Women's Empowerment Programs
Women comprise half of the world’s population, perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, and constitute between 60 and 80 percent of the manufacturing workforce in developing countries. In addition, women business owners make up the majority of entrepreneurs in the informal sector and a large share of the micro-enterprise sector. Yet, despite their extraordinary contributions to socio-economic development, women continue to be marginalized in many countries around the world. The challenge of building democracy that delivers is one of ensuring fair and and open economic, political, and civic participation for women in society.
To that end, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) works to remove institutional and cultural barriers to women’s participation in society. We view women’s empowerment through the prism of building linkages between educational, political, civic, and economic empowerment, where civil society organizations – especially women’s business associations – become a leading force to remove barriers and empower women to shape the future of their own countries. In these and many other areas – whether education, access to information, property rights, or senior leadership in major corporations – CIPE's approach to women's empowerment is guided by a simple principle: women’s empowerment should not be driven by simply bestowing or extending power to women. To be truly empowered, women must develop their power base, advocate for reform, and exert their own leadership to change their operating environment politically, culturally, and economically.
Women's Programs in Action
- CIPE’s partner the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) has successfully advocated for a number of local and national level policy changes, as outlined in its Women’s National Business Agenda (WNBA). In particular, BWCCI has eased access to credit for women entrepreneurs, both through the issuance of Central Bank rules providing women with low-cost loans with no collateral requirements, as well as by monitoring implementation of these new rules by commercial banks. To date, nearly $23 million has been provided to over 3,000 women entrepreneurs, helping to create around 20,000 new jobs. BWCCI, which has had explosive membership growth since it began working with CIPE, has also developed into a stronger organization through better governance mechanisms and improved budgeting and strategic planning.
- The Coalition of Women Business Associations in Romania (CAFA) is an informal coalition launched in January 2004, with CIPE support, by nine Romanian women’s business associations eager to play a larger role in the formulation of government policies related to the private sector. The coalition does not replace the activities of association members; it gets involved in major initiatives and events that require grassroots support such as public hearings, debates, legislative proposals, and amendments. By 2007, the coalition had become an influential, self-sustaining entity with 19 association members representing more than 2,000 businesswomen. Its strategic partners include the United Nations Development Program, the U.S.-based National Women’s Business Council, and CIPE.
- In Pakistan, CIPE and chambers of commerce worked to reform the national Trade Organizations Ordinance in 2006; as a result of the reform, women were allowed to start their own associations without male sponsorship for the first time in the history of the country. By 2010, more than 2,000 members had joined eight women’s chambers throughout the country, and the number of women executives in major chambers and associations in Pakistan grew to 60, when nearly none had existed in prior years. CIPE has also assisted larger chambers in establishing gender-specific outreach programs. The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for example, created a Women’s Resource Center that has helped over 450 women members by conducting workshops, seminars, and exhibitions. The Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry saw an increase of women members from six to over 200 members in one year as a result of targeted programming.
- Democratic Governance
- Access to Information
- Combating Corruption
- Business Association Development
- Corporate Governance
- Legal & Regulatory Reform
- Informal Sector & Property Rights
- Corporate Citizenship (CSR)
- South Asia
- Southeast Europe
- Middle East & North Africa
- Latin America & the Caribbean