The 6th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave 2018 commenced on 16 March in Kathmandu, Nepal under the theme ‘Unleashing shared prosperity through economic integration’. This three-day biennial event brought together the region’s economic and business thinkers, doers and change makers on a common platform to discuss debate, share best practices and create opportunities to take South Asia on the path of shared prosperity through economic integration.
The event was inaugurated by Rt. K.P. Charma Oli, Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal amid a grand ceremony held at Hotel Hyatt Regency, Kathmandu. Speaking at the event Prime Minister Oli said that there was a need to foster partnership among South Asian countries for their development and prosperity.
The highlight of the event was indeed the plenary session on Strengthening Connectivity and Trade in South Asia; the case for Gender Responsive Logistics; which was coincidentally an all women panel was. The session was jointly organised by the World Bank Group and Australia’s Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and was headed by Mandhakini Kaul; Senior Regional Cooperation Specialist, World Bank.
Ambassador of Australia to Nepal Peter Budd in his opening remarks stated that even though 49% of the population of South Asia are women, the corresponding representation in the labour force is only 36% and further went on to say that the Government of Australia through the World Bank – DFAT partnership in South Asia for trade and connectivity and gender is committed to empower women in the region.
Speaking at the session, WiLAT Sri Lanka Chairperson Dhashma Karunaratne showcased the achievements of the Port of Colombo and stated, “Port of Colombo is complementary to the growth aspirations of the region, it is strategically positioned astride the main east-west sea route to serve as the primary gateway to the Indian Sub-Continent; including the Bay of Bengal.” She went on to highlight that POC is the only Port in South Asia to be ranked among the top 25 ports; ranked 23rd POC is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 10% and is ranked as the 4th fastest growing port in the world.
With much appreciation she commented, “The gender responsiveness of each of the terminals operating at POC is encouraging,” and added, “The Government owned and operated Jaya Container Terminal; having trained and employed South Asia’s first female gantry crane Operators is the trendsetter for POC and also the region.” She also shared the demonstrated commitment towards Women Empowerment at SAGT, the first public private partnership container terminal in the POC; having recently signed up as a corporate member of the high level advocacy group of IFC’s Women in Work program, launched in partnership with the Government of Australia.
When requested to speak of a success story Dhashma stated that WiLAT SL in order to be a catalyst for change in Logistics and Transportation Industry, partnered with UNWomen HeForShe program last year. “We believe that effective inclusion and diversity strategies require strong passionate Leadership hence WiLATSL invited the CEOs/Managing Directors of each of the three terminals; namely JCT SAGT and CICT among other corporate leaders in the logistics and transportation industries to sign up and lead by example through actions that demonstrably advance and empower women.”
She shared that, “Meaningful progress on gender diversity result in sustainable competitive advantages,” and said that, “Diversity is a competitive differentiator that shifts markets towards more diverse companies.” She further added, “It is no co-incidence that all three terminals were recognised for their performance in the Indian Sub-Continent and the Asian Region in the last nine months.” She ended the session by saying, “Women empowerment is the game changer; for the logistics and transport industry in the region to unleash its potential.”
Ayanthi Gurusinghe Director at Karpos Consultants, the Official Global Service Partner for Alibaba.com, Selima Ahmed, President and Founder of Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Former Cabinet Minister in the Maldivian Government shared their insights on the panel.
Speaking at the conclave, Manjeev Singh Puri, Ambassador of India to Nepal, commended the port of Colombo for leveraging its strategic location and maritime capabilities.
The Business conclave had many facets; The Fashion event; Threads of Hope brought a collaborative collection that drew from the region’s collective history, contemporary influences and the culture of humanity. Fashion being a global business is estimated to be worth over $ 1.3 trillion, and the contribution of the region to this industry is significant, the region’s bridal fashion market itself is estimated to be $ 100 billion. Designers from all eight countries showcased their talent, among them known designers such as Faiza Samee of Pakistan, Indeevari Yapa from Sri Lanka and new entrants such as Lipi Khandker from Bangladesh. The Bridal collection of Indeevari created much hype and excitement among the audience; and was indeed a favourite of many.
SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI) is the apex business organisation of the SAARC countries, since its inception in 1992/93 SAARC CCI has determinedly worked towards creating and fostering strong business linkages among entrepreneurs of South Asia.
WiLAT was formed with a mission to promote the status of women in Supply Chain L n T, by the Chartered institute of Logistics and Transportation. WiLAT SL founded by Gayani De Alwis, celebrates five years of creating parity under the theme of Sustainable Logistics Conference and Gala Dinner and awards ceremony at Kingsbury on Friday, 23 March.