Over 800 delegates from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies are gathering in Bali, Indonesia to develop a strategy to further empower women and strengthen their respective economies.

“Women as Economic Drivers” was chosen as the theme for the three-day annual Women and Economy Forum (WEF) of APEC this year, which opened on Sept.6.

Structural reform, women and information-communication technologies as well as infrastructure and human resources are the three sub-themes that will be discussed by representatives from regional public and private sectors as well as non-governmental organisations.

In her opening speech, Indonesian Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar praised the APEC region for the advances it has made in empowering women.

However, she said there are still many barriers to overcome, which will form part of the discussions during the WEF, such as labour discrimination, rule systems and issues that inhibit women and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access capital and assets.

Since SMEs make a significant contribution to socio-economic development and job creation, synergising the policies for the sector is necessary, said Gumelar.

US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russel underscored the rise in women leaders throughout the region and the world, step-by-step affirming their bigger role in all areas of life.

On this occasion, outstanding innovations will be honoured with the Young Women Innovators Award, an accolade given to exceptional candidates throughout the APEC region./.