Mekong Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs (WE Inspire)

women entrepreneurCommunities along the Mekong are being significantly affected by changes to the river’s water flow, impacting people’s livelihoods and the traditional rural lifestyles; this affects household food security, income, and the culture and ways of life for over 60 million people. Further, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has added to their economic vulnerability, and those who relocate often work in the low-paid manual labor sector and are vulnerable to exploitation by employers. The target locations have low-income communities, including local ethnic minority and migrant groups.

Working with project partners in each country, Kenan will empower women to grow their business, enhance their economic stability, and engage in positive health-seeking behavior to enable women to support their families. The project builds marginalized women’s financial literacy skills and facilitates female-owned MSMEs’ access to micro-insurance and financial products to help prioritize business and health needs. It will provide premier healthcare-finance package options and business-related training to build skills and confidence in financial management.

Kenan’s project activities include information sessions on healthcare packages bundled with financial products, financial and insurance product consultation workshops, healthcare screenings, and establishing connections to healthcare providers. The project will also provide business, marketing, soft skills, digital literacy, financial literacy, analysis, and management training to grassroots entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs will also be connected with women in other programs, networks, and initiatives, and they will be able to participate in sessions on gender perceptions.

The program aims to enable communities to create stable income and food systems and sustain the integrity of the river’s ecosystems upon which future prosperity depends. Training under the program will reach remote women along the Mekong, whom commercial banks perceive as high-risk and are unwilling to lend to. After participating in the program, marginalized women will be able to build their credit profile and connect with systems such as microfinance institutions or mobile money as a pathway to using commercial banks. By providing training and access to suitable financial products and services, the project will ameliorate the effects of income inequality. Additionally, access to health insurance is essential to enable women to absorb economic shocks when seeking treatment for an illness while promoting positive health-seeking behaviors. Through this, beneficiaries will be better able to focus on growing their business and enhancing their economic stability, which will enable them to support their families and meet their own health needs. The project aims to recruit 200 women beneficiaries to participate.

Kenan Asia