EXPRESSION OF INTEREST
GREAT COVID-19 Response and Recovery Initiative
Cowater International has launched an Expression of Interest to support the Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism (GREAT) Program’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Initiative. With more than 35 years of experience, Cowater International is Canada’s global leader in management consulting services specializing in international development. We have managed the implementation of over 800 projects in more than 80 countries around the globe for clients such as DFID, DFAT Australia, the World Bank, and Global Affairs Canada. We work with governments, partner organizations, communities, and civil society to design and implement sustainable solutions that generate lasting social, economic and environmental impacts. Our adaptive approach to management has led to our award-winning work and recognition as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies in 2017 and 2018.
The GREAT Program is a flagship initiative of the Australian Development Cooperation program in Vietnam which commenced in November 2017 and runs until December 2021. GREAT is promoting women’s economic empowerment (WEE) in the ethnically diverse north-west region of Vietnam. The primary beneficiaries are women living in the provinces of Son La and Lao Cai with a focus on economic inclusion of women from ethnic minority communities. The Program is partnering with approximately 50 organisations to deliver results, including private sector actors, governmental and non-governmental organisations, and research institutions.
The objectives of the Aus4Equality|GREAT Program are:
- Objective 1 – Empowering local women: Women living in local communities have increased capacity, space and choices to beneficially engage with agriculture and tourism businesses.
- Objective 2 – Inclusive businesses partnerships: Selected private sector actors within the agriculture and tourism sectors innovate to profitably and sustainably trade with more women entrepreneurs and operate in gender sensitive ways.
- Objective 3 – Improving sector governance and policy: Government agencies reinforce policies, and enact plans, regulations and services that enable more inclusive socio-economic development.
COVID-19 is, and will continue to have, a significant impact on GREAT partners and target beneficiaries. Both tourism and high-end agricultural sectors are particularly impacted and businesses, especially SMEs, face serious revenue and cashflow challenges. GREAT is working to assess and understand the specific impacts and risks of COVID-19 on each partner and their target beneficiaries, ethnic minority women in Son La and Lao Cai. As has been the case with previous crises, it is often the most disadvantaged that have the greatest vulnerability due to a lack of formal employment and lower digital connectivity resulting in a lack of access to information and services and insufficient cash reserves. There is also a potential for increased gender-based violence due to social distancing restrictions and economic stress. Each partner will be impacted differently depending on the sector and location, and as a result, there is a requirement for tailored solutions to fit the unique needs of the partners in order to ensure their survival and sustainability throughout the pandemic and beyond.
In order to respond to both immediate and longer-term challenges, GREAT has developed a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan that refines and supplements current Program activities. GREAT is now seeking support from suitably qualified organisations to help implement the Plan in the five thematic areas detailed below. GREAT is seeking solutions that both address systemic issues and directly improves the economic empowerment of women in Son La and Lao Cai.
Category 1: Sector recovery planning
GREAT will support sector-wide crisis management, and recovery plans in target sectors in Son La and Lao Cai. This includes tourism, vegetables, medicinal herbs, tea, passionfruit and ramie. The intention is to both support partners through this current crisis as well as make the sectors more resilient to future shocks. This can include supporting the development of services for the sector and addressing demand through marketing support in conjunction with the private sector and/or government agencies.
Category 2: Business support services
GREAT partners will need additional support to respond to the impact of COVID-19. This can include finding alternative markets, restructuring loans and improving business operations to reduce costs.
The Vietnamese Government has introduced a range of initiatives to support businesses to recover from the impact of COVID-19. The Prime Minister’s Directive Number 11, issued on 4 March 2020 covers access to finance, tax, international trade, electronic payments, reducing the administrative burden and support measures to facilitate international trade and help the tourism and transport sectors rebound. There is also likely to be support provided from other levels of government, the private sector and civil society organisations such as grants, preferential loans and business support services. However, in the areas where GREAT is active, access to information on support programs is not readily available. In addition, SMEs and household level enterprises may not have the ability to prepare applications to access available support.
GREAT is seeking applicants to provide support to GREAT partners and also hep connect GREAT partners and potentially other businesses in GREAT target districts with support services, with a particular focus on ethnic minority women. Where possible, local services should
Category 3: Closing the digital literacy gap for ethnic minority women
The level of digital literacy is an important factor impacting the ability of ethnic minority women to access market information and services. This tends to be even more challenging for those who are not literate in Kinh. Prior to COVID-19, GREAT had identified that:
- Most project beneficiaries have access to mobile phones and television, but not to the internet.
- Dao and Mong women tend to have lower rates of literacy in Kinh language and consequently lower access to internet, although younger women from these ethnic groups had greater level of digital literacy.
- Tay, Thai and Muong women tend to have both greater levels of literacy and access to the internet.
The impact of COVID-19 has further highlighted the divide. Women and vulnerable people may lack access to critical and practical COVID-19 information due to limited access to mainstream communication channels, as well as literacy levels and gender/social norms. In addition, with school closures, children and students (especially girls) in vulnerable households are most likely to fall behind in education. They are less likely to be able to access and benefit from online education resources and more likely to drop out or not return to school due to reduced incomes, early marriage or increased household burden such as caring for children and the sick or elderly. For small businesses and individual producers, limited digital literacy means they are less likely to access market information, stay in touch with suppliers and customers or be able to develop new markets. GREAT is seeking to identify practical, systemic solutions that will help improve the digital literacy of ethnic minority women and also address language challenges.
Category 4: Financial literacy and digital finance
The impact of COVID-19 highlights the need to increase financial literacy for ethnic minority women and to encourage household savings as a buffer to get through difficult times. The move towards cashless payments and e-government services is also likely to disadvantage ethnic minority women if they do not have exposure or understanding of emerging technologies. GREAT is looking to work with organisations that have systemic solutions for:
- Promotion of suitable savings products.
- Basic financial literacy training/tools, including cash management, income and expense management and insurance.
- Digital finance training including banking apps, wallets as well as enhancing the understanding of the associated risks.
Category 5: Online management and training platforms to promote agricultural standards
Technological solutions are bringing efficiencies to the agricultural sector including improving access to market information. COVID-19 has further highlighted the importance of being able to deliver training remotely if travel and public meeting restrictions continue or are re-instated. There is an opportunity to better utilise technology as a management tool and to provide guidance where and when the information is needed. Technology can also help overcome language barriers through the use of local languages and visuals. GREAT is seeking innovative solutions that will bring efficiencies to the sector and particularly address barriers to engagement and learning for ethnic minority women.
An organisation can apply to multiple categories if it has the relevant skills and experience. This Expression of Interest is limited to organisations that are registered in Vietnam.
Indicative budgets for specific initiatives range from AUD 80,000 – AUD 250,000.
The application form is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with COVID-19 Response in the subject.
Applications must be completed in English and received by 5pm Hanoi time, Monday 1 June 2020 to the email address below.
Only shortlisted candidates will be invited to submit a full proposal.