Monthly Archives: December, 2013

5 Innovative Trends in Women’s Economic Equality

Investing in women creates a multiplier effect for society – including better health and education outcomes, more resilient societies, reinvestment in communities, and greater prosperity. While there has been overall progress globally, women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) still face some of the greatest barriers in asserting their economic rights.

To help break through these barriers, the Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality in MENA online competition, launched by Ashoka Changemakers and General Electric, was launched to support innovations that enable full economic participation by women. Nine competition finalists have emerged who are building quality livelihoods and securing economic rights for women across the region. The competition is also uncovering a series of trends that demonstrate how investing in women’s economic equality is smart.

The Women Powering Work competition received 107 applications from more than 23 countries, spanning very diverse economic, social, and political contexts. In the spirit of open learning and collaboration, below is a list of the finalists and the themes that are emerging from their solutions.


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Women entrepreneurs need further support in Montenegro

The Montenegrin Employers Federation (MEF) published a report entitled Assessment of the environment for women entrepreneurship in Montenegro with the financial and technical assistance of the ILO. ILO Online asked Ms Zvezdana Oluic, Head of PR and Marketing Sector about the results of the survey.

Press release | 12 November 2013

Women entrepreneurs need further support in Montenegro

What was to objective to do a research on women’s entrepreneurship in Montenegro?

The aim of this report was to review the main features of the institutional, legislative and educational system, business climate, barriers as well as possibilities for women’s entrepreneurship development in Montenegro. It also aimed to develop recommendations for accelerating procedures, introducing incentives and effective processes in establishing an economic environment which stimulates future development and improvement of female entrepreneurship, especially in small and medium enterprises in Montenegro.

What kind of the methodology did you use in this assessment?

The research followed the methodology recommended by an AfDB/ILO Integrated Framework Assessment Guide: Assessing the Enabling Environment for Women in Growth Enterprises (GOWEs).

It assessed the following ten key areas using desk research of available data and official documents, in-depth interviews with decision-makers and focus groups:

  • Management and coordination policy;
  • Regulatory and legal issues;
  • Promotion of women entrepreneurship;
  • Access to education and training;
  • Access to credits and financial services;
  • Access to services for business development and information;
  • Associations and networks of women entrepreneurs;
  • Access to business premises;
  • Access to markets;
  • Research on women entrepreneurship.

What is the situation of women in the labour market of Montenegro?

The position of women in the labour market is considerably worse than that of men, especially with regard to possibility for advancing in business hierarchy and accessibility of managing positions.

According a UNDP research women in Montenegro face different barriers, which translate into horizontal and vertical gender based segregation of professions. These barriers include stereotypes in choosing education and professions, traditional roles of women, prejudices and also lower professional aspirations of women compared to men.

Instead of investing in career development, women are traditionally directed to less paid jobs in lower positions which leave enough time for family responsibilities. Therefore, there is a lack of women in Montenegro in managing positions (in private and public sector as well as in politics) which would generate visibility, better income and higher social status for them. The feminization of certain professions is an issue as well, in addition to the existence of so-called “glass ceiling” and the gender wage gap which shows that women’s income is 86 per cent of that of men’s for work of equal value.

Are there many women entrepreneurs in the country? Which sectors do they prefer?

According to an analysis published by Montenegro Statistical Office (MONSTAT) in March 2012, only 9.6 per cent (2 025 in 2011) of business entities are owned by women, while 90.4 per cent (19 102) of businesses are in men’s ownership.

This data places Montenegro behind the EU and neighbouring countries. Also, other private sector surveys indicate that MONSTAT’s data do not reflect the real situation, but rather include several women who are only formally business owners but management functions and entrepreneurial activities are performed by their male relatives (spouse, brother, son).

Regarding the size of business, women were the most common in small enterprises, while only one woman was found in the class of large companies.

The share of active business entities owned by women is the highest in the area of social protection (38.5 per cent), employment (22.2 per cent), advertisement and market research (21.5 per cent) cleaning of environment and waste management (33.3 per cent). Women’s share is also considerable in health care (20.8 per cent), social protection with accommodation (20 per cent), supporting activities in financial services and insurance (22 per cent), and other personal service activities (16.3 per cent). On the other hand, active business entities connected to forestry, fishing, mining and quarrying, production of leather, pharmaceutical products, motor vehicles and other transport means, as well as scientific research and development, are completely owned by men (100 per cent).

