Although women represent over half of university graduates in Jordan, they constitute a paltry 16 percent of the workforce. More than 26 percent of Jordanian women with bachelor’s degrees remain unemployed, compared to just 9.1 percent of male graduates. However, women are finding ways to overcome barriers to their economic participation by starting their own businesses. The Jordan Times reported in February that 38% of all Jordanian entrepreneurs are women, exceeding the international average of women’s participation in the field.
Lina Hundaileh epitomizes this entrepreneurial spirit. After the German company where she worked closed down their Jordan office, Lina decided to create her own job by opening a chocolate factory. She was not deterred by her lack of experience in running a business or making chocolate. It did not faze her when others laughed at her plan. She was determined to succeed and did not view failure as an option. And she loved chocolate.
As the world celebrates yet another international day dedicated to acknowledge and appreciate women’s social, economic, cultural and political contributions, women in Pakistan struggle for equal standing in deeply entrenched patriarchal society.
According to a recent article published in 24/7 Wall Street, Pakistan is only second to Yemen among the list of ten worst countries for women to be born in. Let’s look at the statistics in Pakistan: there’s 21 percent gender based income gap; only a quarter of the national labor force are represented by women; and women receive 43 percent less educational opportunities compared to men. In terms of gender equity, Pakistan falls far behind even the war-torn countries of Syria and Sudan. Given that women form about half the total population, their access to health and education services and chances for social and economic growth seem minimal.
In terms of women’s political participation, Pakistan has registered some impressive progress as women constitute about twenty percent of the legislature in provincial and national houses. However, this fair share in power has not translated into better living and working opportunities for the women who are represented by their likes in the parliament. These female parliamentarians usually belong to the elite class of the country, thus their focus is more on maintaining the status quo rather than taking up issues for legislation against women’s sexual harassment or better access to education or healthcare. The little legislation that prevails in this regard is attributed to the efforts of civil society organizations.
CIPE recently helped support the first-ever Women’s Chamber in Papua New Guinea.
It is a simple fact of economic development that no policy or program will succeed if it leaves half of the population out of the equation. In far too many countries around the world, women are denied opportunities to participate fully in economic and political life. Barriers that prevent women entrepreneurs from starting and growing their businesses or shut them out of positions of power in corporations, governments, and business associations not only deny opportunity to women themselves — they hold all of society back.
This is why CIPE works to make sure that women are empowered to develop their power base, advocate for reform, and exert their own leadership to change their operating environment politically, culturally, and economically. Whether it is through the formation of women’s business associations, changing laws to allow women to own property and access capital, or working with young women to develop their entrepreneurial potential, women’s empowerment is often central to CIPE’s mission and to our partners’ agendas for democratic and economic reform.
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the CIPE Development Blog will focus this week and next on stories of how CIPE is helping enable women around the world to build their own future and seize their own opportunities.
Given that many nations are still struggling with sluggish or no economic growth, it is timely for countries around the world to develop sustainable, inclusive economies to maximize their growth potential. And the key ingredient for achieving this is integrating women into the equation. As Carolyn Buck Luce from Imaginal Labs LLC highlighted in the opening remarks at the event, “the next emerging market is women. Over one billion women globally will enter the workforce in the next five years, and they will mostly come from developing nations.”
To capitalize on this immense opportunity, here were some actionable plans that were discussed by the panelists at the forum:
Watch a welcome video recorded for the contest winners by CIPE Deputy Director Jean Rogers. Also available on Dailymotion.
In Pakistan, the contemporary image of women in the media is one that is filtered through a number of prisms. Women are rarely portrayed as strong political or economic actors, and mainstream media tends to promote negative stereotypes of women. But some Pakistani women are emerging to challenge the way they are covered in the media, believing that this directly impacts how they are treated in society.
Uks Research Centre, an organization dedicated to gender equality and women’s development in the country, recently marked the occasion of International Women’s Day by partnering with APNS to host the first annual “Women in Media” awards. These awards recognize women journalists in Pakistan whose work has generated better awareness and understanding of the fact that positive media content can and does bring about positive social change, especially in the realm of women’s development and gender equality.
In addition to the “Women in Media” awards, Uks also used the occasion of International Women’s Day to launch their new guidebook, Powerful Women – Powerful Nation, which will serve as a training tool and guide for journalists to conduct gender-sensitive reporting and journalism in Pakistan.
EmprendeAhora participants at the inauguration of the 2012-013 EmprendeAhora program. (Photo: EmprendeAhora)
Entrepreneurship and business ownership is becoming an increasingly attractive career path for many young women in Latin America — with the help of programs like the CIPE-supported EmprendeAhora entrepreneurship and leadership courses in Peru.
In recent decades more and more women have begun to enter into the labor market and formal private sector, leading to an increased productivity for businesses and higher economic growth rates. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned at a recent conference, between 2000 and 2010, women’s participation in the labor market in Latin America and the Caribbean grew by 15 percent. Without such growth, the World Bank estimates that the level of extreme poverty in the region would be 30 percent higher. These facts demonstrate the importance of women actively participating in the formal economy.
Nevertheless, such participation is not always easy. Would-be women entrepreneurs have to overcome many obstacles in order to achieve economic independence. In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, as in many other regions, certain obstacles make it difficult for women to enter the formal private sector or become entrepreneurs. While in some cases legislation can create unnecessary hurdles, many times obstacles come in the shape of family members, societal norms, or even a lack of confidence that causes women to underestimate their own entrepreneurial capacity.
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.