Two Saudi businesswomen [Lama al-Suleiman and Nashwa Taher] swept to an unprecedented victory in elections to the board of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the first polls in which women stood as candidates in the conservative Muslim kingdom.
For democratic practices to truly take hold and for an economy to generate growth, the private sector must be fully engaged to include all citizens of the country. The rights to participate in political processes, access services, and be part of the economy must not be provided selectively. In some conservative countries in the Muslim world, women not only have no voice in the public sphere, but they are excluded from the private sphere as well. The inclusion of women on the ballots for the Jeddah Chamber elections and the victories for two of them is a significant step for private sector reform in the country and strengthens the private sector as a force for change.
After more than 20 years, CIPE’s efforts to support women and youth have evolved from basic training for entrepreneurs to more sophisticated models, organizational strengthening, and grooming future leaders in countries such as Afghanistan, Montenegro, Turkey, and Nicaragua. CIPE’s approach is to provide these disenfranchised groups with tools to become effective leaders, to organize themselves, and to begin effectively representing their own interests.