The political and economic climate in Venezuela has become increasingly hostile for entrepreneurs and the private sector since 1998, when Hugo Chávez became president and ushered in his “Bolivarian Revolution” — a series of sweeping economic and political changes aimed at helping the poor which instead led to high inflation, shortages of basic goods, and the growth of a large informal sector.
Moreover, Chávez frequently accused the private sector of conspiring with the CIA, the domestic opposition, the Colombian government, and other actors to topple his presidency and the Bolivarian Revolution. The resulting social and political cleavages among Venezuelans have become so strong that political disagreements have even created bitter feuds among family members.
Since 2013, CIPE has been working with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Production (FEDECAMARAS) to strengthen the capacity of local entrepreneurs and promote the values of democracy and free market initiative in Venezuela. FEDECAMARAS is a private, non-profit civil association with over 250 business association members encompassing 13 business sectors and 23 regional state chambers. Despite the hostile political and economic climate that took root under Chávez and has persisted under his successor Nicolás Maduro, FEDECAMARAS has worked tirelessly to strengthen the Venezuelan business climate through the principles of economic freedom and democracy.
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Opportunities in Bambamarca, Peru, are not plentiful. For most people, earning enough just to get by can be a challenge. Earning enough to employ others, send your children to school, and invest in more sustainable business practices are luxuries which most in this small district in the Cajamarca department don’t have. The average household income reaches just barely $100 per month and most Bambamarquinos don’t have electricity or running water. Many cannot read.
Despite these challenges, one Bambamarca native decided to invest his time, money, and opportunities back into the community. Videlmo Maluquish Silva is a young entrepreneur who participated in the inaugural EmprendeAhora youth leadership and entrepreneurship training program in 2008. Since 2008, EmprendeAhora has been bringing college students from every region of Peru together with a focus on creating entrepreneurs who understand the value of democracy and the responsibility of the private sector to improve the economic opportunities in their communities.
This post was written by REN Nicaragua.
Watch a women’s entrepreneurship Google Hangout featuring REN founder Lucy Valenti.
UNDP research shows that in Nicaragua, young people face an unemployment rate twice as high as the adult population. Young women also face much higher rates of unemployment (46% unemployed female vs 16.8% unemployed male). Moreover, the leading cause for unemployment in the country is a lack of work experience.
Recognizing these difficult challenges faced by women in Nicaragua, the Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) works to overcome them. With a vision of increasing women’s economic and social development, REN is a professional network representing over 200 women-owned businesses which focuses on developing women’s entrepreneurial capacity and skills.
In July 2014, REN launched the CIPE supported, nine-month program “Strengthening Entrepreneurial Skills among Women in Nicaragua.” Following a successful five-month pilot phase, this is the second program of its kind led by REN.
The program’s main objective is to encourage entrepreneurship among young women and strengthen the capacity of women micro-entrepreneurs through mentorships. The two groups of beneficiaries for this initiative are female university students and emerging women micro-entrepreneurs, and they are all paired with successful businesswomen. REN matched ten teams (each mentorship team consists of a micro-entrepreneur, mentor, and an intern) for this project.
BWCCI founder Selima Ahmad received the Oslo Business for Peace Award earlier this year.
Watch CIPE’s Google Hangout on women’s entrepreneurship, which discusses BWCCI’s work.
While still a poor country, Bangladesh is an economic success story in terms of its economic outlook and expanded employment opportunities for women. In recent years, economic growth has averaged 6 percent annually and a vibrant, export-oriented garment sector has generated employment opportunities for urban women. Bangladesh has achieved food self-sufficiency and significantly reduced poverty, “putting the country on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals.”
CIPE began working with the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) in 2006 with two objectives in mind. First, CIPE would provide training and technical assistance to the board and staff to ensure that the chamber focused on member needs and attained financial sustainability by growing its dues-paying membership. Second, CIPE encouraged BWCCI to shift from training individual entrepreneurs to pursuing policy advocacy to remove legislative and regulatory barriers to the equal participation of women in the economy.
