Expanding Opportunities in the Digital Economy for Women Entrepreneurs
Among the many challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic are widening gender gaps in economic opportunity, especially in a rapidly changing world economy that is becoming increasingly digitized. Covid-19 mobility restrictions and lockdowns hastened businesses’ transition to e-commerce and digital trade, yet many businesses were—and still are—struggling to make the transition to e-commerce, especially micro and small enterprises in hospitality, retail, and administrative goods and services, which are disproportionately run by women. The economic strain put on many families, as well as the fear and anxiety arising from extended lockdowns, have exacerbated incidences of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV). This was particularly evident in contexts with poor health systems, weak rule of law, and existing high levels of gender inequality and violence against women and girls. In addition, many survivors face economic insecurity and lack livelihood support, creating more barriers for them to safely escape GBV. With funding from Visa Foundation and in collaboration with local business and violence prevention organizations, The Asia Foundation helped women and their families in Malaysia, Nepal, and Myanmar confront their rapidly changing lives in the face of Covid-19 economic downturns and, in the case of Myanmar, an overlapping political crisis. From May 2020 to October 2021, these initiatives connected women entrepreneurs and workers to new market opportunities, digital and financial literacy skills, and strengthen systems of support against GBV.