Fayyaz Bhidal is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Atlantic Council.
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.
Follow all of our women’s day coverage at the IWD tag here on the blog.
Jon Custer is Social Media / Communications Coordinator at CIPE.
Today I attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the UN Office for Partnerships sponsored event, Turning Inspiration into Action: Next Steps for the Private Sector to Empower Women Globally. This annual forum — now in its fourth year — brought together over 100 leaders from nonprofit, government, multilateral, and the private sector committed to the economic empowerment of women worldwide.
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:
By now, we’ve all heard about the benefits of engaging women in economic activities. Economically empowering women–helps promote gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Moreover, the private sector drives economic growth since they build capital, and foster innovation and productivity. No country should overlook the reality that when women are economically empowered to become entrepreneurs or work for businesses, they contribute to the overall sustainable development of their communities.
Moving beyond the rhetoric of why it’s important to engage women world-wide, on this year’s International Women’s Day, let’s think about how to go about empowering women in the economy.
On March 4, the U.S. Chamber Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center and United Nations Office for Partnerships are hosting their annual International Women’s Day Forum to explore how the private sector and their partners can cooperate to build a supportive ecosystem for women and girls all over the world. This year’s forum features an array of business leaders from Intel, Coca-Cola Company, Gap Inc, and other leading corporations that are taking action to engage with more women around the world.
I will be attending the event and live-tweeting using the event’s hashtag #Inspire2Act. Follow the discussion on March 4th, and explore best practices and actionable initiatives to make women’s economic empowerment a reality.
Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.
Papua New Guinea ranks among the world’s worst performers in almost every global indicator of gender equality, including gender-based violence, social inequality, political exclusion, and economic marginalization. The lack of prominent, respected, capable, and well-organized advocates for gender equality and women’s rights directly contributes to the sociopolitical and economic marginalization of women in Papua New Guinea.
In a partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, CIPE is supporting the efforts of a pioneering group of women who recently established the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGWCCI). These visionary Papua New Guineans seek to change the operating environment faced by women in PNG, and this week saw a major step forward in this effort. From February 17-21, a CIPE delegation conducted the first of several planned training programs for the leaders and members of PNGWCCI.
CIPE partner the Iraqi Businessmen Union leads a public-private dialogue session in Baghdad, Iraq.
The Iraqi private sector continues to pursue steps towards building a modern market economy. Over recent decades, Iraq’s institutions supporting the economy became highly centralized as authoritarian rule sought to enhance state economic and political control. In Iraq today, government officials and the business community recognize the need to transform the economy into a modern, market-economy, capable of providing jobs and opportunity to all citizens. Achieving this goal, however, has proven to be a slow and arduous process.
Since 2003 CIPE has supported the Iraqi business community in its efforts to participate more effectively in the country’s economic transition. CIPE has partnered with business associations and civil society to develop provincial and regional business agendas and draft policy papers that increase the information available on issues inhibiting private sector growth.
To supplement the efforts of CIPE’s local partners, CIPE commissioned surveys to measure the views of Iraqi businesses, most of which are small sole-proprietorships, towards the prevailing economic conditions, factors affecting business growth, and a host of other key policy and economic issues.
In this week’s Economic Reform Feature Service Article, Program Officer Jenna Mace presents key results from CIPE’s most recent Iraqi Business Survey. The article includes a discussion of trends in the costs of corruption and opportunities for women, as well as the business community’s views of economic conditions.
Read the entire article here.
John Zanikos is Assistant Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.
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:
Posted in South Asia
Tagged Bangladesh, Bhutan, business association development, business associations, India, nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, women, women's associations