Author Archives: Anna Weber

Legal Differences Based on Gender Limit Women’s Economic Participation


Women represent 49.6% of the population worldwide, but only 40.8% of the formal economy. A recent World Bank study, Women, Business and the Law 2012: Removing Barriers to Economic Inclusion, contends that this disparity may be explained in part by the legal differences between men and women present in many countries. Building off of and expanding beyond other business indicator datasets, like Doing Business and the Enterprise Surveys, the Women, Business and the Law project (WBL) sought to identify and shed light on the additional legal barriers women face when seeking employment or starting their own business.

The project studied 141 economies across the globe, measuring the legal differences based on gender in six areas: accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Of the 141 economies studied, 103 impose at least one legal difference between men and women that creates a barrier for women when seeking employment or starting their own business. No country exhibits all of the legal differences identified by WBL, but 24 countries impose at least 10 or more differences.

Regionally, the Middle East and North Africa averages the highest number of legal differences between men and women with 17, followed by South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa with 10 and 6, respectively. While no region of the world is absent an economy that imposes legal differences, low income economies tend to have more differences than high income economies. Not surprisingly the study found that the greater the legal differences between men and women, the more underrepresented women are in the formal economy.

The report findings may seem grim at first, but there are some signs of progress. Since the pilot study in 2009, WBL found that 36 countries have reduced the number of legal differences between men and women and 41 new laws and regulations have been enacted that could increase the economic opportunities for women in their respective countries.

Kenya appears to be leading the way in reducing the gender disparity with the highest number of reforms in accessing institutions, using property and going to court. Most notably, Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010 that grants women equal rights before, during and after marriage; equality of inheritance rights; no longer exempts customary law from non-discrimination provisions; and in some cases voids customary law when it is inconsistent with the Constitution.

So what does all this mean for women seeking economic empowerment through employment or entrepreneurship and the economy in general? Legal and regulatory differences between men and women continue to limit women’s ability to effectively participate in the formal economy and subsequently stifle economic development.

Augusto Lopez-Claros, Director of Global Indicators and Analysis with the World Bank Group summarized the issue nicely stating, “The economy suffers when half of the world’s population is prevented from fully participating. It is certainly no surprise that the world’s most competitive economies are those where the opportunity gap between women and men is the narrowest.” Removing or limiting these barriers can have a profound effect not only on women’s individual economic status, but that of the country as a whole.

The full report, along with all of the data from the study, can be accessed at

This blog originally appeared on CIPE’s Community of Women Entrepreneurs (CWE) website.

Found in translation: CIPE’s inaugural Leading Practices Contest winners

Students in Instituto Invertir's EmprendeAhora program, discussing and learning about the links between democracy and market economics. (Photo: CIPE)

Some would argue there is no one size fits all approach to development, no cookie cutter solution applicable to every problem. That does not mean translatable ideas are nonexistent.

CIPE draws on an extensive partner network from over 25 years of experience,  gathering and sharing leading practices in the field of democratic and market reform to promote benchmarking and the translation of effective program ideas across time and borders. Intent on facilitating transfers of knowledge among its international network of reform leaders, CIPE launched the Leading Practices Contest in 2011 to recognize innovation and good practice.

Instituto Invertir (Invertir) took first place with its entrepreneurship education program for university students called EmprendeAhora.

Invertir believes the best way to overcome poverty in Peru is by promoting entrepreneurship and a market economy, and views education as the primary method to achieve these objectives. It targeted university students because the youth in Peru often face limited job opportunities and harbor feelings of rejection or dissatisfaction with market economy.

Since its inception, EmprendeAhora has trained over 500 university students who went on to create over 40 new businesses so far. In the near future, CIPE will bring a representative from Instituto Invertir to Washington, DC to share their story and experiences, as well as meet with donors, policy institutes and other experts.

The 2010 presidential election in Colombia presented second place winner Fedesarrollo with the unique opportunity to enhance economic policy in the country.

In an effort to raise the quality of debate on economic issues, Fedesarrollo organized presidential debates and wrote policy papers for the incoming administration. The debates required candidates to make public statements about their specific policy agendas.

Fedesarollo also distributed approximately 800 copies of the policy papers and debate materials to government officials, members of congress, business associations and the academic community immediately following the debates, and an e-book containing all of the documents was made available to the public through the Fedesarrollo website.

As a result of Fedesarrollo’s efforts, numerous debate topics became priorities in President Santo’s administration and several recommendations from policy papers have been passed into law.

Economic information is not clearly understood or reported by much of the media in the Kyrgyz Republic. Many journalists lack a basic knowledge of economic concepts necessary to interpret economic information, and they do not know how to accurately convey information to the public. Misinformation and published mistakes occur often.

To address these issues, third place winner, the Kyrgyz Stock Exchange Press Club, adopted an innovative approach to journalist education. KSEPC recognized that many journalists do not attend training during working hours because it cuts into their ability to do their job, so they infused trainings sessions with press conferences to allow journalists to gain both economic education and access to information they can use to write stories.

The leading practices submitted by Instituto Invertir, Fedesarrollo, and KSEPC embody innovative approaches to common problems facing developing countries. While many regions have vastly different operating environments, key components of these approaches can be tailored to fit the local context when necessary.

