Our Journey

The Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network (CBWN) has its origins in 2002 when it was established as a joint initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC), now the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. In 2014 CBWN was spun out of CBC and established as an independent entity.

On 14 August 2016, Commonwealth Governments provided accreditation for the first time in the 70-year history of the modern Commonwealth to an autonomous organisation working with and for women in business and focused on women’s leadership and economic empowerment: the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network in the category of ‘Civil Society and Professional Organisations’. Following an independent review in 2016, CBWN became a Community Interest Company or CIC, to signal its community remit, sharpen its social impact and support its sustainability and future growth.

In 2010 CBWN was invited to address the CHOGM Business Forum for the first time. To mark the occasion this shows CBC Director General Dr. Mohan Kaul at the Perth Business Forum with Arif Zaman, Adviser CBC, Freda Miriklis, President, International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International) and Deb Leary, President of the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAWE).

CHOGM Australia 2010, The Prime Ministers of Bangladesh, Australia and Trinidad and Tobago with HM The Queen and Head of the Commonwealth Source: Flickr

Historic Moment

The 2010 CHOGM in Perth was a historic moment because this was the first time that a female Chair of the Commonwealth (PM Trinidad and Tobago and first woman premier) was succeeded by a female Chair (PM Australia and first woman premier) in the presence of HM The Queen and Head of the Commonwealth. Both the outgoing and incoming Chairs suggested and were fully supportive of a review of CBWN’s work to revamp, reorientate and reinvigorate; and to be more grounded in how the world was changing. CBWN undertook the most wide-ranging consultation in the Commonwealth’s history involving over 40 face-to-face meetings in as many countries with women in business, government, the private and the third sectors between the CHOGMs in Perth in 2010 and Malta in 2015, largely undertaken pro bono and by a small team.

Declaration from PM Australia

Declaration from PM Trinidad and Tobago

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Since 2010, CBWN (then part of CBC) has advocated for women at all stages of their business journey. Whether for women’s development and progression in a corporate role or for business growth – in the case of women transitioning from micro to small, medium, larger business – CBWN has a long history engaging and influencing policy-makers during high level ministerial and heads of government meetings. Our advocacy extends for more women to also be included in the premier business event – the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) – held during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM).

  • Italian Trulli
    25th CHOGM, UK, 2018

    In 2018, CBWN attended the second CWF (as part of CHOGM 2018) highlighting women's positive political, economic and societal contributions and how women and girls were key to building sustainable and resilient societies, under the theme: "An empowered future for women and girls". Read more

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  • 24th CHOGM, Malta, 2015

    In 2015, CBWN actively participated in the first CWF under the theme: ‘Women Ahead Be All That You Can Be’ in Malta. CBWN helped shape discussions and strategies for Women in Leadership and Women’s Economic Empowerment during the substantive plenary sessions and parallel workshops. Read more

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  • 23rd CHOGM, Sri Lanka, 2013

    Sri Lanka hosted CHOGM 2013 and CBWN attended The Heads of Government Roundtable - a high-level dialogue on trade and investment between business and government leaders. Read more

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  • 22nd CHOGM, Australia, 2010

    In 2010, CBWN addressed the CBF in Perth shaping the business case for increasing opportunities for women to trade internationally in the Commonwealth especially for women in developing countries and increasing their access to markets. Read more