The Centerfor International Private Enterprise (CIPE) is leading a new programwith partners in 18 countries across Europe and Eurasia to strengthen women’s economic security and promote gender-responsive institutions. The efforts are partof a new initiative known as WE-Champs,shortfor“StrengtheningtheEntrepreneurial Ecosystem by Networking Regional Women’s Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations.”Theproject is fundedby the U.S. Department ofState’s Office of Global Women’sIssues (S/GWI) and recently gained international attention when Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlightedWE-Champsduringthelaunch of the U.S.Women’sEconomic Security Strategy.
“Wewilladvance women’seconomic competitiveness so that morewomen canfully participate and lead in all sectors, in all industries –including as CEOs and board members. Onewaywe’rehelping to do that is through programs like WE-Champs, which willprovide technical assistance and training towomen’schambers of commerce and business associations in 18 countries across Europe tosupportwomen-ownedsmall businesses,”said Secretary Blinken.
WE-Champsofficiallylaunched in October and is already helping thousands ofwomenthrough its support to partnering women’s business associations and chambers of commerce, as theyworkto lead and advocate for locally designed actions and measures intended topromote gender-responsive institutions and address the needs ofwomen members, in all their diversity.Amongthe key focuses: addressing systemic barriers towomen’spoliticaland economic participation, as well as urgent challengesforwomen in business posed by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.
CIPE’s primaryroleis to provide leadership and technical training, drawingon its 40 years of experience addressing issues around economic inclusion, in addition to leveraging its longtime relationships with existing women’sbusiness networks and local entities across the 18 countries. Asthe program movesforward,CIPE and WE-Champswill connect participating chambers and associations toform a region-wide network that can further help the organizations strengthen their advocacy platforms and foster local ownership.
Upcoming plans include working closely with eleven women’sbusiness associations from Albania, Bosniaand Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Serbia, Slovakia, andUkraine. Allare planning to participate in a mid-March workshop in Bratislava, Slovakia. There willbe mentorship opportunities with association experts and a small grants component to help organizations access additional resources for strengthening their internal processes and member services.
In the coming months, CIPE will connect the group with morewomen’sorganizations, including associations and chambers in other countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Hungary,Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, and Romania. They willalso begin to workwith regional networks ofwomen’sbusiness associations. Among them: the South AsiaRegional NetworkofWomen Business Organizations (RNWBO), the Central American Women’sBusiness Network(CAWBN), theCoalitionOfWomen’sBusinessAssociationsinRomania(CAFA), and the Central Asia Women’s Economic Empowerment Network, among others.
In late 2023CIPE will launch an advocacy academy forwomen’schambers and business associations to lead evidence-based campaigns for gender equity reforms in member-identified priority areas. It is anticipated that the advocacy efforts may include COVID-19 and war recovery, Ukrainian refugee response, and the care economy, among others.
Connie Gonzalez, Deputy Director forCIPE’sCenterfor Women’s Economic Empowerment (CWEE), explained some of the key needs that CIPE is working with colleagues to address:“Wehave heard from our partners about how women need quality care forfamily members; betteraccess to financing, markets and resources; training and leadership opportunities; and support forsafe digital transformations, so that they can participate morefully in the economy.”
“Wehave seen howwhenwomenin business are provided these support services, they are better able to address some of the pressing challenges of our time –like political conflicts, irregular migration, accountable investment issues, corruption, and gender-based violence at work.We have seen positive results whenwomenin business are provided with opportunities to grow their businesses and their networks,”added Gonzalez.
CIPE and partners willbesharing many updates about progress with the WE-Champs organizational capacity building program, networking opportunities, and many other advocacy efforts tosupportwomen’seconomic empowerment via thecipe.orgwebsite and social media channels Twitter,Facebook,andLinkedIn.
*** Photo Caption 1- CIPE Program Officer, Monika Kociova,speaksonthe importance ofwomen’s economic empowerment at a conference in Croatia.