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:
In what ways do private enterprise and entrepreneurship help spark economic empowerment for women and lead to improved political participation among women?
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?
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?
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?
On May 3, the United Nations General Assembly honors the fundamental principles of press freedom with World Press Freedom Day. On this day Freedom House also released Freedom of the Press 2015, the latest edition of its annual report published since 1980 to evaluate press freedom around the world.
Unfortunately, the dominant global trend in 2014 was negative. Global average score of press freedom declined to the lowest point in more than 10 years, with the largest one-year drop in a decade. There were significant declines in press freedom in 18 countries (Greece, Bahrain, Mali, Hong Kong, Azerbaijan, etc.), while just eight had significant gains (Tunisia, Myanmar, Libya, etc.)
Of 199 countries and territories, 32 percent were rated “Free”, 36 percent were rated “Partly Free”, and 32 percent were rated “Not Free.” This marks a shift toward the Partly Free category compared with the previous year.
In 2009, Cambodia’s provincial legislatures became elected bodies for the first time in the country’s history. Against the backdrop of decentralization, this newly democratic level of government is also being called upon to handle a greater share of public service delivery. If they fail to perform, and if their increased budgets result in a dramatic expansion of corruption, democracy could be seen as failing to perform.
Provincial governments currently account for approximately 20 percent of all public sector spending in Cambodia, up from nearly zero in the late 1990s. This figure will continue to rise as provincial governments increasingly bear the financial burden of primary and secondary education, public health and sanitation, local transportation infrastructure, and basic public administration.
To help mitigate corruption risks, there is a need for greater transparency in provincial finances, increased civic involvement in provincial procurement processes, and good governance advocacy at the local level of government. To address this challenge, CIPE launched an innovative project in June 2012 with a Cambodian NGO called Silaka to reduce corruption in provincial government procurement.
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.
“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.” This was Betty Maina’s main point in her speech last week at the 8th Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) Workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The workshop explored how the government, private sector, and civil society organizations can effectively use PPD platforms for collaborative governance and leadership in addressing difficult challenges. Through its collaborative process, PPD provides a structured, participatory, and inclusive approach to policymaking directed at reforming governance and the business climate.
As the CEO of CIPE partner the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), Maina spoke on the crucial role that multi-stakeholder PPD platforms can play in building a better enabling environment for business. Maina recognized the social, economic and environmental challenges that we face, and the important role the business community can play in tackling those challenges.
“Instinctively people recognize that [these] challenges demand a new kind of leadership, a new way of doing things,” she said. “Business, like governments, will have to be in the forefront of this change. No one can do it alone.”
One need to look no farther than Kenya as an example of the private sector’s role in solving societal problems. During the 2007 election crisis, the business community was crucial in supporting peace efforts and dialogue which helped prevent further violence. The business community was also instrumental in supporting the development of Kenya’s new constitution in 2010 and now plays a critical role in its implementation.
In Liberia, female participation in decision-making has long been limited to a few women who have fought tirelessly to be heard. Liberian society needs to take a critical look at the role of women across traditional, economic, political, religious, and social interactions. It is time for this silence to end and a new politics of inclusiveness and ownership be rolled out. This requires real decision-making by women rather than a semblance of participation and involvement.
Traditionally, Liberian women have been limited to domestic work, which involves fishing, gathering firewood, cooking, and cleaning. During town meetings, the women were given limited opportunity to contribute their ideas and were rarely selected as village chiefs. In ceremonies, they were expected to decorate and cook. Sadly, many of these traditions continue today.
Today, often the best economic opportunity for women is to work as petty traders, where they face great challenges: sleeping on the cold ground in cramped rooms to sell their goods in bad, often muddy conditions. Frequently involved in trading across borders, they bear great risk in traveling to Ghana, Nigeria, and beyond.
Women move our economy, but the economic decisions that affect them are still mostly made by men. How will the economy progress if the decisions around it are not inclusive?
The draft Nicaraguan Businesswomen Agenda was presented during REN’s International Women’s Day forum on March 6, 2015. Speakers included Nicaraguan Minister of Industry and Commerce Orlando Solórzano and U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Phyllis Powers.
It is not unusual for Nicaraguan media to publish articles related to women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day. Women are prominent in the Nicaraguan political sphere, thanks in part to gender quotas encompassed in the Gender Equality Law and the revised Electoral Law. Nicaragua now ranks 11th in the world in the proportion of women in parliament, 40 percent – far above most other Latin American countries (and the United States, with 18 percent). International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight these advances.
What’s unusual in the case of the two articles linked above is the inclusion of one word: “Businesswomen.” Here is why.
Unfortunately the trend towards greater participation of women in the political sphere has been slow to spread to private sector organizations, which are key actors in advocating for policies that improve the business climate. A 2014 review conducted by the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN) of the 19 business organizations that form the umbrella private sector association the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) found that an average of 16 percent of board members are women. This is the same figure found by a similar study by the International Labor Organization in 2009.
Private sector organizations rarely incentivize women’s participation or provide equal access to information that can lead them to access leadership positions. As a result, there are very few private sector leaders promoting the specific interests and needs of women entrepreneurs in a substantial way.
On top of that, organizations of women entrepreneurs have historically operated based on incipient alliances and limited coordination with one another, resulting in disperse efforts to advocate for public policies that can improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs.
If this is the reality, are La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario’s articles simply fluff pieces scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day?
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.