Author Archives: Laura Boyette

Entrepreneurship and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Ecuador

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Fellows participating in the Emprendedores Ecuatorianos (Ecuadorian Entrepreneurs) program work on the details of their business plans at session in November 2014.

Ecuador, the land of the eternal spring, the Middle of the World, and the Galapagos Islands, is also a land where nearly 26 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Seven of every ten people are employed informally — meaning they lack official contracts and may not be subject to worker protections — and over half are employed by businesses that are not legally registered. The entrepreneurial context in Ecuador is characterized by young entrepreneurs (73 percent are younger than 44 years old) with a variety of motivations: increasing their income, seeking independence, necessity, among others.

As of 2010, Ecuadorian women surpassed men in number of entrepreneurs (54 versus 46 percent). Entrepreneurship has long been recognized as a key source of empowerment and economic independence for women around the world, and particularly in Latin America.

The Emprendedores Ecuatorianos program, organized by CIPE partner the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy (IEEP), works to foster democratically and free-market minded entrepreneurs from the rural areas of Ecuador. To date, 45 women have completed the Emprendedores Ecuatorianos program. One of the 2013 graduates, Brenda Sumba, shared some of her thoughts on women as entrepreneurs.

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Entrepreneurship for Social Good in Peru


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Opportunities in Bambamarca, Peru, are not plentiful. For most people, earning enough just to get by can be a challenge. Earning enough to employ others, send your children to school, and invest in more sustainable business practices are luxuries which most in this small district in the Cajamarca department don’t have. The average household income reaches just barely $100 per month and most Bambamarquinos don’t have electricity or running water. Many cannot read.

Despite these challenges, one Bambamarca native decided to invest his time, money, and opportunities back into the community. Videlmo Maluquish Silva is a young entrepreneur who participated in the inaugural EmprendeAhora youth leadership and entrepreneurship training program in 2008. Since 2008, EmprendeAhora has been bringing college students from every region of Peru together with a focus on creating entrepreneurs who understand the value of democracy and the responsibility of the private sector to improve the economic opportunities in their communities.

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No Laughing Matter: Press Freedom in Latin America Takes a Hit

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“Police and prosecutors search the home of Fernando Villavicencio and take documentation of corruption.” – Cartoon by Xavier Bonilla, published in El Universo on December 28, 2013.

Read about CIPE’s 2014 Global Editorial Cartoon Competition.

In recent years, Latin America has seen an overall shift away from media independence and freedom of the press — only one in 50 Latin Americans live in free media environments, according to Freedom House, even though the majority of Latin American countries are still democracies. The biggest drop — 15 points in the last five years — was in Ecuador, a clear illustration of the problems that can occur when democratically elected leaders curtail media freedom.

After Rafael Correa took office on a wave of populist charisma in 2007, the Ecuadorian media began to realize that they needed to watch themselves due to various acts against independent media that alleged corruption in the Correa family or the Correa administration. These attacks against press freedom were formally legalized with the Organic Law on Communications, passed in 2012 without open debate in the National Assembly or among civil society.

This law, which Correa lauded as a step toward the democratization of media and a strengthening of freedom of expression as it broke up a near-monopoly of news sources owned by a single family, also opened the door to greater state intervention in the media.

The major concern for media outlets is that many aspects of the law were left ambiguous, allowing for broad interpretation and arbitrary application. For instance, Article 26 of the law prohibits “media lynching” and allows public officials being investigated for corruption by the media to sue the journalist or the newspaper doing the investigating. Article 71 of the law defines information as a “public good” equal to water quality and electricity, and therefore subject to increased regulation by the state.

The most recent case of the Correa administration battling perceived defamation in the media is that of Xavier Bonilla, a political cartoonist known by the pen name Bonil.

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Women’s Economic Participation in Latin America: Closing the Gap

Both candidates in Chile's Dec. 2013 presidential runoff were women.

Both candidates in Chile’s Dec. 2013 presidential runoff were women.

