Way back in July 1990, PENIAGAWATI (Persatuan Wanita Bumiputra Dalam Perniagaan & Profesyen Malaysia) organised a three day National Symposium on Women Entrepreneurs of Malaysia. This conference was officially opened by YAB Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia and was sponsored by CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency).
During this Conference that was attended by some 350 businesswomen and professionals, it was felt that women entrepreneurs of all races should get together to form a national association. Such an association would help to promote, encourage and support women who own and operate businesses as well as conduct workshops, training programmes and conferences to enhance women’s capabilities and potential. As a result, a Resolution recommending the setting up of a National Association of Women Entrepreneurs was tabled and passed.
After the Symposium, a few dedicated and committed women entrepreneurs led by Puan Hajjah Faridah Shamsuddin, the then President of PENIAGAWATI, got together and formed a pro-tem committee with Hajjah Faridah as the Pro-tem President. Several brainstorming sessions were held and by the end of 1991, the draft Constitution was ready. It was submitted to The Registrar of Societies and in May 1993, the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Malaysia ie NAWEM was finally approved.
A soft launch of NAWEM to invite women entrepreneurs to join as members and to inform the public of the existence of NAWEM was held on July 1993 at the Equatorial Hotel, Kuala Lumpur and was officiated by YB Datuk Napsiah Omar, the then Deputy Minister of National Unity. NAWEM held its inaugural Annual General Meeting in January 1994. YB Dato’ Seri Rafidah Aziz, graciously agreed to be the Patron and YB Dato’ Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was elected President for the first term (1994 – 1996).
On 5 September 1994, YB Dato’ Seri Rafidah Aziz officiated the launch of NAWEM and the Installation of the First Committee at the Istana Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. At this function, NAWEM’s theme song “We’re In This Together” was launched. In April 1996, YB Dato’ Seri Shahrizat, who had successfully contested and won a Parliamentary seat in Lembah Pantai was nominated Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Consequently, at the end of her term, YB Dato’ Seri Shahrizat stepped down as President and Puan Mariam Tun Sulaiman was nominated and held that position for two terms (1996-2000). Puan Mariam was succeeded by Dr Bien Mei Nien and in 2005 handed over the baton to Puan Shamsimar Mohd Yusof. In 2010 Puan Shamsimar handed the leadership over to Puan Sarojini Ruth Rajahser who is now the fifth and current President.