Author Archives: Rachel Grossman

Investing in Bangladesh: A Gender-Smart Approach to Private Sector Development

This post is Part 5 in a series. Read Part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here. Jump to Ahmad’s comments.

Over the last 28 years, Selima Ahmad, the founder of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI), has worked exclusively on women’s economic and social empowerment – both in her country and worldwide.

As the first woman’s chamber of commerce in Bangladesh, BWCCI has become a strong voice to support women’s economic participation, calling fora gender-smart approach to private sector development. That approach focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as engines for job creation and growth, and in particular seeks to tackle a range of issues facing women-owned SMEs in particular. For instance, less than five percent of loans for SMEs go to women-owned businesses around the world and the global credit gap for women-owned SMEs is estimated at roughly $320 billion.

Read More…

Women in Business Mean Business: An Engaged Civil Society Organization in Nepal

This post is Part 4 in a series. Read Part 1 herepart 2 here, and part 3 here. Jump to Bhandary’s comments.

Rita Bhandary is a woman in business who means business. She is the current President of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association in Nepal (FWEAN) and a successful entrepreneur in her own right. Rita began humbly, learning as she went to seize opportunities to launch her business and a career, and, eventually, to share her success with other women across the country. Her story starts not with the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs in Nepal, but in the home, like many women in South Asia.

As she noted at CIPE’s panel at a March 2015 National Endowment for Democracy conference in Delhi, entrepreneurial success for the women of Nepal is just like the recipe for success worldwide: take opportunities when they present themselves. Bhandary’s experience also shows the importance of sufficient human, physical and financial capital for women to succeed in business.

Read More…

A Reservoir of Capability and Talent: Women’s Economic Empowerment and Increased Political Participation in Pakistan

This post is Part 3 in a series. Read Part 1 here and part 2 here. Jump to Arbab’s remarks here.

Shamama Arbab, Vice President of the Peshawar Women’s Chamber of Commerce (PWCCI) in Pakistan, is both a director of her own business and a tireless advocate for economic inclusion for women in Pakistan. Peshawar is a city where it is often difficult for women to even leave the home alone, so launching and growing a business can seem like a journey too dangerous to consider. Yet given her own success, she strives to provide similar opportunities to other women. She is focused on fostering women’s economic, social and political inclusion, addressing inequality, building an ecosystem in which women entrepreneurs are empowered, and where women can contribute to the country.

Across South Asia, there are women like Arbab who are both inspirational and transformational. They are changing their countries from the inside out by changing the role that women play as citizens. With this blog series, “Exploring the Connections Between Women’s Economic Empowerment and Democracy,” based on a panel at a March 2015 National Endowment for Democracy conference in Delhi, CIPE is highlighting the work of several such women leaders of chambers of commerce and business associations in the region. Having broken through various glass ceilings themselves, these women are now sharing their success by building institutions and mechanisms to support women across the economy, from all walks of life.

Read More…

Progress on Pro-SME Legislative Reform in Ukraine


Kiev is Ukraine’s political and economic capital. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Ukrainian government is in the difficult position of trying to overhaul a wide range of economic, judicial, and political institutions, all while fighting a war in the country’s east. The challenges are stark: Ukraine is in the midst of its worst recession since 2009, and the government expects the economy to shrink by 9.5 percent this year, with annual inflation likely to reach 48 percent. Thus it comes as no surprise that many Ukrainian citizens have begun to complain that the government isn’t doing enough, or that the pace of change after the EuroMaidan is too slow.

A policy paper released by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in November 2014, not long after the current government took office, analyzed a range of Ukrainian policies that are slanted against the business community, creating particular challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

While the reform effort since 2014 has been intense, many SME owners are still not satisfied with efforts to ease the regulatory burden, according to the findings of a national survey of over 1,600 SMEs, recently conducted by CIPE as part of the USAID project Supporting Urgent Reforms to Better Ukraine’s Business Environment (SURE) .

Read More…

Five Leading Women Entrepreneurs in South Asia


This post is Part 2 in a series. Read Part 1 here.

In the emerging democracies of South Asia, the majority of women are blocked from full economic and civil participation by a range of both formal and informal obstacles, including laws and regulations, and cultural and societal norms. While there is no shortage of aid programs for women in the region, CIPE recognized that limited attention was being paid to reforming the broader economic and political institutions that are skewed against women – by improving the business environment so that women-owned businesses can thrive.

