Empowering women leaders for gender equality in the digital economy

07 May 2024

UN Trade and Development introduces four new advocates, revitalizing efforts for a gender-inclusive digital space with more women e-traders at the policy table.

Live streaming increasingly drives e-commerce growth worldwide.
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© Shutterstock/courage007 | Live streaming increasingly drives e-commerce growth worldwide.

  • UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) puts women’s voices front and centre in advocating for a digital economy that benefits all.

  • Six women advocates named to the 2024-2025 cohort will help shape policies to promote gender equality in the digital age.

  • Bolstering women digital entrepreneurship is critical to inclusive development, particularly for developing economies.

Six women entrepreneurs will serve as the 2024-2025 cohort of advocates for the eTrade for Women initiative led by UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan announced the appointment on 6 May in Geneva, highlighting the critical role of women digital entrepreneurs in driving innovation, job creation, and economic growth.

Hailing from developing Africa, Asia and Latin America, these female entrepreneurs are pioneers in tech and champions of women’s empowerment through e-commerce and the digital economy.

"The diagram of the rainwater harvest system."

© UNCTAD | The six female entrepreneurs are the fifth cohort of advocates since the launch of the eTrade for Women initiative in 2019.

The latest lineup welcomes four new advocates: Vèna Arielle Ahouansou of Benin, Hilda Moraa of Kenya, Angeline Tham of the Philippines and Ajaita Shah of India.

They will work alongside two existing advocates, Yasmine Abdel Karim of Egypt, and Ana Maria Sandoval of Colombia – both continuing in their role for another year.

"eTrade for Women" is a key initiative under the e-commerce and digital economy programme of UN Trade and Development.

Leading funding contributors to the programme are Australia, Germany, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Meet the new advocates

Vèna Arielle Ahouansou, co-founder and CEO of Kea Medicals (Cotonou, Benin), is a medical doctor and entrepreneur using technology to improve healthcare services and optimize the use of resources in this key sector. She is the new advocate for French-speaking Africa.

Hilda Moraa, founder and CEO of Pezesha (Nairobi, Kenya), is a visionary leader who builds innovative financial solutions to empower women entrepreneurs across Africa. She is the new advocate for English-speaking Africa.

Angeline Tham, co-founder and CEO of Angkas (Manila, the Philippines), is a business leader in the ride-hailing industry. She leverages digital technologies to help build a safer and more inclusive transportation sector. She is the new advocate for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Ajaita Shah, co-founder and CEO of Frontier Markets (Jaipur, India), is a social entrepreneur whose e-commerce platform helps bridge the digital divide for women in rural areas. She is the first-ever advocate appointed for South Asia.

Unlocking women’s potential in the digital economy

As a key plank of their mandate, the advocates will help tackle the persisting gender gap in the digital economy, which hinders sustainable and inclusive development.

“The advocates can help call attention to the persistent challenges women face to access finance, technology, and markets,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of technology and logistics at UN Trade and Development.

“Their insights and leadership will be instrumental in shaping policies that promote gender equality in the digital age.”

Women’s leadership in the digital economy is also high on the agenda of the 7th meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy, taking place in Geneva on 6-8 May, with diplomats, businesses and civil society representatives in attendance.

At the meeting, Ana Maria Sandoval, advocate for Latin America and the Caribbean, urged efforts to enable women in developing countries to better contribute to, and benefit from, the booming digital economy.

Ms. Sandoval spoke at a panel discussion on building digital capabilities and readiness, alongside Cambodia’s Minister of Commerce Cham Nimul, and Mauritania’s Minister of Digital Transition, Innovation and Modernization Mohamed Abdallahi Louly.