The contest also yielded several other quality entries with practical and creative approaches to democratic and market oriented reform.  CIPE is currently building a platform to share a collection of these practices and stimulate a discussion about what really works.  Currently, all three winning entries can be read here. Congratulations to the winners!

Youth: Change your world

Youth are an integral part of economic and democratic development, yet all too often face a situation of high youth unemployment or are left out of the policymaking process. Today in celebration of International Youth Day, we’d like to share glimpses of how young people themselves are taking action and assuming leadership in these programs and beyond.

After completing the Tashabos program, Amena Mohammady turned a community problem into a business opportunity that now allows her to earn a living and helps cover costs for her entire family.

Recognizing that heavy snowfall and rough roads during the winter make delivering fresh produce to Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Province extremely difficult, Ms. Mohammady built her own greenhouse to grow and sell vegetables. Drawing on skills learned from the CIPE’s Tashabos program, she sells her product every two days at the Bamiyan main bazaar.

And Ms. Mohammady is not alone in taking inspiration from Tashabos to start her own business.

In Peru, Instituto Invertir also developed a business training program for University students. EmprendeAhora not only teaches the principles of starting a business; it also dispels negative perceptions of democracy and market economy. Wilson Cotrina used the knowledge he gained from EmprendeAhora to open a pizzeria, Amore Pizza, in Cajamarca. It offers over 20 pizza varieties, take out and local delivery service, and has recently expanded to a second location. Cynthia Apaza Panca opened DeliFru, a local juice bar that also offers snacks, and supports the community by seeking local ingredients. These are just two examples of the over 40 businesses that have been created by EmprendeAhora alumni.

In 2009, Irina Alionte won the CIPE Youth Essay Contest and was so inspired she organized a similar competition at her family’s business, Shakespeare School, in Romania. The spin-off contest has separate categories for middle and high school students between 11 and 19 years old, and awards prizes to the winners. Now in the third round of competition, students are asked to write on a variety of categories ranging from favorite literary characters for younger contestants to the future of social platforms and the social effects of volunteerism for high school students. Irina is involved in every aspect of the competition from securing prizes for contestants to seeking out sponsors and marketing opportunities. She has proven that a contest initially intended to highlight youth ideas, can turn in to something much further reaching.

A large number of university students in Pakistan specialize in business information and technology, but the majority of graduates look for employment rather than explore their own entrepreneurial ventures. In an effort to spark entrepreneurship in Pakistan, CIPE recently partnered with the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and IT Enabled Services (P@SHA) to identify entry barriers young entrepreneurs in the IT sector face, as well legal and regulatory reforms needed to improve entrepreneurial opportunities. During the first stakeholders dialogue participants recognized a lack of mentoring, human resources, finance, and an inadequate knowledge of local laws and regulations as major factors preventing youth from pursuing IT entrepreneurial activities.

Making the most of public-private dialogue

From 2000 to 2005, with support from the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) and the Montenegro Business Alliance (MBA) identified barriers to business development, created an annual National Business Agenda, and organized high level forums between the private sector and government representatives. As a result, they achieved seven legislative reforms reducing tax rates, easing business registration and licensing requirements, and simplifying bankruptcy procedures. It is a prime example of the impact of public-private dialogue.

In early June, CIPE launched the Reform Toolkit, Making the Most of Public-Private Dialogue: An Advocacy Approach, the World Chambers Conference in Mexico City. CIPE Executive Director John Sullivan spoke about the toolkit at a panel on global public-private partnerships, discussing the ways in which the private sector can engage with governments through institutional advocacy.

Public-private dialogue is an important tool in governance reform for several reasons – it can set policy priorities, improve legislation, incorporate feedback into regulation, and create a foundation for market friendly policies. When done correctly, it improves the flow of information and increases legitimacy.

To help business leaders improve their relations with the public sector, the toolkit offers an advocacy approach to dialogue for the creation of better and more efficient economic policy. The toolkit explains the role of advocacy strategy in dialogue, the principles of high quality dialogue, the elements of effective communication, and the steps to prepare for dialogue. It also offers examples from CIPE partners where public-private dialogue has been instrumental in developing new policy and reforming existing regulations.

Take Egypt for example, where the Federation of Economic Development Associations (FEDA) organized six regional level policy roundtables to present a position paper and make recommendations on the draft Unified Law on Industry. Representatives from parliament, the Industrial Development Authority, the Egyptian Federation of Industry, chambers of commerce, FEDA member businesses, civil society, and media attended the roundtables where FEDA advocated against 132 Ministry of Industry and Trade regulatory decrees. As a result of FEDA’s successful application of advocacy in public-private dialogue 84 regulatory decrees were removed, including one barring manufacturing businesses from importing less expensive scrap metal or machining tools.

The benefits stemming from public-private dialogue are widespread, but dialogue does not benefit the private sector through policy reform alone, it can also strengthen an organization’s skills and build its reputation. Successful dialogue can both attract new members and mobilize existing members around important issues. Whatever the desired outcome, public-private dialogue requires continued effort on the part of business leaders to build upon early successes.