Madame Ngetsi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of thousands of women in the world who—despite their talent, drive, and potential to contribute to the economic development of their countries—may never be able to fulfill their dreams of starting their own businesses. Their dreams may be dashed because of outdated legislation that reproduces debilitating gender roles.
If she were a man in the DRC, Madame Ngetsi’s initial steps in starting her business would be to obtain a certificate confirming the headquarters location, notarize the articles of association, and register with the Commercial Registry. As a woman, however, a significant roadblock stands in her way: She is legally mandated to first obtain her husband’s permission to register a business. This legal requirement, found in the family code rather than in any commercial or business code, is fully in effect in the DRC. Permission letters are readily found on file at women-owned company registries. Married men face no such requirement.
After a long job search, you are rewarded by the phone call all job seekers wait patiently for, the interview invitation. You prep and spend as much time on the outfit you plan to wear as you do practicing mock interviews with your friends. You get to the interview all prepared to discuss your semester abroad as a graduate student, your thesis that took you to Congo and extensive work experience that landed you coveted past jobs. Your prospective employer will be as interested in your past work experience as in your formal education or schooling. The quality and the quantity (number of years) of relevant experience could drop you out of the race all together or…land you the job, determine your pay bracket and impact your future career growth.
Is a solid education enough to level the gender gap in human capital? (Credit: World Bank)
Women entrepreneurs in the Caribbean are breaking through the walls (Credit: infoDev)
In the last few decades, women in the Caribbean have made impressive strides to break through the glass ceiling and obtain positions of power and responsibility. In governments throughout the region, we’ve seen women as national leaders including Janet Jagen (Guyana), Eugenia Charles (Dominica), Portia Simpson Miller (Jamaica) and Kamla Persad-Bissessar (Trinidad). In addition, the region’s women are attaining high levels of academic achievement, and now there are more female than male college graduates in total. While this is all extremely positive news for gender equality in the Caribbean, we shouldn’t rest on our laurels just yet. There is still one area of the playing field that remains to be leveled, and not just in the Caribbean, which is women succeeding as well as men as high growth entrepreneurs.
When I heard the news last autumn that 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan had been shot simply for standing up for her right as a girl to get an education, I was horrified.
It also reminded me how lucky I was.
When I was offered a rare scholarship to study abroad, it wasn’t acceptable for me, as a young married Indonesian woman, to live apart from my husband. My mother laid out two options: Either he would join me, which meant giving up his job, or I had to decline the offer.
I know it was her way to advocate for my husband to support me, which he did without hesitation. We both went to the United States to complete our master’s degrees. I combined it with a doctorate in economics, and we had our first child, a daughter, while we both were graduate students.
How we support agribusiness and handicrafts sector in Upper Egypt
Last week I met 35 entrepreneurs from Assyut, Aswan, Beni Seouf, Cairo, Fayoum, Giza, Luxor , Minya, Qena, Sharkeyya, Sohag. Some of these names aren’t familiar and there is a reason for that…
They had just been awarded 25,000 dollars each through the Egypt Development Marketplace (DM) competition because their businesses have potential to grow, and create jobs for some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in Upper Egypt.
I was struck by the new innovative ideas for example using palm trees to produce handicrafts and high quality affordable furniture. But also by the revival of local industries such as the ancient Upper Egyptian carpet weaving produced by ferka, not only generating income for marginalized girls and women, but also renewing pride in Egypt’s remarkable culture and heritage. Whether producing local honey, or adding value to products through food processing of tomato paste, olive oil or dairy products specifically for low-income families, these businesses had deserved their cash reward.
- Upper Egypt
- Urban Development
- Private Sector Development
- Labor and Social Protection
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Financial Sector
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Middle East and North Africa
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
It’s June 16th, 2013. When you walk through the desolate, empty streets of Kathmandu today, where the effects of another bandh (strike) are clearly visible, you can’t help but wonder: will we Nepalis ever stand up and speak out against any of the injustices we see in our society or will we silently trudge on as always?
Sitting in a conference room at the Trade Tower in Kathmandu, I feel enormous hope that yes, we will. It’s a room filled with more than a hundred young techies and gender activists, all of whom braved the monsoon and the bandh to be a part of the Violence Against Women (VAW) Hackathon – a platform to bring together diverse stakeholders to work on technology solutions to VAW issues.
Last April 21, representatives from government, the private sector, and the financial inclusion world came together for Financial Inclusion Pathways for Women and the Poor. Panels covered a range of topics, including financial education, mobile banking and SME finance. But at the heart of all the discussions was the challenge posed by 2.5 billion unbanked people around the world –1.35 billion of them women. What actions can the public and private sector take to give the financially excluded—especially women who have the potential to transform economies-- access to finance?
Developing countries today have unprecedented numbers of schools, classrooms, teachers—and students. Remarkable accomplishments have also been made towards achieving gender equality at all levels of education (see World Bank, 2010). Since 1999, girls’ gross enrollment rates have risen fastest in South Asia, especially at the primary level, by about 30 percentage points; in South Asia, girls’ enrollment rates at the secondary level rose almost as fast. In the other regions where girls’ enrollment rate at the primary level was already very high, girls’ enrollment rate at the secondary and tertiary levels showed impressive increases.
How would you define a “good boy” or a “good girl”? Would he help with chores around the house? Would she earn good grades in school?
In a study to learn more about how gender norms influence people’s lives today, the World Bank asked more than 4,000 men, women, boys, and girls from 20 countries about their beliefs about gender and how gender norms shape their everyday lives and decisions. The study put them into single-sex focus groups so the participants could challenge one another’s ideas and build on new ideas.
A woman works in a small shop in Ghana.
Photo by Arne Hoel
What will it take for the world to wake up and realize the advantages of supporting women entrepreneurs in the developing world?
If that sounds like an odd question to be asking in the 21st century, just consider some facts. We know that globally women make up almost half the world’s workforce. And we know that in developing economies, 30-40% of entrepreneurs running small or medium sized businesses are women.
But here’s something you may not know – at least 9 out of 10 women-owned businesses have no access to loans. So, just imagine the frustration of a woman in a developing country, who has started a small business, is attracting a good clientele, has a business plan to grow her business, but can’t get a loan to expand. That's not an isolated story. It’s a frustration shared by many women in the developing world. And the frustration of those women sounds echoingly similar to the frustration still lingering in the voices of older women from rich countries, telling how some three decades ago they were refused bank home loans, despite having a guaranteed income.