What is the rate of women among top managers in big companies?

Results of a research conducted by Montenegrin Employers’ Federation in 2012 show that women’s participation at the top management level is only 42 per cent and they are the most represented at the middle management level (54 per cent). This research also indicates that 74.5 per cent of companies implement certain initiatives with the aim to promote gender equality in employment, retention, promotion and professional training.

Is it easy to start a new business or run a successful business in Montenegro?

The World Bank survey “Doing Business 2014” is carried out in 189 countries, including Montenegro. The survey indicator “Ease of Doing Business” ranks economies from 1 to 189, where a high ranking reflects a regulatory environment that is conducive for business operations. The data shows that Montenegro has improved in time, moving from 50 in 2013 to 44 in 2014. The indicator “Starting a Business” records the officially required procedures (number, time, cost and paid-in minimum capital) to start and operate an enterprise and ranks countries accordingly. Montenegro’s rank in this regard worsened from 2013 moving from 57 to 69 for the 2014.

Is it easy for women to start new business compared to men? Do they face any discrimination?

Conditions for entrepreneurship development are worse for women than for men due to, among other things, deeply rooted patriarchal attitudes in the Montenegrin society. Gender inequality is manifested in the lack of women’s political participation, economic inequality, unequal share of the family duties, differences in property ownership that put women in a very difficult position to start their own business.

For a large number of women, entrepreneurship is not the primary goal in life – they see it as a way to contribute to their family income. Hence, women entrepreneurship in Montenegro is now in the early stages and it can be called “entrepreneurship out of necessity” which is characterized by the need to find alternative employment.

Does the society support women to run a business on their own?

The formal requirements are created, but the practice shows that development of women’s entrepreneurship still requires full institutional support and appropriate incentives. In our society, women are not sufficiently recognized as equal partners in the economic arena, which leaves them in a worse position when starting and running their own business.

In traditional economies such as Montenegro, the challenges of women’s entrepreneurship development can be double. The initial challenge is to legally define and strengthen the basis of enterprise in the formal economy, so women could strengthen and expand their business. Another challenge is to promote entrepreneurship and business opportunities with high growth potential among educated and qualified women, so that their businesses are strong from the very beginning and have a potential for growth and job creation. In order to solve these challenges successfully, it is necessary to provide women with access to a number of key financial and non-financial resources, as well as a business environment that excludes gender-based institutional, cultural, regulatory and legal barriers which would limit their business activities.

Does the Montenegrin legislation provide equal opportunities for women and men?

Montenegro has established a legal and institutional framework and adopted policies and strategic documents that support gender equality, promotion of women’s rights and economic empowerment of women.

The structure of Montenegro is defined by the Constitution of Montenegro adopted 2007 as the highest legal act. The Constitution introduced the principle of gender equality through two articles. Article 18 guarantees the equality between men and women and obliges to develop policies on equal opportunities, while Article 8 prohibits any direct or indirect discrimination on any grounds. These provisions of the Constitution are further defined in detail in the Law on Gender Equality and The Law on Anti-Discrimination.

In addition, Montenegro has established institutional mechanisms at all levels (national, regional and local) in order to support legal and policy framework for promoting gender equality. Separate bodies have been established responsible for improving the economic status of women and women entrepreneurship development. The institutional mechanisms for supporting gender equality in Montenegro are:

  • Department for Gender Equality – Ministry for Human and Minority Rights
  • Committee for Gender Equality – Parliament of Montenegro

Do women have the same access to credits and other financial services as men?

The lack of access to finance is the main barrier for women and men entrepreneurs for starting business. However, Montenegrin women less often use commercial loans to start business than men. The main reason is that only 6 per cent of women are owners of a property which can be used as collateral to get a business bank loan.

According to a MEF research conducted among men and women entrepreneurs, commercial loans are more accessible to men, while women largely establish companies using a variety of state-supported programs aimed at entrepreneurship development. This suggests that commercial credits to start business are still less available for women.

