Women Entrepreneurship Discussed at 6th Istanbul Forum

Women entrepreneurship was the theme at the Istanbul Forum for Economic Cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey.  The Forum was held during a two-day trilateral summit attended by the heads of states of the three nations.   At the end of the summit, a 10-point joint statement was issued.

Mr. Mohammad Qurban Haqjo, CEO of ACCI along with and with four Afghan women entrepreneurs participated in a Roundtable on Women Entrepreneurship.  Mr. Haqjo highlighted the important role played by women in traditional businesses as well as being a recognizable part of the rural economy.

He added that under the Taliban regime, informal women associations supported female businesses working at home while also noting the progress made where women now own small and medium sized businesses in sectors such as carpet weaving, tailoring, handicrafts, agriculture, animal husbandry, health, and education.  “Our common declaration here today is to affirm our support for female entrepreneurs to start and operate a business,” said Mr. Haqjo of the event’s objective.

The ACCI Chief Executive Officer also offered five suggestions to improve the business opportunities for Afghan women entrepreneurs; they are,

  1. Encouraging regional trade bodies such as ECO, CAREC, and SAARC to embrace a platform where women programs are folded into the business deliberations of these organizations.
  2. Increasing the level of communication and exchange of ideas between women entrepreneurs of the three countries;
  3. Conducting exhibitions, fairs, conferences, and matchmakings events with a strong focus on women-owned businesses;
  4. Advocating and lobbying the government to give appropriate incentives to businesswomen involved in trade;
  5. Establishing a revolving fund exclusively for women to provide financial support through a small loan program; and

Separately, Forum members praised the women themed nature of the meeting and expressed their gratitude to TOBB (Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey) and the Global Entrepreneurship Program executed by TOBB for ensuring the involvement of women entrepreneurs from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Forum.  Additionally, the Forum encouraged the Governments’ of the three countries to develop mechanisms for the empowerment of women entrepreneurship.

TOBB’s Women Entrepreneurs Board was held up as a model promoting women leadership.  The Forum encouraged Afghan and Pakistani women entrepreneurs to replicate, with the help of TOBB, this successful leadership building program in their respective countries.

Forum members also decided to provide capacity and skill development to Afghan and Pakistani businesswomen through Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) and Entrepreneurship Institute and Small & Medium Enterprises Development Organization of Turkey (KOSGEB).  This training program will be conducted during 2012.

Finally, Forum participants agreed that cooperation between Afghan and Pakistani women entrepreneurs and TOBB Women Entrepreneurs Board will be promoted to ensure access to the Turkish market as well as to developed markets through the Turkish connection.

To view this and other declarations from the Forum, click here.

About Istanbul Forum

Istanbul Forum for Economic Cooperation Between Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan is a tripartite dialogue mechanism established on October 26, 2007 between the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Industries (ACCI), and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FPCCI) to promote stability in the region.

ACCI and Women Entrepreneurs

ACCI encourages the representation of women entrepreneurs in business membership organizations.  Currently, there are around 400 women-owned companies and women business membership organizations under the ACCI umbrella.  The Afghanistan Women Business Federation (AWBF) alone has 10,000 members while 60 unions and associations are members of Afghan Women’s Business Council (AWBC).

In the recent nationwide provincial elections of the Chamber, 11 businesswomen were elected to become members of various provincial boards of directors.  Additionally, ACCI is committed to working with women members and associations to advocate for a women friendly business environment.

Further, ACCI has developed a directory of Afghan women-owned businesses.  It is comprised of 350 entries and is a useful tool for making women businesses accessible to the general business community.  Through ACCI’s Trade Service Center, Women in Trade profiles are developed and featured on the Center’s website as well as promoted via electronic means.

Finally, female businesswomen participate in ACCI-organized fairs, exhibitions and matchmaking events.  In the 2011 U.S. – Afghan Business Matchmaking Conference, female participants from Afghanistan will be given the opportunity to present their products and services at this prestigious event.