INAUGURAL ADDRESS BY YANG BERHORMAT DATIN PADUKA CHEW MEI FUN DEPUTY MINISTER OF WOMEN, FAMILY AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
1st Asia Women Business Power Conference 2009
18th June 2009, Technology Park Malaysia
Salam sejahtera and a very good morning. It is a great honour to be here with successful and aspiring women entrepreneurs and all of you who have taken the initiative to be part of this inaugural event.
Firstly, I wish to take this opportunity to thank YB Dato’ Seri Kong Cho Ha , Mr Andrew Wong , the MCA ICT Resource Centre (MIRC), MIRC Incubator Sdn Bhd, National Incubation Network Association (NINA), Technology Park Malaysia (TPM), and Vtalent Corporation Sdn. Bhd for giving MCA’s Women Entrepreneur Development Centre (WEDC) a chance to be part of this very meaningful event for women even before WEDC is officially launched. I am confident that this event will be fruitful especially for women entrepreneurs and aspiring women entrepreneurs.
Ladies and gentlemen, Entrepreneurship is increasingly gaining grounds and widely acknowledged as a catalyst for economic development globally and locally. Women are emerging as a significant economic force which no one nation could afford to ignore. Women’s capacity and contribution in entrepreneurship is undoubtedly recognised given that women’s share in businesses worldwide is growing. Statistics reveal that women constitute one third of new ventures founders and make up between 40 to 50 percent of 73 million active entrepreneurs across 34 nations.
In Malaysia, SMEs account for 99 percent of companies involved in services, manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Women own approximately 16 percent of the SMEs companies, primarily in the services sector followed by manufacturing and agricultural sectors. As such, Malaysian women entrepreneurs are increasingly recognized as a key player in the economy in particular to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
In the age of globalisation, modernisation, industrialisation and rapid urbanisation, women’s role have evolved and shifted away of the traditional domains of home to the public sphere contributing to the nation’s economic growth. Women have not only made inroads but even earned recognition in many fields. Women of today are in senior positions, owner of companies and professionals in fields which used to be dominated by men.
In Malaysia, women’s involvement in entrepreneurship has not only progressed but also evolved. During our mother’s time, women were more involved in cooperative movements. In recent years, we see more women registered as sole proprietor or partners in business enterprises and to top it off, women are now progressively venturing the small medium enterprises (SMEs). Some 60,000 women-owned businesses are registered each year.
Although there is an increasing trend where women consider and opt for entrepreneurship as their career choice; however women entrepreneurs still face challenges on several fronts. The lack of financial support is one of the key challenges faced by women entrepreneurs. Competitiveness of women entrepreneurs in the mass market is another issue in question.
The Malaysian government is mindful of the value in promoting the development of women entrepreneurship in the country towards achieving Malaysia’s national development objectives including economic development and growth. Thus, relevant ministries have now been tasked to identify factors which impede one from progressing in business. Such ministries have initiated programmes and schemes to encourage greater participation of women in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Various government grants and funds can be accessed by women entrepreneurs through agencies such as the Special Assistance Schemes through the Small and Medium Industries Development Corporation (SMIDEC).
The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development recognises the importance of empowering women economically and thus has always been supportive of women in business. The Ministry has its focus on three main areas namely economic empowerment, capacity building and enhancing quality of life of women. The Ministry through the Department of Women’s Development (JPW) conducts various programmes aimed at economically empowering women and single mothers. The “Inkubator Kemahiran Ibu Tunggal” or I-KIT (Intensive Skills Training for Single Mothers) is a special project under the Ninth Malaysia Plan aimed at eradicating poverty among women, especially single mothers. I-KIT offers intensive courses in various fields such as beauty therapy, cooking, sewing, handicraft, child care and tourism. In 2008, 349 single mothers from eleven states all over Malaysia benefited through the I-KIT programme. 85 single mothers from the I-KIT programme have ventured into micro enterprise immediately upon completion of the course. Based from the very positive outcome of the programme, the I-KIT programme started venturing into entrepreneurial training this year. In addition, various training programmes are also conducted to educate women on financial management.
Ladies and gentlemen,Efforts to facilitate and ensure growth of women entrepreneurs no longer rest on the public sector alone. The public and corporate sectors also play a prominent role in supporting the development and growth of women entrepreneurs in Malaysia.
The Wanita MCA women’s wing of MCA, a component party in the ruling coalition take great interest in issues which affect the economic and social well being of all irrespective of gender, ethnicity or nationality. Our programmes include providing a platform to women to develop their full potential to empowering women through knowledge and skills building to advocacy in promoting quality of life for all Malaysians and in particular advocacy for the promotion and protection of women’s human rights.
Thus, the MCA Women Development Entrepreneur Centre (WEDC) was conceptualised and will be in operation soon. It was primarily mooted to empower women towards economic self-sufficiency and financial independence; develop and nurture more women entrepreneurs to participate in the Malaysia’s economic development; promote Women SMEs in growth sectors; position women businesses towards the Global Market through networking, skill development and market access and ensure access to financing for women businesses to expand.
Once WEDC operates officially, its target group will encompass four categories. Firstly, home-based business, which is premised on traditional businesses such as catering, handicrafts etc. Secondly, new Businesses involving high impact sectors such as ICT, Biotech, Franchising etc. Would-be or aspiring Entrepreneurs falls into the third category. Finally, the fourth category is for economically or financially challenged families which include single parents, those who are retrenched and physically challenged.
In short, WEDC aims to assist women in two ways namely facilitating women to enrol into skill enhancement courses, business development and incubation programmes; and secondly reaching out to deserving women to disseminate information on mentoring, skill development and availability of grants.
Women make up half of the world’s population and in Malaysia it’s no different with the nation’s population of 27 million. Malaysian women represent almost half of the total workforce in 2008. With the estimated 8.47 million women between the ages of 15 to 64 years old, just imagine the impact they could bring if such a powerful force of women were to be fully utilized. As such, the participation of women in the nation’s economic activities is no longer an option, but a prerequisite to boost Malaysia’s competitiveness.
From the broad areas which will be discussed and deliberated in today’s conference, it is my fervent hope that all of us here will benefit from key learnings shared by the invited speakers and experts. Also, I hope that this conference will also serve as a platform for our women entrepreneur to start networking, and establish closer ties among women entrepreneurs throughout the region.
I am hopeful that today’s conference will facilitate in the discovery of a new you in the entrepreneur sector and inspire more women to become entrepreneurs.
Last but not least, I wish you all the best in your future endeavours.