Tag Archives: women

Exploring the Connections Between Women’s Economic Empowerment and Democracy

This post is Part 1 in a series.

CIPE’s focus both on how economic growth strengthens democracy, and on how sound democratic institutions are needed to make an economy function smoothly, directly bears on women’s political and economic empowerment in South Asia. In March 2015, CIPE staff participated in a conference in Delhi entitled “Strengthening Democracy in Asia: Inclusion, Participation and Rights,” organized by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the World Movement for Democracy, the Asia Democracy Network, and the Institute of Social Sciences.

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:

  1. In what ways do private enterprise and entrepreneurship help spark economic empowerment for women and lead to improved political participation among women?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?

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Can Women Entrepreneurs Help Serbia Overcome Recession?

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Recently I visited Serbia to attend events for a women’s mentorship program led by our partner, the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW). I was excited to speak with the local women entrepreneurs, because I had read literature on how women in business face serious barriers in Serbia despite the country’s history of socialist emphasis on gender equality. What I saw from Serbia’s women entrepreneurs was impressive.

In Serbia, men and women have similar levels of education and equal treatment in labor legislation. When it comes to access to economic opportunities, however, it’s a different story.  The employment rate for working age women is over 20 percent lower than that of men. Women-owned enterprises (small businesses, limited liability companies, partnerships, etc.) make up only 26 percent of all registered businesses and companies active in the Serbian economy.

Economic growth has been anemic since 2009 and the country slipped into recession in 2014, due in part to severe floods. Despite overcoming the setbacks of the 1990s — conflict, international sanctions, and breakup of the former Yugoslavia — and being in negotiations to join the European Union, Serbia now faces an unemployment rate of nearly 17 percent. The unemployment rate is even higher among youth — 47 percent. Many economists have argued that the answer to revitalizing Serbia’s economy is encouraging more women into the private sector, especially to start small and medium enterprises. And ABW for the past 10 months has been doing exactly this: inspiring and supporting entrepreneurship among women throughout the country.

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Exploring Frontiers of Entrepreneurship at GEC Milan

Milan with JehanAra_GEC_Mar2015

The author, Kim Bettcher, with Jehan Ara, President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) in Milan.

 

What I love best about the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, most recently the GEC 2015 in Milan, is the diversity of approaches, organizations, and countries that I encounter under the big tent. At this carnival of entrepreneurship, one meets founders and policymakers, leaders from innovation economies and emerging markets, people who have already made it and others who are shaping the future.

Out of this medley, I try to stitch together, what do we actually know about advancing entrepreneurship? And where might promising new directions lie? For me, the theme of this year’s congress was moving the frontiers of entrepreneurship. We are currently pushing against several big frontiers, which include geographic, demographic, and policy frontiers.

Emerging markets are the first frontier. While commonly described as factor-driven or efficiency-driven economies, emerging markets contain pockets of innovation and entrepreneurial ambition. For instance, entrepreneur stories from the Middle East captured in Christopher Schroeder’s Startup Rising have created considerable excitement, as has the Cinderella story of Medellín, Colombia, the site of GEC 2016. In Milan, I was honored to have on my panel Jehan Ara, President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), who recently founded the Nest i/o incubator. Ara described a growing entrepreneurial community in Karachi and a feeling among entrepreneurs of “wanting to give back” (not unlike the community spirit described by Brad Feld in Boulder). I was ecstatic to see our friends from Nepal, the Samriddhi Foundation, take the limelight as winners of the Rookie of the Year award.

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International Women’s Day Wrap-Up

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Last week, in celebration of International Women’s Day, the CIPE Development Blog focused on stories of women’s empowerment from around the world:

And don’t forget to check out our Women’s Day Facebook photo album!

Empowered Women in Liberia: Their Voices Must Be Heard

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Lawrence Yealue, II. is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at Accountability Lab

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?

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HeForShe: Engaging Men in Women’s Economic Empowerment

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By Spogmay Ahmed

On September 20, 2014 the United Nations launched the HeForShe campaign, a worldwide effort to engage men in the promotion of women’s rights. Over 200,000 men and boys have since signed the pledge to support gender equality, and the social media movement has reached more than 1.2 billion people.

The HeForShe campaign’s most recent initiative, IMPACT 10x10x10, calls upon governments, businesses, and universities to take a more active role in promoting gender equality. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014 reveals a large discrepancy between men and women in their access to politics and economic empowerment.

In line with the theme for 2015 International Women’s Day – “Make it Happen” – IMPACT 10x10x10 offers those three key sectors guiding recommendations on how to enhance women’s roles in each respective community.

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Newsflash: Businesswomen Lead in Nicaragua

Mesa presidium

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.

Empowered Businesswomen.” “Businesswomen Influence the Destinies of Other Women.” These two headlines ran in the March 7, 2015 editions of Nicaragua’s two leading newspapers, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario.

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?

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