Women’s Business Associations Come Together in South Asia

SA regional networking meeting

Last week in Colombo, Sri Lanka, CIPE held the fourth in its series of training and networking sessions for a group of women business leaders from across South Asia, helping bring about a range of positive steps – both for national understanding and increasing economic opportunity for traditionally marginalized women.

This network  includes participants from major and emerging chambers of commerce and business associations in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. CIPE also invited two additional participants for this session from Papua New Guinea, because these women are just starting the process of establishing the first ever Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry in that country and requested CIPE’s assistance.

The idea to bring together representatives from these countries — particularly given the tensions between India and Pakistan, and the history between Bangladesh and Pakistan — was not guaranteed to succeed. But after the first three meetings, the first last winter in Dhaka, the second last spring in Kathmandu, and the third last September in Lahore, it has become clear that these women business leaders have grown closer, have learned from one another, are sharing ideas and information, and are finding ways to strengthen their organizations based on best practices learned from one another.

The Colombo workshop was a productive, inspiring, and an exciting two days of learning and networking. Below are some words from the participants about their experience at CIPE’s workshop:

CIPE’s initiative to develop South Asian women’s business associations are the right way to promote more women owned enterprises and women entrepreneurship in this region. As women’s business associations and chambers can play a vital role to build the capacity, facilitate access to finance, and markets and other related issues for women’s empowerment.

Selima Ahmad, Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI)

The CIPE series of workshops for capacity building gave our chamber an in depth insight on how to clearly enhance our members’ experience. It also helped to provide new ideas on how to solve problems our chamber is facing to help women entrepreneurs economic independence. Most importantly, because of CIPE’s training we gained a guideline to address these challenges.

Sarrah Sammoon, Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sri Lanka

Thank you CIPE for brining in the progressive and motivating entrepreneurs of South Asia. I think we have learned not only new thoughts and training but also networking, sharing and discussing problems and successes with highly skilled trainers.

Masoome, South Punjab Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SPWCCI)

CIPE’s initiative of bringing together women entrepreneurs representing associations and chambers under one roof has produced results and many changes: network has been developed; knowledge sharing/document sharing; have led to the development of tools and manuals that is required for the efficient function of the organization; the need for standing committee and the need and the importance of succession planning, and effective governance tools.

Dhavanthi, Bangalore, India

SPWCCI became part of this initiative from the previous session in Lahore. This is the very first meeting we attended, which broadened our imagination and left us with the realization of how important democracy within our chamber is. How we should increase the number of members in our chamber and how we should engage with them. The whole experience has changed our lives and vision and mission. We are constantly trying to solve problems with what we have learned to help our members. Trying hard to implement the techniques and methods. It has been an extremely enlightening experience not just for us, but also for our entire SPWCCI! Thanks a lot CIPE, keep it up!

Fariha Munir Shah, South Punjab Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SPWCCI)

CIPE is the only organization working for the chambers’ improvement. Since we started working with CIPE we have learned so many things. Importantly, how to run our Chamber efficiently and effectively. We have improved many things. In this workshop we learned about using social media and how important messaging is for us. Project proposals are also very important. Now I will try my best to work on what I learned.

Saminer Fazil, Pakistan

The program put us in proper perspective to keep the chamber on track and to operate as a trade chamber serving its members. The value of sharing best practices was very useful, we learned so much from the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber. We hope to adopt and emulate BWCCI and the lessons learned at this workshop. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The goal is leading women to economic empowerment.

Rifa Mustapha, Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCCI), Sri Lanka

This workshop has been tremendously helpful in that as a newly established organization we lack knowledge on sustainability and strategic direction. We are now enlightened and have gained the knowledge on how to sustain our chamber and build a strong foundation.

Aviva Koisen Lawyers, Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The metamorphosis WCCIP went through from January 2013 to January 2014 is phenomenal. Every topic covered at CIPE’ regional workshop was practical, engaging, and resulted in success.

Shamama Arabab, Peshawar Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Pakistan

I can only thank CIPE for your help. You have helped me gain perspective and understand my weaknesses and strengths. I see now the possible pitfalls and how to avoid them. The sustainability BAOWE has now became real through this program.

Damche Dem, Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE), Bhutan

The capacity building program of CIPE’s is an excellent initiative. It has helped BWCCI in forming our strategic plan and vision, which gives us a path to walk on. The standing committees have become more effective and monitoring more efficient. We have hared our experience and also learned from other women leaders of South Asia. Communication has been the key word in this program. We shall develop a communication policy this year.

Sangita Ahmed, Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI)

The sessions were helpful to enable me to think about important issues we need to address as we establish the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Hearing the presentations from the existing chambers allowed issues and me to appreciate the challenges I will face that face women’s chambers worldwide. This was a very useful exchange of ideas.

Janet Sios, Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry

CIPE’s sessions were very valuable to my organization and me. The importance of documentation was one of the most relevant topics and very useful when dealing with my organization. The topic of social media gave me immense food for thought and my organization will definitely benefit from it. I will now introduce a social media policy.

Saroshi Dubash, Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCCI), Sri Lanka

I am first time attending CIPE’s program. I have learned so many things from this conference. CIPE has taught us the importance and how to get our chamber systematic. I have learned many things.

Hasina Newaaz, Pakistan

I have attended many seminars and workshops, but I find CIPE’s program to be down to earth and practical. I have already used the succession plan and effective committees trainings in my organization. I still need additional support from CIPE to make my organization more strong.

Rita Bhandary, Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association Nepal (FWEAN)

Now that I have learned all the details on how to structure the apex body, which is Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Associations of Sri Lanka, I‘d like CIPE to support me in the getting it off the ground and to help develop the advocacy strategy for a National Women’s Business Agenda (NWBA) for Sri Lanka. This is the primary objective of the Federation, which is to use advocacy for policy that is beneficial for women entrepreneurs.

Rezani Aziz, Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Associations of Sri Lanka

These workshops have introduced me to a new valuable vocabulary for entrepreneurship – VISION and MISSION. Identifying the organization’s’ goals and how to achieve the defined vision and goals. The members must receive the “3 W’s”: work, wealth, and wisdom.

Ritu Singh Vaidya, Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association Nepal (FWEAN)

 

Coming from a male dominated chamber, CIPE and women leaders at the workshop have taught me how to get benefits for my women members’ without offending the men. Creating a core group and a cohesive group for advocacy within the chamber and with the government! Selima from BWCCI has been a great inspiration! A strong core group of South Asian women entrepreneurs has been born!

Aasia Sasil Khan, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Pakistan

Jennifer Anderson is Program Officer for South Asia at CIPE.

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