BWCCI’s work expanding economic opportunities for women and promoting greater involvement of women in the policymaking process strengthens participatory democracy. Women comprise more than half the population and women-owned businesses generate employment and contribute to Bangladesh’s economic growth. Addressing the specific policy concerns of female entrepreneurs expands the inclusiveness of the democratic process and enhances female representation in the country’s economic and political institutions.
By Olivera Popović
While the global economic crisis in 2008 affected many countries worldwide, the shock to Serbia’s society and economy was magnified due to the ongoing transition processes there. For the past fifty years, women in Serbia were most often employed in the public sector as part of Yugoslavia’s socialist planned economy. In the past two decades, the transition from socialism to liberal capitalism and an open market economy has initiated changes in approaches to work and ultimately led to a greater presence of women in business.
In making this transition, women face an uphill battle – in gaining greater access to capital, technology, networks, and acquiring the knowledge to start and grow their businesses. On top of those challenges, the social and economic landscape is characterized by poor labor market outcomes, a high youth unemployment rate, and large long-term unemployment. According to the Regional Cooperation Council (2013), the country’s per capita GDP is currently only 38 percent of the EU average.
Data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) shows that the overall unemployment rate in Serbia is 23.9 percent, with almost 25 of women unemployed. Youth unemployment is remarkably high (51 percent) and even more astonishing, 57 percent of young women are out of work. Equally important, universities in Serbia do not foster enough entrepreneurial spirit among students. Consequentially, students fail to fully consider entrepreneurship as a viable career option.
Recognizing this need for support to aspiring and established women entrepreneurs in a complex economic situation, the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) created “Inspiring Women Entrepreneurship,” a project to strengthen the leadership and entrepreneurial capacity of young women in Serbia.
On Wednesday November 19, CIPE will celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day with a Google Hangout discussion featuring four women entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, Kenya, Nicaragua, and Jordan. Join in to learn about our participant’s inspiring initiatives at promoting economic opportunities for women in their respective countries. The Hangout will take place at 9:00 AM EST (find out your local time here).
According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an estimated 126 million women in 2013 were starting or running new businesses in 67 economies around the world. Over the next five years, it is projected that another seven million female entrepreneurs and five million established women business owners will grow their business by at least six employees. Despite these promising statistics, in only seven countries — Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, Nigeria, and Mexico — do women take part in business at rates equal to men. Women’s economic potential often remains untapped as a result of social, economic, and cultural marginalization.
Understanding that there is a direct correlation between policies in place to support women and the opportunities available to women’s success in business, CIPE aims to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem for women by supporting educational, political, civic and economic reform. CIPE’s approach to women’s empowerment is guided by the principle that for sustainable change to take place, women must have a platform to develop their power base, advocate for reform, and exert leadership to change their countries’ political, cultural, and economic environment.
Participants in tomorrow’s Hangout will include:
On April 7, 2012, entrepreneur and longtime women’s right activist Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president – and only second on the African continent – after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika propelled her from the vice presidency to the country’s highest office. In 2014, she placed 40th on the Forbes list of 100 Women Who Lead the World.
What path led her to that meteoric rise and how did she manage to capitalize on her strengths as a woman leader to both overcome personal challenges and face the challenges in front of her country? Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Banda for a candid interview where she talked about her story and its lessons for aspiring women leaders in Africa and around the world.
Before entering politics in 1999 to run for Parliament, Banda started a number of successful businesses and in 1990 founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW). With CIPE support, the organization grew to more than 15,000 members and made an important difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Malawi.
What inspired her to become active in business and then in politics? “In 1981, I walked out on an abusive marriage and looking back it became very clear to me that what had gone wrong is that I hadn’t been economically empowered. So I decided to set myself on a path that would ensure that abuse doesn’t happen again,” she said.