A UNDP research on potential female entrepreneurs in Montenegro (published in 2012) also points out that the access to finance is one of the biggest barriers for starting business. 42 per cent of respondents stated that concerns about funding were the first and the most important reason behind the decision not to enter into business, while 14 per cent of women indicated family responsibilities preventing them to start business.

What kind of help would be the most useful for women to be successful in business life?

The report of Montenegrin Employers Federation gives a total 82 recommendations, grouped by ten key areas. The most important ones are listed below:

  • Support entrepreneurship as well as small and medium enterprises by gender empowerment measures in the private sector at local and national level;
  • Establish closer inter-agency cooperation at government level, create inter-agency teams for implementing measures for women’s entrepreneurship development and introduce regular evaluations of these measures;
  • Eliminate business barriers and create an environment that is favourable and conducive for women entrepreneurship development – particularly at local level;
  • Introduce tax incentives for self-employed women and women entrepreneurs, as well as government start-up subsidies available not only for unemployed but also for employed women;
  • Integrate entrepreneurship education into national curricula at primary, secondary and tertiary education and encourage entrepreneurial learning in the informal education system;
  • Create favourable bank credit lines for women entrepreneurs, support the establishment of guarantee funds for women entrepreneurs and provide funding for women start-ups through provision of grants;
  • Establish women business incubator(s), and introduce a quota system for women entrepreneurs within existing (and new) business incubators;
  • Establish an annual prize for the most successful women entrepreneur(s), organize regular women entrepreneurship fairs and intensify the media promotion of successful business women;
  • Improve child care facilities – especially at local level (extended kindergarten hours, outside school hours care );
  • Include the gender perspective in all research projects, and require the collection of statistical data relevant to women’s entrepreneurship development.


Breaking gender stereotypes in Bangladesh

Nupur Howlader is Bangladesh’s only nationally-qualified female welder. An ILO-EU skills training programme has given her the chance to both earn a better living and challenge gender stereotypes.

Feature | 05 December 2013
DHAKA (ILO News) – In a shipyard on the coast of southern Bangladesh 2,000 men toil over huge, half-finished ships. The clatter of grinders, drills and hammers fills the air and the smell of fuel, dust and sweat is everywhere. Workers are building vessels that will be used to ferry thousands of passengers along the maze of waterways that make up the delta that runs through the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world.

23-year old Nupur Howlader is the shipyard’s only female tradesperson. She is also about to become Bangladesh’s first nationally-certified female welder.”

One of the workers is a little different from the rest. Her long dark hair is tucked into a hard hat, her elegant hands are encased in thick gloves and her sparkling eyes are hidden behind safety glasses. 23-year old Nupur Howlader is the shipyard’s only female tradesperson. She is also about to become Bangladesh’s first nationally-certified female welder – the result of a skills training programme run by the ILO and funded by the European Union (EU) that provides technical skills to young and under-employed people. In a country where women’s participation in technical and vocational education is strikingly low, Nupur is an important role model.

“When my husband and I told our families what we wanted to do they were in total confusion. It caused a lot of tension, and they kept questioning why we wanted to take risks,” said Nupur. “I just kept thinking that if I learn how to do something useful I can make much more money than working at home. If more people start thinking this way our country can really progress. I can take my skills anywhere, they are mine forever”.

In just six months Nupur has raced through her theoretical lessons at Barisal Technical School and College and her practical placement at the Sundarbans shipyard. She is now in the last stages of her practical training at Linde Bangladesh, a local branch of the international industrial gas and engineering company. She is now nationally-certified at Level 1, meaning she can weld steel plates, make sheet metal and interpret technical drawings, among other skills. She will soon be nationally-certified at Level 2, meaning she will be able to do arc welding, join different metals and have an understanding of metallurgy.

But, as well as her technical success, Nupur is also takes pride in the way that she is challenging the status quo. “The traditional mindset is that people should pursue general education in Bangladesh. What we have realized though is that job possibilities after getting technical education are as good as after general education,” she said. “I am a welder and my skills are needed by many businesses. Being a woman has not held me back either – women can do anything. I want to see all women in jobs. Women should not be begging on the streets of Dhaka; they should have skills and be working”.

Srinivas Reddy, Director of ILO Country Office for Bangladesh agrees. “This is a great move towards breaking gender stereotypes and I hope that success of Nupur will motivate more and more women to take up non-traditional skills with decent work opportunities”.

