central Asia, Association of Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship of Tajikistan, TCELL, Promotion, Coca Cola, Asian Development Bank, Sheraton, United Nations Development Program, Union of Craftsman of Tajikistan, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, and Imkon Consulting.