Tag Archives: women

Mentorship Helps Women Entrepreneurs in Nicaragua Grow their Businesses


“When women come together in Nicaragua, we usually talk about families and communities. We never discuss about our businesses. That’s why a community like Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) is important, where women are encouraged to talk about their businesses without offending someone or thinking it’s a taboo.”

Marla Reyes Rojas, the owner of Techno Commerce Group, told me this over a cup of coffee during my recent trip to Managua. I was glad to hear first-hand how a CIPE partner is fostering a community where businesswomen, like Marla, can openly talk and build networks with other women in business.

Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) growth has been touted as a key for Nicaragua’s economic growth, but the country remains one of the most difficult places to start a business in Central America (for example, the licensing process takes more than 200 days to complete).  This is even more pronounced for women entrepreneurs who confront myriad of challenges, and as a result only represent around 25 percent of the MSME sector in the country. Additionally, women face the rooted machismo culture that prevents them from achieving gender equality in the economy.

In such an environment, it’s crucial for women in business to come together and motivate one another. That’s why for the past year, REN led a mentorship program to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills among women in Nicaragua. The program linked successful women entrepreneurs to female university students with business degrees (who served as interns) and emerging women micro-entrepreneurs (who were the mentees). REN matched ten teams — a team consisted of a mentee, mentor, and an intern — and each group worked to improve the mentee’s business.

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CIPE Launches First Annual Photo Competition

Photo: © 2011 Swapping aid for trade in northern Uganda, Pete Lewis/UK Department for International Development

Photo: © 2011 Swapping aid for trade in northern Uganda, Pete Lewis/UK Department for International Development

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” – Robert Frank

Show us your best story-telling photo

Do you like to tell stories through photography? Then show us your best work! The first annual Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) Photo Competition is now open for submissions.

Open to participants of all ages, including student, amateur, and professional photographers, the inaugural photo competition will focus on the theme of Entrepreneurship.

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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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Exploring the Connections Between Women’s Economic Empowerment and Democracy

This post is Part 1 in a series. Read Part 2 here.

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?


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

women's day fb

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!