Traditional handicraft is inseparable from Central Asia, evoking images of the Silk Road. Yet, the future of trade is digital.
This was the focus of the Regional Forum “E-commerce in handicraft as a driver of key changes in women’s entrepreneurship in Central Asia”, held on 5-6 May 2023 in Termez, Uzbekistan. The event provided a platform to discuss the role information technology (IT) and digital solutions play in the development of the handicraft sector, in particular for businesswomen. The Forum, organized by the International Business Women Association of Uzbekistan (IBWA) in co-operation with the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan (PCUz), brought together around 130 women entrepreneurs from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, as well as Afghan women established in Uzbekistan.
Discussions stressed how handicraft has recently grown into a thriving industry that strengthens local cultural economies, with IT and digital solutions boosting the potential for regional cooperation.
As an example, the e-commerce market in Uzbekistan is developing rapidly, thanks to the active participation of businesswomen and the support of state policies, programmes and strategies in this area. In particular, bordering three countries the Surkhandarya province – whose capital is Termez – offers great opportunities for regional trade, connectivity and business co-operation.
“Helping women acquire the digital knowledge and skills needed to develop entrepreneurship is an integral part of OSCE programmes aimed at women’s economic empowerment,” said Sergei Sizov, Acting OSCE Project Co-ordinator.
For many years, the OSCE PCUz has been supporting initiatives to strengthen business capacities of women, to improve their employment opportunities, and to promote their economic participation through digital technologies. Concrete examples include the support to the start-up Coozin – a digital platform helping women to run an online cooking business, training courses on computer literacy and digital marketing for women in cooperation with IT Park, and long-term fruitful cooperation with the IBWA to develop communities of businesswomen in different regions of Uzbekistan.