The Open Government Partnership has an ambitious agenda to advance transparency and accountability in government, which it seeks to advance through voluntary commitments, citizen engagement, and progress monitoring reports. It has garnered many adherents since it was launched by eight countries in 2011, and its members have already implemented numerous practical reforms.
At the OGP Americas Regional Meeting in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to take stock of accomplishments and learn from practitioners about what makes the partnership work and how to sustain it. I was struck by the scale of the effort in several countries despite their resource constraints, as well as the concerns voiced by civil society for the integrity of overall reform.
“Everybody loves a ranking,” or so the saying goes. In sports I tend to agree. If you’re not currently following the College Football Playoff rankings (which, since this blog is for a global audience, I imagine a majority of readers are not), you are missing out on something truly exciting. Rankings and indexes seek to be as objective as possible using the information available. With the CFP and other sports rankings, where a significant amount of objective comparison is not possible, there is a lot of room for debate. And that can be part of the fun.
But when it comes to indexes and rankings of more serious themes with real world consequences, they shouldn’t be fun… or funny. During a recent weeklong trip to Nicaragua, the running joke was that the country is the 6th most gender equal country in the world according to the 2014 Global Gender Gap report issued by the World Economic Forum. Spend a day in the shoes of a Nicaraguan woman and you’ll quickly understand why the country’s ranking in this report is not something to be celebrated.
Women entrepreneurs are increasingly important participants in the new global economy. In many emerging free-market economies and newly democratic countries, women comprise a significant — and sometimes dominant — portion of the business infrastructure, not only in the informal and small business sector, but in corporate ranks as well. Yet their participation on the management of business overall and the making of public policy is still hindered by lack of adequate gender representation, legal, institutional and cultural barriers, and traditional societal practices.
For over 30 years, CIPE has been working to strengthen democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market oriented reform. CIPE’s program for women focus on empowering them as entrepreneurs and encouraging their full participation in civil life and policymaking with the goal of building democracy that delivers for all.
In honor of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, CIPE hosted a Google Hangout with a distinguished panel of women leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss how women’s economic participation could be advanced globally. The panel featured Selima Ahmad, founder of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI); Lina Hundaileh, Chair of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Association (YEA) in Jordan; and Lucy Valenti, President of the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN). Discussant and moderator were CIPE Program Officer Maiko Nakagaki and Research Coordinator Teodora Mihaylova.
The political and economic climate in Venezuela has become increasingly hostile for entrepreneurs and the private sector since 1998, when Hugo Chávez became president and ushered in his “Bolivarian Revolution” — a series of sweeping economic and political changes aimed at helping the poor which instead led to high inflation, shortages of basic goods, and the growth of a large informal sector.
Moreover, Chávez frequently accused the private sector of conspiring with the CIA, the domestic opposition, the Colombian government, and other actors to topple his presidency and the Bolivarian Revolution. The resulting social and political cleavages among Venezuelans have become so strong that political disagreements have even created bitter feuds among family members.
Since 2013, CIPE has been working with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Production (FEDECAMARAS) to strengthen the capacity of local entrepreneurs and promote the values of democracy and free market initiative in Venezuela. FEDECAMARAS is a private, non-profit civil association with over 250 business association members encompassing 13 business sectors and 23 regional state chambers. Despite the hostile political and economic climate that took root under Chávez and has persisted under his successor Nicolás Maduro, FEDECAMARAS has worked tirelessly to strengthen the Venezuelan business climate through the principles of economic freedom and democracy.
(Ver en español.)
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.
This post was written by REN Nicaragua.
Watch a women’s entrepreneurship Google Hangout featuring REN founder Lucy Valenti.
UNDP research shows that in Nicaragua, young people face an unemployment rate twice as high as the adult population. Young women also face much higher rates of unemployment (46% unemployed female vs 16.8% unemployed male). Moreover, the leading cause for unemployment in the country is a lack of work experience.
Recognizing these difficult challenges faced by women in Nicaragua, the Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) works to overcome them. With a vision of increasing women’s economic and social development, REN is a professional network representing over 200 women-owned businesses which focuses on developing women’s entrepreneurial capacity and skills.
In July 2014, REN launched the CIPE supported, nine-month program “Strengthening Entrepreneurial Skills among Women in Nicaragua.” Following a successful five-month pilot phase, this is the second program of its kind led by REN.
The program’s main objective is to encourage entrepreneurship among young women and strengthen the capacity of women micro-entrepreneurs through mentorships. The two groups of beneficiaries for this initiative are female university students and emerging women micro-entrepreneurs, and they are all paired with successful businesswomen. REN matched ten teams (each mentorship team consists of a micro-entrepreneur, mentor, and an intern) for this project.
Despite its strong economic growth in recent years, Latin America continues to be a challenging region in which to be an entrepreneur. Difficulty in navigating complex bureaucratic regulations, a lack of infrastructure, and a large informal sector can be formidable obstacles to starting one’s own business. Furthermore, cultural factors, such as a risk-averse mentality, lack of familiarity with the concept of “entrepreneurship,” and perceptions of the government as the main source of jobs have also posed significant difficulties to entrepreneurship in the region.
In the face of these daunting challenges, entrepreneurship initiatives have sprung up across Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years in an effort to educate youth about the importance and benefits of free enterprise for democratic and economic development. Countries such as Chile, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador have adopted programs to educate youth about entrepreneurship and prepare them for running a business, with positive results. Now, one such initiative has arrived in an unexpected place: Puerto Rico.
In many ways, Puerto Rico is a bridge between the United States and Latin America. While the island is a self-governing U.S. commonwealth and its inhabitants possess U.S. citizenship, its language, culture, and geography link Puerto Rico to Latin America and the Caribbean. Indeed, Puerto Rican entrepreneurs and small business owners often face many of the same obstacles that their counterparts throughout Latin America must confront.