Tag Archives: Bhutan

South Asian Women’s Chambers and Associations Learn Effective Advocacy Techniques

women-training-kathmandu

By Hammad Siddiqui and Marc Schleifer

For the past two years, CIPE has been working to build the capacity of women’s chambers and businesses associations from across South Asia. Last month, they took the next step into policy advocacy.

Through a series of workshops in Dhaka, Kathmandu, Lahore and Colombo, CIPE has fostered relationships among a group of organizations from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. The workshops have focused on topics such as strategic planning, membership development, board governance, staff empowerment, financial sustainability and communications strategies.

This June, CIPE organized the fifth in its series of networking and training sessions, again in Kathmandu. Following CIPE’s general approach, it is first important to strengthen the organizations themselves so that they can then be more successful in working on policy reform. Thus after four sessions of capacity-building for these chambers and associations, encouraging them to focus on serving the needs of their membership, this three-day session focused intensively on policy advocacy.

The CIPE team, led by Senior Consultant Camelia Bulat, with input from Pakistan Office Deputy Director Hammad Siddiqui, Director for Multiregional Programs Anna Nadgrodkiewicz, and Regional Director for Eurasia and South Asia Marc Schleifer, presented a range of tools and approaches to help the 19 participants think strategically about advocacy.

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Women’s Business Associations Come Together in South Asia

SA regional networking meeting

Last week in Colombo, Sri Lanka, CIPE held the fourth in its series of training and networking sessions for a group of women business leaders from across South Asia, helping bring about a range of positive steps – both for national understanding and increasing economic opportunity for traditionally marginalized women.

This network  includes participants from major and emerging chambers of commerce and business associations in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. CIPE also invited two additional participants for this session from Papua New Guinea, because these women are just starting the process of establishing the first ever Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry in that country and requested CIPE’s assistance.

The idea to bring together representatives from these countries — particularly given the tensions between India and Pakistan, and the history between Bangladesh and Pakistan — was not guaranteed to succeed. But after the first three meetings, the first last winter in Dhaka, the second last spring in Kathmandu, and the third last September in Lahore, it has become clear that these women business leaders have grown closer, have learned from one another, are sharing ideas and information, and are finding ways to strengthen their organizations based on best practices learned from one another.

The Colombo workshop was a productive, inspiring, and an exciting two days of learning and networking. Below are some words from the participants about their experience at CIPE’s workshop:

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Capacity Building for Women Business Organizations in South Asia: What Participants Had to Say

south asia women cap building

Yesterday I wrote about how CIPE is helping women business leaders to break down barriers in South Asia – both barriers between countries and barriers that are keeping women out of the economic mainstream. CIPE’s third networking and training session for the heads of women’s chambers of commerce and business associations, held on September 18-20 in Lahore, Pakistan, was a resounding success, including a dinner at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce that drew the Governor of Punjab as a featured speaker.

But we also wanted to take some time to focus on the training program itself, and the results of the hard work that these women are putting in to building their organizations. There is no shortage of programs in South Asia to build links among women entrepreneurs – to encourage trade and business ties – but CIPE is focused on strengthening the capacity of the chambers and associations, both so they can better represent their members in the policy process, and help their members grow their own businesses.

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Women Business Leaders Breaking Down Barriers in South Asia

south-asia-flags

The biggest changes can start with small steps – particularly in the effort to change cultural barriers and to ease decades-old national tensions. Often it is the private sector, seeking to open new markets, explore possibilities, and expand trade and commerce, that is at the forefront of such changes.

Last week in Lahore, Pakistan, CIPE organized the third in its series of training and networking sessions for a group of women’s business leaders from across South Asia, helping bring about a range of positive steps – both for national understanding and opportunity for traditionally marginalized women.

This network, which CIPE has been developing with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy, includes participants from major and emerging chambers of commerce and business associations from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

The idea to bring together representatives from these countries – particularly given the tensions between India and Pakistan, and the history between Bangladesh and Pakistan, was not guaranteed to succeed. But after two meetings, one last winter in Dhaka and then again in the spring in Kathmandu, it was becoming clear that these women business leaders were growing closer, learning from one another, sharing ideas and information, and finding ways to strengthen their organizations.

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Building Women’s Chambers and Associations in South Asia

south asia women entrepreneurship symposium

Hammad Siddiqui, Deputy Country Director for CIPE’s Pakistan field office, contributed to this report.

To begin addressing the issue of why some women’s business organizations thrive while others do not, CIPE recently launched a project to build links among women’s chambers and associations in South Asia.

CIPE identified 11 organizations, from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka – and for the first time reached out to groups from India and Bhutan – to participate. With the assistance of long-time partner the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI), conducted a diagnostic survey of these organizations’ governance, finances, membership, strategic planning, advocacy, services and other issues. The organizations were then invited to participate in a networking meeting held this February in Dhaka, Bangladesh. CIPE’s efforts complement a U.S. State Department program to build links among women entrepreneurs in the region, the South Asia Women Entrepreneurship Symposium.

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Thunder Dragon vs. Corruption

These voters were cheated.
Posters like these from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are popular in Bhutan, highlighting concrete examples of corruption’s effects on democracy and development.

Bhutan – self-proclaimed “Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon,” one of the world’s newest democracies, and a country fairly high up on the ‘mysterious’ chart. Bhutan has been hidden away from the world nearly since its founding. The establishment of a parliament, the coronation of a new king, and the first-ever elections for the country’s leadership all took place in late 2008. Gradually, Bhutan is becoming more accessible, from an economic perspective, to the world. And yet, even this early in its founding, problems that we see throughout the South Asian region are starting to creep in.

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“Education Reform in Bhutan: Meeting the Employment Challenge”

Bhutan, a small country wedged between China and India, has made great strides over the past 45 years toward transforming itself from an isolated kingdom into a fledgling modern democracy. The country has progressed in terms of economic and political development, but one significant area still lagging behind is the education system.

In his Feature Service article, Kinley Rinchen, Planning Officer in the Office of the Vice Chancellor at the Royal University of Bhutan and an honorable mention winner in CIPE’s youth essay competition, traces the development of Bhutan’s education system and analyzes its current challenges. He emphasizes that more reforms are necessary to make the country’s education system able to better meet the needs of students and employers. As the Bhutanese economy grows, it needs well-educated and skilled labor in order to make this growth sustainable.

“Education Reform in Bhutan: Meeting the Employment Challenge” was entered in the “Educational Reform and Employment” category and notes that due to inadequate education, many of Bhutan’s graduates have only limited skills that are insufficient for finding suitable employment in a modern marketplace. Instead of striving to acquire the necessary private sector skills, many young people prefer to wait for government employment. In practice, however, that translates into prolonged unemployment since the public sector cannot possibly accommodate all job seekers.

Appropriate education system and curriculum reforms could change that. If young people are equipped with critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and leadership skills in the course of their education, they can succeed in the job market.

Article at a Glance

  • Bhutan’s current education system does not meet the needs of students and employers, only contributing to growing youth unemployment.
  • Most Bhutanese students tend to see education as a way to obtain jobs in the public sector, which cannot accommodate them all.
  • School curricula should emphasize more skills-based training as well as critical thinking, creativity, innovation, communication, and leadership skills sought after by private sector employers.