South Asia

Despite relatively open electoral systems and high levels of public participation, emerging democracies in South Asia have struggled to consolidate. Institutional flaws, weak governance, and entrenched interests have prevented democracy from delivering for all citizens.

Across the region, CIPE is working with business and civil society leaders, journalists, academics, and reform-minded officials to effect needed change in a range programmatic areas. CIPE partners are providing reliable information to citizens on public policy issues, encouraging policy dialogue, building the capacity of business associations, and leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs. Projects include strengthening mechanisms of public and corporate governance to help stem corruption, empowering women through business associations, and bringing together new and independent voices to key policy debates in the region’s consolidating democracies.

Program Results & Impact

  • Nepal: Samriddhi has found a variety of ways to disseminate its public policy recommendations to promote an inclusive and prosperous democratic society that respects the rule of law, including through policy papers, roundtables, conferences, and online platforms. Samriddhi holds regular meetings to discuss issues with government officials, business leaders from the small and medium-sized enterprise sector, representatives from the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and a wide range of political party leaders. In mid-2014, Samriddhi recommended that the Government of Nepal create a separate entity to develop and operate the country’s electricity grid. In 2015, the Government responded by forming the National Transmission Grid Company (NTGC) to do just that. Complementing those efforts, Samriddhi is working with a number of stakeholders to build greater public understanding about the benefits of reforming Nepal’s state energy monopoly. Finally, CIPE has connected Samriddhi with a think tank partner in Pakistan that is helping Samriddhi build a government accountability tool to track progress on implementing longpromised energy sector reforms. In these ways, Samriddhi is fostering policy solutions to encourage economic growth and prosperity in Nepal.
  • South Asia Women’s Regional Network: CIPE launched a peer-to-peer network of women’s chambers and associations across South Asia to share best practices, exchange effective organization management skills, and learn advocacy techniques. As a result of that initiative, network members are generating real results for women entrepreneurs in their countries. For example, in Pakistan, the South Punjab Women’s Chamber in Multan and the Peshawar Women’s Chamber formed a coalition to advocate successfully for an increase in the commercial loan repayment period for artisans – many of whom are women – from 180 days to 360 days. In Sri Lanka, the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) successfully advocated the passage of gender-sensitive policies to provide greater support for women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The new Sri Lankan government not only welcomed WCIC’s recommendations, quickly passing the new SME policy, but also, recognizing the need to increase the role of women in business, asked WCIC representatives to sit on a policymaking board at the Ministry of Industry. In the coming year, CIPE will provide further training, technical assistance, and small grant funding to the organizations in this network, so that they can continue to make a difference for the women entrepreneurs of South Asia.

Read more about CIPE's programs in South Asia.

Publication by Region

Blazing a Trail: The Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce Sri Lanka

Article at a glance

  • The Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Sri Lanka (WCIC), established in 1985, is the oldest women’s chamber of commerce in Sri Lanka and the first such organization in the world.
  • The impetus for the establishment of WCIC came from a small group of highly educated and successful women entrepreneurs and professionals who came together to form an organization to empower women in Sri Lanka.
  • Since its creation, the WCIC has been actively involved in defending the rights of women-owned businesses, advocating policy reforms that foster entrepreneurship, and representing the voice of small and medium-sized enterprises.

2015 Annual Report

CIPE published its 2015 annual report in an all-digital, interactive format for the first time. Since the establishment of CIPE in 1983, the world has gone through many changes. CIPE has been at the forefront of promoting democratic governance and economic freedom around the globe.


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