Yesterday I wrote about how CIPE is helping women business leaders to break down barriers in South Asia – both barriers between countries and barriers that are keeping women out of the economic mainstream. CIPE’s third networking and training session for the heads of women’s chambers of commerce and business associations, held on September 18-20 in Lahore, Pakistan, was a resounding success, including a dinner at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce that drew the Governor of Punjab as a featured speaker.
But we also wanted to take some time to focus on the training program itself, and the results of the hard work that these women are putting in to building their organizations. There is no shortage of programs in South Asia to build links among women entrepreneurs – to encourage trade and business ties – but CIPE is focused on strengthening the capacity of the chambers and associations, both so they can better represent their members in the policy process, and help their members grow their own businesses.
To that end, the previous two sessions, in Dhaka and Kathmandu, focused on topics including association governance, advocacy, aligning the vision and mission with members’ needs, and strategic planning. In Lahore, led by CIPE Pakistan Deputy Country Director Hammad Siddiqui and longtime CIPE consultant Majid Shabbir, Secretary General of the Islamabad Chamber, with further input from CIPE Pakistan Country Director Moin Fudda and CIPE Deputy Director for Strategic Planning and Programs Andrew Wilson, the session focused on a few key areas of concern for organizations that often grow out of the dedication of visionary leaders: how to attract and retain members, how to develop leadership inside the organization at the board and staff levels, how to plan for succession, and how to delegate responsibilities to the staff and board committees.
The participants also gave presentations on how they are putting into practice a few of the key topics raised in the previous two sessions, and then brainstormed next steps for the network, from possible formalization, to identifying sources of funding, to future training needs. CIPE has already begun planning a fourth workshop for late January in Sri Lanka, mainly to examine strategic communications and financial planning.
To help bring home the importance of these training and networking opportunities for the participants, we asked them to share a few thoughts that we could make public on our blog, which I will leave you with below. CIPE is confident that these women will take these experiences and ideas back to their home organizations to continue making important strides for their members and the women of South Asia.
What the Participants Had to Say
Farida Rashid, Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
“I learned a lot about implementing succession plans, the qualities of leadership, and how to develop these qualities in board members. The sessions were also very informative on building committees, empowering the board and the secretariat, and financial sustainability.”
Shamama Arbab, Peshawar Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
“These were the most tangible results that any workshop could ever provide! If we visualize ourselves as plain white arcs, Bangladesh gave a violet shade, Nepal added indigo, and now Pakistan has added a bright blue – a visible rainbow in the making. That’s what CIPE has done for us.”
Sangita Ahmed, Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
“Two memorable and wonderful days of learning, sharing, networking, strengthening friendships, forming new bonds and lasting relationships, and most of all, another milestone in strengthening our Chamber, serving our members, becoming the strongest voice for the women of Bangladesh, and achieving next year’s goals. Thank you CIPE and the Lahore Chamber!”
Selima Ahmad, Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
“This is a network that has shown results in just six months! I believe this will bring benefit to the women entrepreneurs of south Asia, thanks to CIPE.”
Gulshan Nassrin Chowdhury, Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
“I liked the sessions and learned about developing our vision and mission, and membership development, and also built new friendships. Thanks to CIPE!”
Aasia Saail Khan, Lahore Chamber, Women’s Resource Center:
“I am a board member at a large, male-dominated chamber, and this was my third workshop with CIPE. It has been a learning process for me and will take me a long way toward increasing women’s membership at the Chamber, and prioritizing the needs of women members. It was extremely informative and will help me in dealing with issues at the Chamber.”
Damcahe Dem, Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs:
“It is our collective, sacred responsibility and duty to organize ourselves effectively to represent, nurture and empower women, especially those who are marginalized and therefore without a voice. Those of us who are most vocal can be the common voice!”
Chhaya Sharma, Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Nepal:
“This two-day workshop sparked in me the desire to become a future leader.”
Dr. Manju Kalra Prakash, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Ladies’ Organization:
“Excellent interactive sessions, bringing up important subjects that are a must for any organization to survive and brand itself.”
Rita Bhandary, Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Nepal:
“It has been a wonderful experience meeting and sharing experiences with women from different countries. The various sessions have been useful, especially for me as I am getting ready to take up the leadership of my organization. The issue that had been troubling me – how to make our members in our various committees more active – was well addressed in the sessions, and the topic of succession was extremely useful. Thank you!”
Rezani Aziz, Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Associations of Sri Lanka:
“This is the third workshop that I have attended and the sessions and networking have helped me to think beyond, and given me confidence and muscle to launch my Federation in the right way, so as to get things right at the outset and try to avoid missteps along the way.”
Saroshi Dubah, Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Sri Lanka:
“This event was extremely fruitful for me in terms of networking with a number of amazing women. The lessons on leadership and committee building have provided me with a lot of knowledge that I intend to use in my organization.”
Masooma Sibtain Shoaib, South Punjab Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
“It is a great opportunity to be a part of this – the South Asian women’s business network. It has really helped us, not only to recognize our weaknesses, but also has showed us ways to overcome them. Thanks to CIPE for recognizing us as a developing organization and opening the space for the women entrepreneurs for South Punjab.”
Fariha Munir Shah, South Punjab Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
“It was a brilliant experience. Coming here and meeting new people, from countries that I had only heard of. It was the first time that I had exposure to any such gathering, among such talented people. This experience opened new vistas of knowledge for me. I am very appreciative of the work of the CIPE staff, their effort to help us improve our systems, and share their knowledge with us, people who were strangers to them. I am impressed by the contribution that CIPE is making to South Asian countries, so much dedication! A great job. I am almost incapable of finding the right words – I can only say thanks to CIPE and your staff, for helping people and communities like ours.”
Marc Schleifer is Senior Program Officer for South Asia at CIPE.