Women’s trade show strengthens Nepal-Tibet economic cooperation

To increase economic cooperation between Nepal and the Autonomous Region of Tibet, representative women’s organizations from both economies recently put up a trade show to highlight various products with distinctive traditional designs and raw materials. The five-day trade show also drew eighty women’s businesses that cater to the export market.

Among the exhibitors from Nepal are women who belong to WINNER-Nepal: Mahalaxmi Shrestha, Bee Keeping Shop; Neera Vaidya, Neera’s Handicrafts; Parbati Shrestha, Palanchok Bhagwati Pashmina; Riddhi Amatya, Bluebell Herbals; Urmila Tamrakar, Peognanni Handicrafts. The products include: beads, crystals, stone jewellery, herbal soaps, oils, shampoos, herbal medicines, body care products, silver accessories, honey and honey-based products as well as various pashmina products.

Gracing the opening day of the two-country trade show were: Mr. Lekhraj Bhatta, Minister for Commerce and Supplies of Nepal; and Mr. Wu Xinjgie, Executive Vice-Chairman of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China. They visited the WINNER stalls and met the women entrepreneurs who explained to the visiting dignitaries the production process and unique selling features of their products. The trade fair is organized every year, alternately, in Kathmandu and Lhasa.

The show received a large number of visitors from China. All five WINNER entrepreneurs generated sales and also received new contacts for future business. Average sales for each day by each WINNER entrepreneur was not lower than USD 1,000. Of the five, sales were higher for honey, pashmina, beads and crystal jewellery.

According to the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), majority of the Nepalese women entrepreneurs are in the cottage industry, producing food stuffs, handicrafts, natural fiber, jewelry,   paper products, woolen ítems and garments.

Through trade fairs, selling missions overseas and forging cooperation with counterparts elsewhere in the world, these women’s enterprises have broken through to larger markets. Specifically, training courses on enterprise development, best practices, e-commerce, product development and export competitiveness as well as production quality standards have been regularly conducted for the benefit of these women’s micro and small enterprises in Nepal. Todate, numerous trainings on various subject matters have already been completed since the start of the FNCCI-DEVNET cooperation in implementing the WINNER program.


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Ending discrimination against women gets boost from Philippines-Spain project partnership

Recognizing the fact that discrimination against women is far from being eradicated, the governments of the Philippines and Spain entered into cooperation agreement in addressing gender disparities in the Philippines through the full implementation of the Philippine Magna Carta of Women.

The partnership aims to strengthen institutional capacities of national and local governance agencies in upholding the human rights of women and their economic empowerment. The partner organizations to take lead in fulfilling the commitments to support eradication of discrimination against women are the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW).

The cooperation agreement was formally signed by Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Domecq together with AEICD General Coordinator Vicente Selles Zaragozi, on the side of the Spanish government,  and PCW Chairperson Remedios Rikken of the Philippine Government.

According to PCW Chairperson Remedios Rikken, the Magna Carta of Women needs to be fully explained and advocated for, and government line agencies and local government units need to be assisted to execute their obligations under the law. “PCW, being a very small agency with tremendous responsibility, needs all the help in implementing the MCW mandate. The project partnership comes at a very crucial period in the full implementation of the provisions of this landmark legislation,” she said.

“Spain and Philippines are real partners for development in terms of common goals of poverty alleviation, reduction of inequality and promotion of inclusive development,” Ambassador Domecq said. He emphasized that gender equality should be a “real political priority” as it is fundamental in having a modern, democratic state committed to justice and solidarity.

The PCW-AECID project further boosts the capacity of PCW to fulfill its role in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the various provisions of the MCW. The three project components are: institutional capacity building of PCW; capacity development of oversight national government agencies, local government units, and non-government organizations; and strengthening local and national support and services for women’s economic  empowerment and human rights.

AECID General Coordinator Vicente Selles said that the Philippine Government is responsible for designing  and defining the strategies to correct gender inequalities. Speaking in Filipino language, he said: “Ang papel ng kababaihan sa pag-unlad ng Pilipinas ay napakahalaga para sa Cooperación Español. Kung walang kababaihan, hindi uunlad ang kinabukasan. Sa usaping ito, marami pa kaming maaring matutunan sa inyo (The role of women in Philippine development is very important for the Spanish Cooperation. There is no future without women. We have a lot to learn from you in this area of concern.)”

The PCW-AECID Project will have as partners various government oversight agencies, including National Economic Development Authority, Departmant of Budget and Management, Department of Interior and Local Government, Civil Service Commission, and Commission on Higher Education along with the provinces of Albay, Aklan, Iloilo, Mindoro Oriental, Sarangani and Surigao del Norte.


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Brand identity to create strong presence for Nepalese products in niche markets

With the increasing economic integration of the world brought about by globalization, it is crucial that Nepal should define and sustain its competitive advantage in various products bound for foreign markets. Advantage in the use of natural materials unique to Nepal coupled with available cheap labor and indigenous designs along with modern marketing practices could use added thrust to its export drive.

This was the gist of the recent training program on marketing held in Kathmandu, Nepal for business owners, manufacturers export consolidators, suppliers and aspiring or would-be entrepreneurs, particularly Nepalese women. Organized by WINNER-Nepal in coordination with Handicraft Design and Development Center (Handecen), Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal (FHAN) and the Women Entrepreneurship Development Committee of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), the program focused on further consolidating the presence of Nepalese products in the overseas niche markets which have significant demand for such products as crafts, arts, pashmina, lokta paper, silver jewelry and similar fashion items.

