Getting a chance to work with a division of United Nations was like a dream come true. The South and South West Asia Office bridges the developing and developed countries in the subregion and works with ten member States in the subregion, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey. I was accepted as an intern at the headquarters of SSWA office in New Delhi. The duration of the internship was of two months, from 1st of June till 31st of July. The induction was a pretty structured process. I was introduced to all the office staff and a welcome lunch was arranged on the first day. The first two days I was required to complete some UN specific trainings.
I had a meeting with my supervisor Wanphen Shresthaputra, regarding my internship project. My work plan was to do an applied research project on the topic “Women entrepreneurs in South Asia: A Snapshot”. Considering that the Sustainable Development Goals explicitly address entrepreneurship (Goal 4, target 4.4 and Goal 8, target 8.3, in addition to Goals 5 and 9), which is understood as an enabler, driver and empowering tool for sustainable development, the related methodology would help gain greater understanding of the gaps and means to support the creation of an enabling ecosystem for female entrepreneurs, as well as types of tools that could advance entrepreneurship, including in rural areas and/or least developed countries (LDCs) in SSWA.
The structure of the report was framed with inputs from my supervisor. The objective of the report was to understand the landscape for women entrepreneurs in South Asia. The specific objectives of the report were:
- To highlight the challenges that women entrepreneurs in the South Asian region face
- To assess the institutional support for women entrepreneurs in India through policies, schemes and projects
- To analyze of the policy environment for women entrepreneurs in other South Asian countries
- To list out case studies of successful women entrepreneurship support programs in Asia
- To review the initiatives undertaken to promote regional integration and economic cooperation among South Asian nations
As a part of my work, I also developed two separate survey questionnaires for women entrepreneurs based out of urban and rural areas to specifically understand the challenges they face. This tool will be used by ESCAP for conducting a primary research in South Asia. My final presentation was held on the 26th of July and was attended by all the staff of the office. The presentation went well and there was some suggestions on the content of the report. I submitted the report after incorporating all the changes and feedback. I was presented with a certificate and some goodies on the day of completion.
During my internship, I was also asked to attend three conferences. The first conference was conducted by National Thermal Power Corporation, on the topic “Towards meaningful corporate governance”. The lecture was delivered by Shri M. Damodaran, who was the Former Chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The second conference was organized by International Growth Centre on three topics- health and economic growth in India, financial inclusion in India and governance and public service delivery in India. The third conference was organized by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry on the topic “Creating an enabling environment for returnee entrepreneurs”. The conferences gave me the chance to interact and network with academicians, government officials and representatives from the NGO sector, working in the policy space.
Overall, my experience of working with UNESCAP is something I will treasure for a lifetime. I had enough freedom to decide on the structure of my research and received timely feedback and guidance from my supervisor. Everyone in office was very supportive and helpful. I hope this experience has prepared me better to build a career in international development.