Tag Archives: India

Regional Business Network Brings Together Women Entrepreneurs from Across South Asia

women's group

Read more about the Women’s Business Network in a five-part blog series published earlier this year.

Women across South Asia face myriad challenges when it comes to participating in the economy — especially as business owners. Women’s business organizations can help their members learn from each other, overcome barriers, and push for changes to laws and regulations that work against women entrepreneurs.

This August, CIPE held its eighth in an ongoing series of capacity building and networking workshops in Kathmandu, Nepal for its South Asia regional network of women’s business associations. Since its inception, the participants of this network, which includes organizations from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India, have been enthusiastic and engaged in learning from both CIPE and their peers.

This year, building on the results of previous projects that aimed to strengthen the internal capacity of these organizations, CIPE has focused on building the advocacy skills of the participants, in order for women entrepreneurs’ voices to be heard in the policymaking process.  

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Five Leading Women Entrepreneurs in South Asia


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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Pakistan and India: Irreconcilable or Just Stubborn?


Trucks wait at the India-Pakistan border. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Huma Sattar is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Heritage Foundation

Pakistan and India share a long, unyielding history. The past is marred with political and territorial conflict, militarization, and a general sense of mistrust on both sides.

Since 2003, trade between the two countries has grown seven-fold, with Indian imports into Pakistan taking 80 percent of the share, according to data reported by International Trade Centre. While formal figures report bilateral trade of U.S $2.3 billion for 2013, some estimates contend that a larger share of bilateral trade between Pakistan and India comes through indirect or informal routes. Trade is estimated to be double what statistics report with significant Indian imports coming through Dubai into Pakistan.

Many studies which have aimed to estimate potential bilateral trade between Pakistan and India have concluded consistently that there are enormous economic synergies that can exist between the two economies given their trade complementarity and geographic proximity. Mutually preferential cooperation would benefit both Pakistan and India.

However, Pakistan has still not granted Most Favored Nation status (MFN) to India despite talks that seemed to have made progress in the past few years. Judging by the recent statements made by officials from Pakistan, it seems the country will remain flummoxed by the idea of granting MFN to India, contending one or more of the following as reason for their reservations:

  • India gave MFN to Pakistan in 1996. For Pakistan, however, the trade deficit has only increased.
  • MFN to India will hurt the local economy of Pakistan.
  • Increasing trade with India has hardened India’s stance on Kashmir.

Unfortunately for Pakistan, the merits of these arguments are wearing thin. In fact, putting the Kashmir issue and trade on the same table ensures that neither side relents and both issues remain unaddressed. 

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


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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World’s Largest Democracy Goes to the Polls

Indian voters show their ID cards. (Photo: PressTV)

For the next five weeks, over 814 million voters in India will choose representatives for India’s lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha. Given the many corruption scandals involving the current ruling party, coupled with slow economic growth and high unemployment rate, many observers say that Indians voters are hoping for change and a new leadership.

This general election, which is the largest vote ever held in India, is important because the party that wins the most seats will govern the country  for the next five years and also choose the prime minister.

As a background, India’s electoral system is quite complex: it is a multiparty system with more than 50 regional parties and two major national parties. Given that local contexts and challenges are vastly different between the regions, many analysts are having difficulty predicting the outcomes.

Moreover, this elections is logistically challenging: the Election Commission of India has sent more than 10 million polling officials and security officers to carry out the elections at a staggering 930,00 polling stations.

The results are scheduled to be announced on May 16. From a viewpoint of a democratic exercise, and to set an example in a region where democracy is difficult to achieve, it will be interesting to see the results both in terms of who wins and how the logistics pan out.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

I Paid a Bribe, and Tweeted About It


By Shrey Goyal, 2013 CIPE Blog Competition Winner. Read the other winning blogs here.

A few months ago, the Global Corruption Barometer 2013 by Transparency International (TI) told us that 47 percent of Indians think corruption is a serious problem in our public sector, and 68 percent feel the government is ineffective against it, with most corruption perceived to exist in political parties (86 percent), police (75 percent) and parliament/legislature (65 percent). It is evident that most Indians are perturbed by the presence of corrupt practices thriving in all nooks and crannies of the public machinery.

Not only is corruption rampant in India, it’s also remarkably visible and lacking in subtlety. In fact, for most Indians, corruption has always been a way of life. To think about it, I ended up paying a bribe no less than four times last week alone, and had to disperse massive amounts in cash to bureaucrats and their peons a couple of years ago just to make sure that my new business registration does not get stuck indefinitely for no discernible reason. And I am hardly alone: A 2005 study by TI found that more than 62 percent of Indians had a first-hand experience of paying bribes or influence peddling to get jobs done in public offices successfully.

According to some estimates, India has lost a staggering $462 billion in illicit financial flows since gaining independence in 1947, and the economic burden of corruption in the last decade is estimated at INR 1,555 thousand crore ($250 billion).

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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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