Category Archives: South Asia

Using Technology to Strengthen Policy Advocacy across South Asia

CIPE training session in Kathmandu, Nepal

Throughout South Asia, women in business have faced several barriers to achieving full civic and economic participation. To tackle these challenges, the South Asia Regional Women’s Economic Network has helped amplify women’s empowerment in the region. Supported by CIPE, the network has been able to effectively advocate for policy reforms that create more opportunities for women-owned businesses. This network is comprised of women business associations from Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, India, and Sri Lanka.

The achievements of the network continue to show that now, more than ever, focusing on women’s economic growth is key to strengthening democracy. For example, Multan, in South Punjab, and Peshawar—both cities in turbulent regions—are home to large artisan communities consisting mainly of women working on hand embroidery and handcrafted textiles. Despite challenges for women to participate economically and politically, both the Southern Punjab and Peshawar Women’s Chamber pushed the government to change a policy that was impeding the earning potential of women artisans. Eventually, the State Bank issued policy instructions that led to lengthening the amount of time that artisans have to pay back their loans. Extending credit will help them in fulfilling orders, and allows them to plan purchases and sales further in advance, with less pressure for rapid repayment.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #62: Ayesha Bilal on Encouraging Transparent Policymaking in Pakistan

From left: podcast guest Ayesha Bilal, with guest host Marc Schleifer and host Julie Johnson

On this week’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, Ayesha Bilal, Chief Operating Officer of Pakistani think tank PRIME (Policy Research Institute of the Market Economy), discusses PRIME’s work encouraging citizen involvement in public policymaking in Pakistan. She talks about PRIME’s highly successful Scorecard project to track how well the government has met its economic reform promises. Bilal shares how PRIME included the government as a stakeholder in the project and how the government is now using the Scorecard to track its own progress.

Bilal talks about the importance of tackling issues that have a broad appeal, and tactics for involving many sectors of the population in policy discussions – from homemakers to entrepreneurs to business owners. She stresses the need for openness and transparency in research and advocacy projects, and the importance of encouraging discussion, not imposing solutions. She also discusses PRIME’s current #FairTax campaign.

For more information on PRIME, Pakistan’s leading economic research think tank, visit: www.primeinstitute.org

View PRIME’s Scorecards

Follow PRIME Institute on Twitter: @PrimeInstitute

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Democracy That Delivers Podcast #59: Selima Ahmad on How Women’s Economic Empowerment Leads to Democratic Participation

Podcast Guest Selima Ahmed

Founder and President of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) Selima Ahmad returns to the Democracy that Delivers podcast to talk about helping women move beyond micro-enterprise to larger businesses. She also discusses how when women become economically empowered they become more engaged in policy making and seeking accountability in governance. Ahmad also explains the societal changes in her country that are making it easier for women to succeed in business.

Ahmad was the podcast’s most popular guest of 2016 and she returns to the show after a very successful year for her organization, culminating in winning the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Local Chamber Award for 2016, beating 27 other countries. Ahmad discusses why this award was especially important to her, and the work she is doing taking the best practices she has developed with her Chamber and sharing them with chambers in countries as far and wide as Papua New Guinea, Somalia, and Bhutan. She also talks about how business interests cross borders and sectarian divides, and how the private sector can transcend political constraints to work together to move issues forward.

Follow Selima Ahmad on Twitter @selimaahmad.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

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Trail Blazing in Sri Lanka: the Sri Lanka Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce

Women represent 51.58 percent of the population of Sri Lanka, according to official data published by the Department of Census and Statistics in 2016. However, their participation in the economy remains low. Women make up only 36.5 percent of the 8. 3 million economically active population of the country, aged 15 years and over. Out of the economically inactive population, more than three quarters (75.4 percent) are women. Data compiled by the Department of Census and Statistics for the 3rd quarter of 2016 also shows a higher rate of male participation in the labor force as compared to women, in all age groups and all levels of education. For instance, the highest participation in the workforce for women was reported in the age group 45-49 years (54.1 percent) whereas in the case of men the highest participation rate was in the age group 35-39 (98.1 percent). When looking at these numbers, one wonders how women in Sri Lanka can be empowered to have the same economic opportunities as men do.

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Defending Liberal Democracy in Emerging Markets

From left: Panelists Güray Karacar, Selima Ahmad, Aurelio Concheso, and moderator Karen Kerrigan

Following a wave of global democratization, over the last decade democracies in emerging markets have been tested from above and below. In countries previously seen as successes, citizens are frustrated by economic stagnation and dislocation, dissatisfied with underperforming governments, and divided over identities and values. A new set of anti-establishment, populist leaders have capitalized on this dissatisfaction and are starting to contest the very idea of liberal democracy. The populist approaches have diminished the need for rule of law and challenged the liberal economic order. “We need to respond to the attack on democracy in new ways,” says Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and “defend the inter-dependence of liberal democracy and the market economy, without which economic progress and human freedom will not be able to survive.”

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #50: Marc Schleifer on Democratic Trends in Europe, Eurasia, and South Asia

Podcast guest Marc Schleifer

CIPE Regional Director for Europe, Eurasia, and South Asia Marc Schleifer works on democracy projects in vastly different parts of the globe. On today’s episode of the Democracy that Delivers podcast he discusses the trends that are affecting the health and development of democracy in his areas of focus, including the attitudes and outlooks of the citizens in each region.

Schleifer describes his early interest in social issues and how his fascination with Russia led to eight years living in the country working in law and international development (and his brief stint as a rock musician). His recollections from this time, including the exciting and chaotic mood in pre-Putin Russia, contrast sharply with his assessment of Russia both today and in the near future. He also talks about the rise in populist sentiment in many parts of the world and challenges us to avoid knee-jerk reactions and look at the political and economic developments behind it.

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Public-Private Dialogue Key for Economic Development in Afghanistan

112816-vivek-afghanistan

Fifteen years after the U.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan began, it feels as if many of the same problems persist. Thousands of Afghans have been made jobless as military bases have closed across the country and development and foreign assistance programs have been reduced or have ended; the National Unity Government continues to be paralyzed by political infighting and rampant corruption; and a resurgent Taliban have threatened to overrun several provincial capitals and have orchestrated a number of terrorist attacks across the country, including in Kabul. Despite these worrying trends, the Afghan people have made significant progress since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001. Basic services such as electricity and running water were unavailable even in Kabul during the years of Taliban rule, and have now spread throughout the country. Trips between cities that used to take days due to unpaved roads can now be completed in hours. Prior to October 2001, making an international call involved traveling across the border to Pakistan. Today, almost 85% of the population has mobile phone coverage, according to a 2012 USAID assessment.

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