Women across South Asia face myriad challenges when it comes to participating in the economy — especially as business owners. Women’s business organizations can help their members learn from each other, overcome barriers, and push for changes to laws and regulations that work against women entrepreneurs.
This August, CIPE held its eighth in an ongoing series of capacity building and networking workshops in Kathmandu, Nepal for its South Asia regional network of women’s business associations. Since its inception, the participants of this network, which includes organizations from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India, have been enthusiastic and engaged in learning from both CIPE and their peers.
This year, building on the results of previous projects that aimed to strengthen the internal capacity of these organizations, CIPE has focused on building the advocacy skills of the participants, in order for women entrepreneurs’ voices to be heard in the policymaking process.
The training session in Kathmandu included presentations by the women about their work on small advocacy projects funded by CIPE mini-grants. Following those presentations, the CIPE team, led by Senior Consultant Camelia Bulat and CIPE Pakistan Deputy Director Hammad Siddiqui, provided the participants with a range of tools and approaches to improve their advocacy efforts going forward.
This program has seen great progress and has achieved much of its initial focus aims. The workshops have been highly interactive and discussion-based, and extremely well received by the participants. Based on feedback surveys, the participants continue to be eager to learn more about entrepreneurship for women, chamber management, governance, and, especially, advocacy.
The women who are taking part in this program are enthusiastic learners. As Neeru Khatri, from the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Nepal said, she finds “coalition building and politically mapping especially helpful in identifying key stakeholders for the advocacy project.” Further, Masooma Sibtain from the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry Multan stated that “the most interesting part of the workshop is learning and working together, sharing knowledge, and exchanging ideas with like-minded and progressive individuals. It transformed the mindset of our chamber. We are more confident about the work that we do.”
In the current phase of the program, additional small grants have been given to women’s chambers in Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka to design policy advocacy programs based on issues identified by their members. With mentorship from two leading South Asian women’s associations, the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) and the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka (AWAKE), the participants are excited to put their skills to practice in carrying out these initiatives to build a more conducive business climate for South Asian women.
Medhawi Giri is a Program Assistant for South Asia at CIPE.