Tag Archives: advocacy

Five Leading Women Entrepreneurs in South Asia

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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.

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7th All-Pakistan Secretary Generals’ Conference 2015

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By Huzaifa Shabbir Hussain and Emad Sohail

“I am always proud to be a part of the Secretary Generals Conferences that have created tremendous impact in the working and improving the efficiency of the participating Chambers and Associations in Pakistan. In every conference we learn new and innovative ideas and exchange experiences with each other that provide us the opportunity to implement best practices in our respective organizations. In fact, these conferences through the rich experience and guidance of mentors like “Hammad Siddique” act as “Change Agent” that develop “out of the box thinking” to think creatively for efficient working.” – Majid Shabbir, Secretary General, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry

 “The role of trade associations, chambers of commerce, large corporations and the business groups in the economic development had become an important area of research.”  Shahid Khalil Secretary General Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry

“I feel very lucky that I got an opportunity to become part of this group, this event provides us guidance as an institution that help us in resolving all matters regarding our business association.”  Khurshid Anwar, The Vehari Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

The 7th Annual Secretary Generals conference was held on April 13-14 this year and was attended by 22 participants who gathered in Lahore from various parts on the country. The two-day event is considered a flagship event because of its strategic importance in creating a network and platform of private sector leaders who learn from each other and discuss new ideas and visions for the future.

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How Multi-Stakeholder Platforms Help Build an Enabling Environment for Business

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“The work of development is too important to be left in the hands of governments alone. It is the responsibility of everyone. Especially the business community… Business, like governments, will have to be at the forefront of this change. No one can do it alone.”

In the latest Economic Reform Feature Service article, CIPE partner and Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) Betty Maina highlights the crucial role of multi-stakeholder platforms in an enabling business environment.

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Supporting Small Business in Ukraine

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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.

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How Can Youth Make a Difference in Democratic Reform?

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While young people tend to be the most active participants in movements for democratic change, their involvement is often confined to staging demonstrations and other similar activist activities. However, in order for democratic reform — or any reform for that matter — to be meaningful and sustainable, youth must not only be involved in demonstrations, but also in the decision making processes that chart the way forward.

When they have a voice in the policymaking process, youth also gain a stake when it comes to implementation. Having contributed their ideas and opinions in a meaningful way, they become staunch advocates when it comes to accountability and will work into adulthood to ensure that the solutions they helped create are realized.

In addition to building youth buy-in, engaging young people in decision-making processes has other benefits. Youth can help drive innovation in policy by injecting new ideas and solutions and also bring new tools to the table as they are typically the first group to adopt new technologies and behaviors.

Though it is vital to ensure youth are engaged in policy advocacy campaigns, taking this from idea to reality can be difficult. Youth is generally thought of as a singular demographic, but in reality, youth can be extremely varied. Young people come from different social and economic backgrounds and age boundaries are not always well defined. Additionally, mobilizing young people can be easy, but policy reform is a long term goal and it can be challenging to maintain youth engagement for the duration of a campaign.

Over the course of its history strengthening democracy through market reform, CIPE has developed and implemented proven advocacy strategies including for youth. To capture and share this knowledge, CIPE recently published its Guide to Youth Advocacy, meant to share experience and best practices for organizing youth and organizations that support youth to engage in successful advocacy initiatives. In addition to outlining strategies and approaches, the resource provides small case studies of CIPE supported projects from around the world that organized youth to advocate for real reforms.

Read the guidebook here. 

Frank Stroker is an Assistant Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

Building a Network of Change-Makers in South Asia

South Asia regional economic network members

In late January, CIPE held its sixth in a series of capacity building and networking workshops in Colombo for its South Asia regional network of women’s business associations, which includes organizations from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India. When CIPE began to work with this group of women business leaders two years ago, the sessions focused primarily on issues such as board governance, strategic planning, staff and financial management, membership development, and services for members.

But between training modules, discussion often turned to the challenges facing women entrepreneurs in their countries, including policy barriers that tend to create a business environment unfriendly to women. Thus, CIPE always knew that eventually, the focus of the program must turn to advocacy for policy reform.

As a result, CIPE increasingly began to raise issues of policy – and policy advocacy – in the context of the training sessions. Then, last summer, CIPE awarded four women’s associations in three countries small grants by CIPE to carry out pilot, four-month advocacy projects.

One point that had frequently arisen in the training program was a lack of understanding of the complexities of policy advocacy, such as: identifying issues of concern to members; developing concrete policy proposals and specific recommendations to tackle those issues; the hard work involved in reaching out to policymakers; the need to broadly engage the media, association members, and the general public; and the need to track results and assess the impact of advocacy initiatives.

Moreover, the countries where the advocacy initiatives took place – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal – are challenging environments. During the four months that these organizations were implementing their small grants, each country faced political turbulence that may have shaken the resolve of less dedicated change-makers.

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Nigeria Elections 2015: Building the Private Sector Voice through Coalitions

Coalition members meet with political parties. (Photo: @sentellbarnes, IRI)

Coalition members meet with political parties. (Photo: @sentellbarnes, IRI)

Nigeria’s upcoming elections have been attracting a lot of international attention because of the country’s population, economy, and political status, which are among the highest on the continent. Over the course of a few weeks in early 2015, Nigerians will elect state and national level leaders, including governors and the president.

While Nigerian civil society and the private sector have had difficulty in the past moving national political dialogue towards substance and policy, recent success has been seen at the state level. It is hoped that success will continue in the rhetoric surrounding the state elections, so much so that there can be spill-over into the national dialogue.

Over the past few years, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has partnered with coalitions of business and professional associations in seven states across the North Central Zone and Enugu State. The partnerships have been centered on building the advocacy capacity of the various coalitions. Because Nigeria is has a federated system, civil society can attempt to effect change at the state level when it would prove too costly, inefficient, bureaucratic, or in a few cases too corrupt, at the national level.

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