Women's entrepreneurship development

Rebuilding Better: Fostering Business Resilience Post-COVID-19

The Rebuilding Better project, supported by J.P. Morgan, supports women entrepreneurs in Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and adopt more sustainable and resilient business models by strengthening their access to vital support services.


Women’s entrepreneurship can play an essential role in supporting inclusive and sustainable recovery and growth in the South-East Asia subregion. In recent decades, women entrepreneurs have been growing in numbers and female ownership is today relatively high compared with other parts of the world. In 2020, around 23 per cent, or 1.9 million, of employers were women according to ILO estimates. However, women in South-East Asia as well as in other parts of the world have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which risk reversing progress towards gender equality that has been made in recent years.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, women entrepreneurs in the region have suffered disproportionate impact caused by the pandemic-related restrictions, compared with their male counterparts. Operating in the most vulnerable sectors and bearing the brunt when it comes to intensified childcare and domestic responsibilities, women entrepreneurs have seen pre-existing gender disparities in the business sector exacerbated. This includes less access to formal financial services, ICT equipment, networks and training, to name a few, which have affected women entrepreneurs’ ability to respond adequately to the crisis.

Enabling women entrepreneurs’ meaningful participation in gender-sensitive entrepreneurship ecosystems has proven multiplier effects on decent employment, poverty eradication and economic growth. Promoting women’s entrepreneurship development in South-East Asia must be an integral part of a human-centred and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is vital to leave no-one behind and to reverse any setbacks in achieving gender equality as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Project objectives and key activities

The main objective of the Rebuilding Better Project is to assist women entrepreneurs to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and adopt more sustainable and resilient business models. The project is targeting at least 60 per pent women-owned small businesses in the manufacturing, service and retail trade sectors in urban areas in Thailand, Malaysia, and Philippines, which all have seen a severe decline in economic output.

Working with partners, including ILO constituents, government agencies, women’s entrepreneurship associations and the private sector, the project delivers interventions to improve women entrepreneurs’ access to training provision, financial services and market information and networks. Digitalization is a crosscutting component, and the project assists women entrepreneurs to increase their online presence and apply digital technology.

The project objective will be achieved through the delivery of the following three outputs:
  • Training and other support to build business and financial management skills, enhance financial literacy, and promote digitalization delivered
  • Information about financial services shared and assistance with applications for financial support provided
  • Information about new and existing market opportunities delivered
With these projected results, the Rebuilding Better project aims for small women-owned businesses to stabilize and recover from COVID-19 and adopt more sustainable and resilient business models. In the longer-term, the project will contribute to an inclusive and enabling environment for women-owned enterprises in targeted countries, which in turn will support the economic recovery of targeted countries from COVID-19 and the generation of decent employment opportunities.

Impact stories and results

For further information please contact:

Ms Sara Andersson
Project Technical Officer
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Email: andersson@ilo.org

Ms Karnmanee Thanesvorakul
National Project Coordinator (Thailand)
ILO Country Office for Thailand
Email: thanesvorakul@ilo.org

Ms Linartes Viloria
National Project Coordinator (Philippines)
ILO Country Office for the Philippines
Email: viloria@ilo.org

Ms Amira K. Ikmal
National Project Coordinator (Malaysia)
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Email: ikmal@ilo.org