Empowering rural women entrepreneurs and supporting women leaders in Bhutan, Lao PDR, & Nepal

A woman sits at the counter of her shop and a man dressed in traditional clothing of Bhutan is handing her money in a transaction

Beyond the Finish Line project is supporting women entrepreneurs in Bhutan (SNV)


How can we better support women's leadership and empower rural women entrepreneurs in WASH services? 


In Bhutan, Lao PDR and Nepal, Water for Women partner, SNV and their local partners, are embedding women’s economic empowerment theory in WASH private sector development strategies to address the multiple and specific barriers that women face in starting, operating, and benefiting from new and existing business opportunities.

Women face multiple barriers that impact their business opportunities, profit margins, customer base, scale of operations, etc. They may not benefit from entrepreneurship in the WASH sector as expected. Gender-blind approaches to women’s entrepreneurship risk marginalising women in their families and communities, with implications for their health, wellbeing, and social standing.

This practice brief shares SNV’s experiences in iteratively developing approaches to empower women’s WASH entrepreneurship in Bhutan, Lao PDR, and Nepal, where three of their Water for Women projects are being delivered, supported by the Australian Government. This practice brief draws on the project teams’ practical experience and learning, regional research, review of supply chain opportunities, and each country’s socio-cultural contexts.


Emerging lessons from the brief?


  • Efforts to stimulate women-led market growth of sanitation and hygiene entrepreneurship need to be supported by initiatives that promote women’s greater mobility, networks and networking skills, access to finance and other resources, and safe control over their business and finance.
  • Social norms and exclusionary practices can be significant barriers to women’s entrepreneurship or the scale-up of their operations. Initiatives that focus on women WASH entrepreneurs tend to engage men during the initial stages of project development to gain support for women’s work or training opportunities but follow-up is scarce.
  • Going forward, the approaches offer SNV with a unique opportunity to trial innovative approaches and to contribute to growing sector knowledge and practice in the area of empowerment and equity within women’s entrepreneurship initiatives.


Read the brief


The value of women is infinite – women bear the brunt of problems, ranging from poverty to health, to climate change, but they also possess the capabilities, knowledge and talents to solve these problems. That is why gender and social inclusion is embedded across Australia’s development programs.

For International Women's Day and World Water Day, we are celebrating the value of women and the value of water. Both are critical to building healthy and climate-resilient communities. 


Contact Us