Tag Archives: women’s associations

Investing in Bangladesh: A Gender-Smart Approach to Private Sector Development

This post is Part 5 in a series. Read Part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here. Jump to Ahmad’s comments.

Over the last 28 years, Selima Ahmad, the founder of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI), has worked exclusively on women’s economic and social empowerment – both in her country and worldwide.

As the first woman’s chamber of commerce in Bangladesh, BWCCI has become a strong voice to support women’s economic participation, calling fora gender-smart approach to private sector development. That approach focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as engines for job creation and growth, and in particular seeks to tackle a range of issues facing women-owned SMEs in particular. For instance, less than five percent of loans for SMEs go to women-owned businesses around the world and the global credit gap for women-owned SMEs is estimated at roughly $320 billion.

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


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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Business Women Take Charge in Papua New Guinea


The first shipment of liquefied natural gas is set to leave the shores of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in late May. This multi-billion dollar project is among the largest investments in the country’s history, and its success contributed to the country’s strong GDP growth in recent years. Foreign direct investment is up, and the current government is pursuing a largely free-market and pro-investment economic strategy.

This good news has an unfortunate caveat, however: women have had virtually no input in the country’s policy dialogues, and the country’s economic performance is occurring despite the continued economic marginalization of women.

Papua New Guinea ranks among the world’s worst performers in almost every global indicator of gender inequality. This sad reality is manifested in shocking statistics of gender-based violence, social inequality, political exclusion and economic marginalization.

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Women’s Business Associations Come Together in South Asia

SA regional networking meeting

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:

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Building Organizational Capacity Around the World

How can experienced professionals share their expertise to help build the capacity of associations around the world? With this question in mind, CIPE launched the KnowHow Mentorship in the summer of 2011.

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KnowHow Mentees Getting Recognition

Two participants of CIPE’s KnowHow program are being recognized this week in Washington, DC for their work as distinguished individuals whose efforts have advanced the economic empowerment of women locally, regionally, or worldwide.

Sanja Popovic‐Pantic, the President and Executive Director of Association of Business-Women of Serbia (ABW) is receiving the 2012 The International Alliance for Women (TIAW) World of Difference 100 Award. Sanja is being awarded for her efforts advancing economic empowerment of Serbian women by starting and successfully expanding her organization, ABW.

Likewise, Selima Ahmed from the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI), a winner of 2010 TIAW World of Difference 100 Award, served as a TIAW Honorary Chair for this year’s awards selection.

Both ABW and BWCCI are KnowHow mentees , receiving virtual mentorships from association executives in the US.

Congratulations, Sanja and Selima!

KnowHow: Mentoring Women Business Associations

Members of Women in Management and Business, a KnowHow participant in Lagos, Nigeria (Photo: Staff).

Women around the world are still underrepresented in the policymaking and economic spheres. One way for women to become active citizens is working with civil society organizations that have the tools and knowledge to help give them a voice and advocate for reform. That’s why CIPE launched the KnowHow mentorship program (KnowHow) last year on International Women’s Day. KnowHow connects volunteers with technical expertise to local associations around the world seeking their know-how.  To date, the program has successfully matched experienced business professionals with twelve associations from developing countries, ten of which are women’s business associations.

Here are some highlights of what’s been happening:

The Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW-Serbia)  has been working with Peter O’Neil since last summer. They have a monthly conference call to improve on ABW’s pressing organizational issues, including fundraising, financing, and membership services.  O’Neil and Anastasia Jelasic, the Business Development Advisor for ABW, recently created ABW’s working plan for the year 2012, and are moving forward with the mentorship. As Jelasic noted, “ABW expects that this KnowHow mentorship will provide the organization with the knowledge and skills necessary for making our organization sustainable as Serbia joins the path to EU membership.”

Since December 2010, Russell McKinnon has been mentoring the Women Business Owners Jamaica (WBO),  an association that promotes the success of women business owners through education, research, mentorship, and networking. Through online meetings and document review and exchange, Russ works closely with WBO to strengthen the organization’s capacity and to develop sustainable revenue sources to better serve the needs of WBO’s members and stakeholders. Yaneek Page, the President of WBO, said that “a significant benefit to us thus far is the input and guidance of our [KnowHow mentor, Russ] in the development of a comprehensive three year strategic plan that’ll serve as a platform for WBO’s organizational growth, resilience and continuity.”

The Association of Businesswomen and Top Managers (AFAFCI) in Romania  – which aims to become one of the main representatives of the local business community for women – is working with Harriet Fader to identify the needs and values of AFAFCI’s 39 members. Through KnowHow, AFAFCI has been exposed to new strategies for increasing membership, networking activities for members to better connect and start partnerships, and ideas of community service projects. Delia Cojocaru, the Executive Director of AFAFCI, strongly believes that “exchanging experiences and best practices is essential for organization progress. CIPE’s KnowHow Exchange [is] a [great opportunity] that turned into a successful dialogue.”

Check out how other business associations in the program are improving their organizations through the KnowHow mentorships  and what the mentors think about assisting  associations in other countries. Two of the mentors, Peter O’Neil and Susan Sarfati, also shared their KnowHow experiences on video.

CIPE will continue working with women’s business associations to help empower them by growing their capacity. If you would like to help build women’s associations’ know-how , or if your association could benefit from getting a mentor, let us know!