Last week, CIPE launched a blog series exploring the connection between women’s economic empowerment and democracy in South Asia. The series, inspired by CIPE’s panel at a March 2015 conference in Delhi, tells the stories of five key members of CIPE’s network of South Asian women’s chambers and associations, and explores the crucial role that women’s empowerment plays in strengthening democracy and furthering economic growth.

Women face great difficulties in obtaining finance; their right to own property (and as such, its use as collateral) is often restricted; and at times their very access to marketplaces is constrained. CIPE launched a program to address these issues by strengthening women’s chambers of commerce and business associations, building a network of such organizations from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Over the last two years, CIPE has brought the network together several times to exchange information and best practices, and to establish links between weaker and stronger organizations. CIPE provided training on governance, financial and staff management, communications, and membership development. CIPE has lately begun to fund small advocacy programs carried out by these organizations. Across the board, their successes have been awe-inspiring.

Key members of each organization were invited to speak about their lives and their organizations at the Delhi conference. Read more about each of these five remarkable women below.

Read More…

Exploring the Connections Between Women’s Economic Empowerment and Democracy

This post is Part 1 in a series. Read Part 2 here.

CIPE’s focus both on how economic growth strengthens democracy, and on how sound democratic institutions are needed to make an economy function smoothly, directly bears on women’s political and economic empowerment in South Asia. In March 2015, CIPE staff participated in a conference in Delhi entitled “Strengthening Democracy in Asia: Inclusion, Participation and Rights,” organized by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the World Movement for Democracy, the Asia Democracy Network, and the Institute of Social Sciences.

As one of the four core institutes of the NED, CIPE was invited to organize a panel at the conference, and selected the issue of the links among women’s economic empowerment, women’s entrepreneurship, and democracy. CIPE invited five key members of its network of South Asian women’s chambers and associations to share their views as the panelists, with CIPE’s Regional Director for Eurasia and South Asia, Marc Schleifer, moderating.

Their conversation explored the ways in which CIPE’s work at the intersection of economic development and democracy ties into women’s issues in a challenging region. This post will be the first of six reflecting on CIPE’s panel at the conference, and is intended to spur a deeper conversation of these issues. Each entry in this series will build on the stories of the key members of CIPE’s South Asian network, illuminated by the questions that Schleifer posed during the panel to these South Asian leaders, as follows:

  1. In what ways do private enterprise and entrepreneurship help spark economic empowerment for women and lead to improved political participation among women?
  2. What are some motivating factors that encourage women to move beyond growing their businesses to start civil society organizations, in order to give back to other women?
  3. Why is it important to focus on scaling women-owned businesses, and in what ways is access to finance and policy change a part of that scaling process?
  4. How do these women’s business organizations approach the issue of policy advocacy? What kinds of policy challenges do women in business in your countries face? And how are your organizations working to tackle those issues?

Read More…

Supporting Small Business in Ukraine


More than a year after the EuroMaidan protests took the world by surprise, Ukraine’s political and economic struggles continue. Developments in the country since the new government came to power highlight the ongoing challenges of systemic overhaul following an exciting, rapid transition. These challenges clearly illustrate the link between democratic development and economic reform, so central to CIPE’s work. Accomplishing the tasks facing Ukraine, from combating corruption, to reducing the barriers to doing business, to creating space for public-private dialogue, will be no easy feat.

The success of Ukraine’s economic and democratic development largely depends on ensuring the success of the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The entrepreneurial and flexible nature of SMEs makes them integral to achieving a number of the country’s goals: economic diversification; closer integration with Europe; building an adaptable economy; stimulating job growth; and boosting productivity.

Ukraine thus seeks to emulate the ways in which SMEs have helped make the U.S. economy among the world’s most successful. Boosting SMEs will require both giving the business community – and SMEs in particular – a seat at the policymaking table, and providing these firms with extensive support and training. CIPE’s partners are playing an important role in both of these processes.

CIPE’s primary focus in Ukraine has been to reduce policy barriers to business through cross-regional advocacy. Since opening the Kyiv office in 2010, CIPE has developed an extensive network of partner business associations and chambers of commerce across the country that work to represent and support Ukraine’s citizens through the work that they do.

Read More…