Author Archives: Carmen Stanila

Supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment through Women’s Chambers of Commerce

Women from the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry participating in a capacity building workshop

Women from the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry participating in a capacity building workshop

Since its creation in 1983, CIPE has been working with business associations, chambers of commerce and economic think tanks around the world to promote institutional reforms and advance economic and political empowerment.

Women business associations are one type of business associations that CIPE has partnered with in order to support the economic empowerment of women. Recognizing the unique role such organizations play, CIPE has focused on strengthening women business associations and thus empowering women to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their local communities and countries.

For instance, CIPE recently cooperated with the International Labour Organization with the view to provide technical assistance for women economic empowerment to a group of Somali business support organizations. An exciting component of this initiative in which I have been involved is assisting with the establishment of a women’s chamber of commerce in Somaliland. This assistance has come also in the form of sharing examples, experiences and best practices from women organizations and especially women’s chambers of commerce around the world.

Some of these examples and experiences are presented in this month’s Economic Reform Feature Service article, in which I examine the creation and operation of women’s chambers of commerce around the world, as well as their programming.

While there are many differences among countries in terms of legal framework, economic and social conditions and cultural norms, typically women chambers of commerce provide their members and potential members with a wide range of programs and services that include: nformation and training on how to formalize a business, thus helping women entrepreneurs enjoy the protection granted by the law and access to funding;

  • Training and education opportunities, in the form of workshops, conferences, mentorships, and internships
  • Recognition and awareness – building programs
  • Linkages with new customers and markets through fairs, trade missions and investment forums
  • Representation of their business interests by identifying business constraints, promoting policy proposals and eliminating obstacles to women’s economic participation.

To learn more about the characteristics of women’s chambers of commerce, and how they were created and operate, read the latest Economic Reform Feature Service article.

Carmen Stanila is a Senior Consultant at CIPE.

The Moldovan National Business Agenda Goes to the Regions

A national business agenda (NBA) is a powerful tool and platform for business people to engage in a proactive dialogue with policy-makers on issues affecting the private sector in a given country. Developing an NBA requires the private sector to collaborate to identify issues that constrain business activity, offer proposals and solutions to address the issues, and present them in an open and transparent manner to public officials. This private-sector led approach has been instrumental in advancing economic reform agendas in countries around the world.

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A New Network of Business Associations Is Born in Côte d’Ivoire

Network members attending the meeting in Abidjan.

Network members attending the meeting in Abidjan.

Experience shows time and again that business associations are more effective in their advocacy when they work together in coalitions, networks, or alliances, whether formal or informal, to advance the interests of their members. When the time is right to join forces depends on a number of factors, chiefly among them being the degree of maturity of the association leaders and executives who understand that together they are stronger and their concerns are more likely to be heard than if they work and engage with decision-makers individually.

Willingness to join forces is a prerequisite for a group to affect change, but it is not the only one. It is equally important for the associations that embark on such an enterprise to be built on a solid structure, to follow sound governance principles, to meet members’ needs and to use adequate tools to present members’ issues and proposed solutions in a transparent and professional manner.

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In Romania, new initiative puts knowledge at the public’s fingertips

Much has been said and done about anti-corruption in Romania over the last 20 years. Politicians included the anti-corruption theme in their platforms and speeches, new state bodies have been created to fight corruption, and new legislation (such as the law on free access to public information and the law on transparency in public administration decision-making) has been passed to increase transparency and limit the space for corrupt practices. Despite these efforts, in Transparency International’s index of corruption perceptions for 2010, Romania ranked 69th out of 178 countries and obtained a modest score of 3.7 on a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupted).

Local and international organizations pointed out what needs to be done and many of them (including CIPE) supported initiatives to address the issues. In its turn, the media has constantly exposed cases of public officials involved in corrupted practices.  So it is fair to say that a lot of time, energy, and money have been spent fighting corruption in Romania, yet there is still have a long way to go in fighting corruption and establishing transparency, accountability and good governance as fundamental values.

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The Time for Entrepreneurial Courage – CAFA’s 7th Annual Conference

On June 12-13, 2009 the annual conference of the Coalition of Women Business Associations (CAFA) took place in Romania. The 7th edition of the event was held in Ocna Sibiului, Romania. The event brought together representatives of nine women business associations from all over Romania, public officials and media representatives. The conference titled “The Time for Entrepreneurial Courage” provided a forum for discussion on economic issues faced by women entrepreneurs and strategies to address these issues. Guest speakers were representatives of the Ministry of Labor, Family and Social Protection and Ministry of SMEs, Trade and Business Environment, who presented some of the support programs available for small- and medium-sized enterprises in the tourism, manufacturing and services sectors. I gave a presentation on CIPE’s recent programs targeting women entrepreneurs.

The second part of the conference was dedicated to a strategic planning session. CAFA members have agreed to work together in a task force in order to draft amendments to a set of recent public decisions that have a negative impact on member companies. During the strategic planning session, the associations talked about the Coalition’s membership base, how to attract new members and how to increase CAFA’s visibility in the public arena. They also decided on a very ambitious work plan for the next 12 months. CAFA, which now comprises 19 associations of women entrepreneurs, was formed in 2004 with support from CIPE.

The event was very successful not only because it managed to bring together participants from women business associations all over Romania, but also it proposed a wide range of topics of interest for entrepreneurs. The fact that in a year of economic hardships these women (most of them owners of small- or medium-sized companies) decided to take a couple of days away from their businesses and participate in the conference shows the importance of this event and their level of commitment to CAFA.  Also during the conference it became apparent that CAFA facilitated not only business among its members, but also networking and the development of beautiful friendships.