Tag Archives: nepal

Women in Business Mean Business: An Engaged Civil Society Organization in Nepal

This post is Part 4 in a series. Read Part 1 herepart 2 here, and part 3 here. Jump to Bhandary’s comments.

Rita Bhandary is a woman in business who means business. She is the current President of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association in Nepal (FWEAN) and a successful entrepreneur in her own right. Rita began humbly, learning as she went to seize opportunities to launch her business and a career, and, eventually, to share her success with other women across the country. Her story starts not with the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs in Nepal, but in the home, like many women in South Asia.

As she noted at CIPE’s panel at a March 2015 National Endowment for Democracy conference in Delhi, entrepreneurial success for the women of Nepal is just like the recipe for success worldwide: take opportunities when they present themselves. Bhandary’s experience also shows the importance of sufficient human, physical and financial capital for women to succeed in business.

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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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Living Democracy

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions.

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Narayan Adhikari is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Accountability Lab

Living in the U.S. for the past six months has been a thrilling experience for me. I have lived in a social entrepreneurship-themed group house, traveled to different cities, gone hiking at Sky Meadows Park, attended events/conferences, and made countless friends. I also interacted with local Nepalese communities and enjoyed festivals and happy hours. Although living in Washington DC has proven itself quite expensive compared to Kathmandu, I have been able to live within my means as a fellow. DC is a very lively and cultural city, and I appreciate that there is always so much going on. After living here for six months I am amazed by the many things I haven’t yet discovered.

Working directly with my friends and colleagues at my host organization, Accountability Lab, in DC, and being a part of the OpenGov Hub (OGH) has been remarkable. OGH, a community of independent organizations working the transparency field, is a great place for collaboration, networking, and learning. As a Think Tank LINKS fellow, I have had access to valuable opportunities and space to expand my knowledge. The monthly webinars and meetings with CIPE and Atlas Corps fellows were especially rewarding and really added value to our learning experience.

While it is always hard to focus on one experience when you have so many things to talk about, I am focusing on my experience with democracy. My quest for knowledge about the true meaning of democracy continued until I was not able to find a solid answer within myself. Often, in countries where democracy is in transition or a far off hope, citizens have difficulty understanding it and are often confused about the difference between democracy in theory and democracy in daily living.

My question was very simple: I wanted to see how people from developed nations like the U.S. live their daily lives in a democratic society without being abstract or theoretical. In theory, democracy is about human rights, freedom of information, freedom of association, and the rule of law. Although what it is written in textbooks and literature is true, all of these concepts cannot exist without smaller fundamental elements of society associated with culture, values, and norms at the individual level.

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

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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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Indexing the Well-Being of Youth: An Opportunity for Nepal

In early April, I attended the launch event for a report entitled The Global Youth Wellbeing Index, at the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS).  According to the report, there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 15-25 in the world today. The report surveyed Nepal’s neighbor to the south, India, and profiled several practices from which Nepal can learn.

This report is the first of its kind to measure the well being of young people in various domains and suggest critical paths to improve the situation of young people’s role in changing society. More than 80 percent of the youth represented in the index have very low levels of well being, lack economic opportunities, and face various challenges and limitations.

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Pathway to Accountability: “Accountapreneurs”

Participants at a recent Accountapreneurship event in Nepal.

Participants at a recent Accountapreneurship event in Nepal.

Narayan Adhikari is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Accountability Lab

Two words always come to my mind when talking about accountability: “power” and “holders.” In principle, power comes from the people (the constituency). In a representative democracy, people are the source of power and they hold it by choosing their delegates through elections.

More often than not, however, the officials who get a mandate from the people hold power against the interests of electorate. Consequently, the power dynamic changes alongside the changes in attitudes, behaviors, and interests of the power holders. The cycle then repeats itself. For example; the recent constituent assembly election in Nepal resulted from the failure of the first assembly to promulgate a constitution.

For many Nepalese, democracy is a tool used to subjugate human beings to operate within certain norms, guided by the rule of law and constitutions. It only gives a framework, not an inclusive picture to judge and regulate the behaviors and relationships between individuals as members of a larger society. Democracy without accountability does not achieve equality, but rather degrades morality, integrity, and ethics. Accountability is more than just transparency and anti-corruption. It gives strength to democracy to be a foundation in society and to inspire people to become responsible citizens.

Today, corruption continues to be the biggest challenge worldwide. Corruption distorts development, undermines trust between citizens and government, and produces structural violence. Corruption also carries huge costs. The European Union spends close to 120 million Euros every year fighting corruption. According to World Bank, corruption is one of the largest “industries” with a scale of $3 trillion every year.

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Nepal Moves Forward on Reform Agenda

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Last month more than 1,000 people gathered for the 2014 Nepal Economic Summit,a  historic event hat brought attention to the challenges and opportunities to Nepal’s economic development.

More than 30 international speakers participated in the event including government officials, key ministers, business leaders, and civil society representatives. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah also attended the event and gave some closing remarks.

CIPE partner Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation was the knowledge partner of the event  and has been working closely with the government and stakeholders in formulating the reform agendas over the last two years, preparing discussion papers on key issues such as agriculture, energy, and tourism, outlining major challenges and making recommendations. The papers build on Samriddhi’s Nepal Economic Growth Agenda, launched in 2012. Samriddhi’s economic research has become an important source of independent policy analysis in Nepal.

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