Nationally-recognised qualifications are part of Bangladesh’s new National Technical and Vocational Qualifications Framework. The framework ensures training meets current industry skill requirements and is delivered in the shortest possible time. The ILO-run skills training programme, from which Nupur is about to graduate, is part of a comprehensive package of initiatives called the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Reform Project, that is working to make skills across the country relevant, high quality and quickly deliverable.

The TVET Reform Project, funded by the EU, also focuses on making skills more accessible to women in Bangladesh. Female participation in technical education is strikingly low, ranging from 9 to 13 per cent in public institutions. The Government of Bangladesh, with support from the ILO, last year drafted the National Strategy for Promotion of Gender Equality in TVET, which was the first of its kind in the technical education sector.

“Promoting gender equality is a key aim of the TVET Reform Project and through our programmes we are seeing more and more young women like Nupur learning skills and challenging conservative attitudes about gender,” said William Hanna, Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to Bangladesh. “Bangladesh has made great progress in promoting gender equality by closing the gender gap in gross and net enrolment ratios in primary and secondary education. This success now needs to be replicated in the technical education sector”.

Tunisia’s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami

In conversations with Karima Bennoune over the past two months, Tunisian intellectual Amel Grami shares her analysis of the political crisis in Tunisia during the rule of the Ennahda party, and the strategies needed to defeat fundamentalism.

July 8, 2013

KB: Could you describe the current situation and the biggest challenges for women activists and secularists now?

AG: The main subject is civil liberties and how to survive the current wave of violence against women. There is tension vis-à-vis women in terms of their clothes, their life-style, etc.  For example, swimming in Ramadan causes problems now for some women.  It is a new phenomenon in Tunisia – this new relationship with the body and the feeling that in the public sphere you are not free. There are others who are using violence in order to “correct” the behavior of women. It is not possible any more for women activists to travel around the country on their own at night or to go to rural areas, especially to some areas where fundamentalists impose their rule, such as rural areas near Bizerte where there is reported to be Salafist controlled territory or “Imara Salafya”.  Tunisia is not the same as it was two years ago. We do not have the same freedom of movement.

Amel Grami

Amel Grami in Tunis, July 2013: “Color is a form of resistance.”
Photo by Karima Bennoune.

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Karima Bennoune carried out this interview while in Tunisia doing follow up research to her book, “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.”

This article was first published in October.  It is republished as part of 50.50’s series of articles during 16 Days: activism against gender violence

Women’s human security rights in the Arab world: on nobody’s agenda

Security breakdown has wreaked havoc with women’s lives in Arab transition countries, but it is hardly recognized in international debates on gender based violence, says Mariz Tadros

Four children holding hands walking away from the camera, wearing T-shirts with Arabic text on.

The T-shirts read: human dignity, bread, social justice and freedom. Photo: Nefssi

This is the first of two articles by Mariz Tadros discussing the disjunctures between the current international discourse on gender based violence and women’s realities on the ground in ‘Arab transition’ contexts.

Sometime past midnight in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday the 27th November, activists reported that a security vehicle dumped a group of women in the middle of the desert in Egypt. Security officers had arrested them the day before for protesting against the proposed protest law, which they believed would infringe on citizens’ freedom of expression. Some of the women arrested were also activists in anti-sexual harassment groups such as Fouada Watch and Opantish. Captured footage showing how roughly they were treated seemed déjà vu of the repressive security apparatus handling of dissent during Mubarak’s and Morsi’s authoritarian regimes. 

However, what is striking is that the arrests of the protestors did not stir the mass mobilization of the citizenry to rise in anger, raising the troubling question of why not?

The truth of the matter is that almost three years of having suffered from the withdrawal of the security apparatus from assuming their role in protecting citizens, most Egyptians now yearn more than anything for an end to what is locally referred to as al infelat al amny –  security breakdown/laxity. Human security –  the idea of putting the security apparatus in the service of people’s needs for safety and protection, rather than the security interests of a ruling regime or the interests of international actors, has never had a chance to thrive in Egypt –  or in any other country that has experienced revolts.


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مسودة دستور جمهورية مصر العربية 2013