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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.