Tag Archives: women’s empowerment

Supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment through Women’s Chambers of Commerce

Women from the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry participating in a capacity building workshop

Women from the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry participating in a capacity building workshop

Since its creation in 1983, CIPE has been working with business associations, chambers of commerce and economic think tanks around the world to promote institutional reforms and advance economic and political empowerment.

Women business associations are one type of business associations that CIPE has partnered with in order to support the economic empowerment of women. Recognizing the unique role such organizations play, CIPE has focused on strengthening women business associations and thus empowering women to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their local communities and countries.

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Closing the Gender Gap in Political and Economic Participation

Photo: CIPE

Photo: CIPE

By Yini Wu

“In high school, boys and girls are equally interested in running for office in the future. But by college graduation, young women’s political ambitions drop dramatically.”

The voice of women and youth is considerably underrepresented in political leadership positions worldwide, and engaging young women in public service is “the first step” to deal with the gender gap in political ambitions. “We have to start with young women in universities, even in high schools,” said Michelle Bekkering, Senior Gender Advisor at IRI, “and help them to really understand the essence of politics.”

In a recent event on closing the gender gap in leadership, Bikkering discussed approaches to increasing the percentage of women holding public service positions and addressing the barriers that female candidates face with Sandra Pepera, Director for Gender, Women and Democracy at NDI, and Jessica Reis, Vice President of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

CIPE also believes in the power of women and youth, and has been dedicated to empowering women and youth around the world through its international programs. CIPE’s youth programs empower talented young professionals worldwide as the political leaders of tomorrow by providing them opportunities and necessary tools to actually engage in the policymaking process.

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Empowering Women: Good for Business

When I was born in Taiwan, my grandma commented “such a shame that she is not a boy!” A preference for boys was prevalent at that time—and to some extent continues today. My uncle and aunt gave up on producing a boy only after ending up with five daughters. My aunt would tear up from the talk she overheard from neighbors, accusing her of not being “filial” because she was “unable” to produce a boy. In my parents’ generation, this preference for boys skewed educational opportunity towards males.

Thankfully, I was born a time when the economy was booming, when Taiwan was modernizing rapidly, and when women’s education attainment had become a universal expectation. And so I had the opportunity to explore my own interests and make my own decisions. For extra-curriculars, I traded in the usual “girl” activities of piano lessons and painting to pursue basketball and debating—opportunities that would have been unimaginable for my grandmother, who grew up at a time when the foot binding of girls was still a condoned practice.

In Asia, women’s movements have come a long way in the past three decades. Taiwan’s first female president was sworn in last month – the first female leader in Asia whose path was not paved by a powerful male relative (President Park Geun Hye of South Korea and Daw San Suu Kyi of Burma are both daughters of powerful political dynasties).

Remarkably, Tsai’s primary opponent during much of the presidential election was also a female leader, the Vice Speaker of the Parliament (before she was replaced by her party three months before the election). Analysts believe that a quota system requiring one third of all seats in the legislature be filled by women contributes to the rise of prominent female politicians in Taiwan.

The Philippines has also seen much progress in promoting gender equality over the years. Its outgoing cabinet had the highest percentage of female members in the country’s history. Moreover, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Maria Lourdes Sereno, is the first female chief justice in Philippine history. In the most recent presidential election, Leni Robredo was elected as Vice President. Even though Senator Grace Poe lost the presidency, she was leading in the polls for more than three months . Poe emphasized the importance of economic empowerment by urging Filipino women to be financially independent of their husbands during the 8th GoNegosyo Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit in February.

The evidence agrees with Poe. Empowering women economically produces lots of societal benefits, including higher investment in the family, education, and health. Economically empowered women also enjoy stronger awareness of their political rights and face a lower likelihood of becoming victims of domestic violence.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #20: Nyaradzo Mashayamombe on Advocating for Women’s and Girls’ Rights in Zimbabwe

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Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Nyaradzo Mashayamombe discusses her work as an advocate for women’s and girls’ rights in Zimbabwe and the way women are viewed in society is changing in that country. Mashayamombe talks about the hardships she experienced as a child in rural Zimbabwe and how they drove her to help other girls and women. She also discusses the empowering impact of social media and the current economic situation for women in Zimbabwe.

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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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Business Women Take Charge in Papua New Guinea

PNG-women-group

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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Celebrating International Women’s Day 2014 at CIPE

CIPE recently helped support the first-ever Women's Chamber in Papua New Guinea.

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.