Business Magazine

Empowering Women Through Legal Reform and Business Associations

Posted on the 28 October 2011 by Center For International Private Enterprise @CIPEglobal
Empowering Women through Legal Reform and Business Associations

Board and staff members from Peshawar Women Chamber of Commerce at a CIPE workshop (Photo: CIPE)

IFC-World Bank Group SmartLessonsCIPE’s experiences

CIPE shared its experience of working with women entrepreneurs in Pakistan on legal reform and business associations that would improve women’s participation in the economy and economic policymaking.

In 2010, Pakistan ranked 133 out of the 134 countries evaluated by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report on economic participation and opportunity for women—lower than Saudi Arabia and ahead only of Yemen. This jarring gender gap is also evident in national data. Women account for 52 percent of Pakistan’s population, yet only 3 percent of them work in the formal sector, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics. One important reason for women’s absence in economic activities has been the lack of women’s business organizations.

By working with local stakeholders to reform the obsolete 1961 Trade Organizations Ordinance governing the formation and operation of chambers and associations in Pakistan, CIPE helped to advocate for the new Ordinance enacted in 2006. The revised law enhanced freedom of association and created new governance mechanisms for chambers and associations. Crucial for women, the new law required that regional chambers include women on their boards. It also allowed for the creation of women’s chambers, for the first time in Pakistan’s history.

There are now over 60 female board members in regional chambers, and eight women’s chambers have been registered across the country. These chambers’ work, and the relationships and role models they are establishing, give women at the grassroots level a network and a voice to start closing the gender participation gap in Pakistan’s economy.

In its work on legal reform and empowering women entrepreneurs through business associations, CIPE has learned some valuable lessons:

    • Lesson 1: Focus on gaps in the legislative framework to address structural barriers to women’s participation.
    • Lesson 2: To achieve a multiplier effect, empower women through business organizations.
    • Lesson 3: Make advocacy a key part of the value proposition that a women’s organization brings to its members.
    • Lesson 4: Work with women across the country, including conservative or rural areas, to provide positive role models.
    • Lesson 5: Engage men in women’s economic empowerment.
  • Learn more by reading – and sharing – our SmartLesson here:

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