In the past quarter century, the level of women’s economic participation has steadily grown in Latin America. During the first decade of this century, women’s participation grew by 15 percent, contributing to an overall decline in income inequality and extreme poverty. The World Bank estimates that currently 14.6 percent of Latin Americans live in extreme poverty – but contrast that with the hypothetical 17.7 percent had fewer women entered the workforce. Given Latin America’s steady growth in the face of worldwide recession in the 2000s, there’s no reason not to expect more advances for women’s opportunities.

Women’s increased political participation has also helped increase economic opportunities for Latin American women. As more and more female presidents take and hold office, more women consider professional lives outside the home to be viable options. Powerful players such as Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Argentina’s Christina Fernandez, Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla, and others provide focal points for hopeful young Latinas. Perhaps surprisingly to some Americans, many Latin American countries are passing the U.S. in women’s participation in legislatures. Women make up at least 30 percent of the legislature in Cuba, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Argentina, Ecuador, and Guyana. At last count, women make up just 18.5 percent of the U.S. Congress.

Latin America continually ranks highly in female entrepreneurship. The region has great educational and business training opportunities for women, and women make up 50 percent of higher education graduates. In a new index recently released, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay were ranked highest in providing the best environments for female entrepreneurs. However, women still lag in access to financial services.

However, despite these great advances, there is still inequality, room for improvement, and significant challenges facing women in Latin America. According to the World Bank, women face a variety of threats at different stages in their life. The prevalence of violence between intimate partners is estimated to be between 20 and 50 percent of women. Violence against women is widespread – more than half of the countries ranked as “high” or “very high” in levels of femicide are in Latin America – with El Salvador ranked as the worst in the world.

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The Private Sector’s Vested Interest in Citizen Security

Armed security at a Walmart store in Costa Rica, (Photo: La Nacion)

Armed security at a Walmart store in Costa Rica, (Photo: La Nacion)

Security is a fact of life that many of us in the developed world take for granted. I feel fairly confident that I can go about my life on a daily basis with nearly zero contact with crime or violence. Thanks to that security, I feel confident enough to shop, go out to eat, and generally spend time outside of my home and workplace, adding to the local economy. Thanks to this security, my city is growing and developing and life is generally getting better for most people, despite the recent economic recession. Imagine if that were not the case.

At the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lies safety – the security of body, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property. Intuitively we know that our basic needs must be met before we can endeavor to improve our self, our livelihood, our families, or our communities. Without the feeling of safety, people are less able to act freely in a market – to buy products, start businesses, or invest – limiting a country’s potential for development.

It is with this logic that a recent United Nations Human Development Report argues in favor of increasing measures in citizen security in the Latin America region. In this region more than 100,000 homicides are registered per year. The World Health Organization considers these levels epidemic and they are much higher than most other regions of the world today. The report’s authors state, “The level of insecurity many experience impedes human development.”

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Where Are All the Women Entrepreneurs?

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Recently there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the gender gap, especially when it comes to economic participation. For everyone who is interested in human rights and understands that involving women in all aspects of government and business only improves dialogue and strengthens democracy, while at the same time rapidly improving the living standards of these women and their families, this fact is frustrating.

No one can deny that women are industrious, innovative, and enterprising, and that given the opportunity and resources, women can be very successful in business and in democratic and economic reform processes. We’ve moved beyond the debate of whether women “can” to the debate of “If they can, why aren’t they? What’s preventing them?”

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Inclusive Growth: The Entrepreneurial Environment for Scaling Up Business

A participant in the EmprendeAhora youth entrepreneurship program in Peru shows off his products.

A participant in the EmprendeAhora youth entrepreneurship program in Peru shows off some of his products.

In today’s world, enterprising youth who attempt to expand their businesses have exciting opportunities and also face serious challenges. Unsurprisingly, these young people around the world are coming together and finding innovative ways to meet these challenges and seize the opportunities.

In this week’s Economic Reform Feature Service article, three winners from CIPE’s 2012 International Youth Essay Competition in the Inclusive Growth category discuss what opportunities young entrepreneurs have in expanding their businesses and the challenges they face. Each author describes how youth in their country are meeting this challenges and the tools that they are using to do so.

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