According to WINNER-Nepal Director, Ms. Nibedita Shrestha, “Nepal producers need to create a national identity for its products, particularly a distinctive brand that meets the criteria of quality, unique Nepalese designs, reliability and compliance with good manufacturing practices expected by importing countries. Further, as Nepalese products now cater to niche markets abroad, the brand identity will significantly contribute to its strength as competitively produced, designed and priced products.”

“A united and single identity serves the purpose of creating a strong presence for Nepalese products in the European markets, highlighting the originality of product design and craftsmanship unique to Nepalese artisans and crafts makers,” she said.

One of the main resource persons of the training program was Mr. Klaus-Peter Bergman, a marketing expert from Germany. He covered the topics on introducing Nepalese products to the European market through business fairs and product exhibitions.

Mr. Bergman advised the participants to pay close attention to preparation for fair participation by selecting the best and new product line, informing target buyers in advance by e-mail and other means of communication and making available product catalog for items to be exhibited at the fair.

He also urged the Nepalese producers to highlight in their products the unique selling prepositions such as the producers’ affiliation with Fair Trade, compliance with eco-friendly marks and similar quality standards that create advantage for the Nepalese products over other products from other countries.

“With national branding, product identity and right marketing strategy, Nepalese products will stand a good chance of meeting the competition challenge in the export market, particularly in Europe, as well as creating lasting relationship with buyers, wholesalers and retailers in Europe,” WINNER-Nepal Director Shrestha said.

Some of the women entrepreneurs from the WINNER-Nepal network who shared their success stories include: Ms. Darshana Shrestha of Nature Nepal (vegetable oil-based soaps); Ms. Sitara Rajbhandrai of Home Spices (organic spices); Ms. Sharada Rijal, producer of textile-based items; Ms. Sulochana Gosai and Ms. Junu Shrestha, both exporters of lokta paper products. The other women entrepreneurs represent the sectors on silver jewelry, metal crafts and pashmina.



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Youth, handicapped, elderly and indigenous people top agenda of women’s agency

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) will pay more attention to less popular concerns such as those about youth, handicapped,      elderly, indigenous people, electronic violence against women and climate change. This was declared by the PCW Chairperson Remedios Rikken during the agency’s recent celebration marking its 37th anniversary.

“It seems like such a long time ago when the world first started to recognize that women are partners of men in development,” chair Rikken recalled. “When the United Nations declared the First International Conference on Women in 1975, and the first generation of women leaders in the Philippines lobbied the national government for the establishment of what the UN calls the National Machinery for Women, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women was born,” she stated.

One of the critical development challenges of the Philippines is rapid population at a fertility rate of about 3.7.  Maternal mortality ratio is 172 per 100, 000 live births. More than six million women are considered at high risk should they become pregnant, as they are either too young or too old. The Philippines has a very young population. About sixteen million, young (15-24) are of reproductive age. More than three million belong to the age group of over 65 years.

In 1987, the government took the initiative of drafting the Philippine Development Plan for Women (PDPW), with the view to creating a planning environment that is sensitive to gender concerns. The blueprint is the strategic guide for the efforts of the national machinery for women. Since the adoption of the PDPW, the Philippine government has already listed milestone achievements in institutionalizing gender concerns.

The Philippine Commission on Women was instrumental in the Philippine ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Countries that ratified CEDAW commit to improve the status of women and end discrimination and violence against women.

The Magna Carta of Women, a landmark legislation, changed the name of NCRFW to PCW and transformed it from an advisory to a policy-making body. With new and complex issues emerging, PCW has equipped its staff and provided technical assistance to partners in government and civil society organizations in mainstreaming gender concerns in all aspects  of economic, social and political life of the nation.

The PCW, aside from its policy-making functions, is also a coordinating body on women and gender equality concerns under the Office of the Philippine President. As an oversight body in women’s concerns, the PCW acts as catalyst for gender mainstreaming.


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Rural women feted for outstanding achievement in sustainable agriculture and development

Five Filipino women were recently recognized for their achievement and work in promoting sustainable agriculture and development.  Each received the honor of being named most outstanding rural woman of the year.  The awards were presented by the Philippine Inter- Agency Committee on Rural Women composed of the Philippine Department of Agriculture and the Philippine Commission on Women as well as other relevant government agencies.

The recipients of the Outstanding Rural Women of the Year Awards were: Myrna Conmigo-Acayen (Goa, Camarines Sur): Remia Navarro-Apostol (Koronadal, South Cotabato); Rebeca Castro-Tubongbanua (Buenavista, Guimaras); Marina Tumala-Inapan (San Juan, Siquijor); and Virginia Dentero-Dureza (Brookespoint, Palawan).  They received each corresponding citation and cash prize.

Leading the awardees as Most Outstanding Rural Woman is Myrna Conmigo-Acayen, an integrated organic farmer from Goa, Camarines Sur.   She is a farmer-trainor  of MASIPAG, a non-government organization dedicated to diversified and integrated farming system.    She has been growing rice and vegetables following natural farming principles and practices.  Despite the fact that she was not able to finish high school  and got widowed twice, Acayen was still  able to provide for her children’s needs through hard work and dedication. She received Philippine pesos 50,000 cash prize and citation from the Philippine Department of Agriculture Gender and Development Focal System and the Inter-Agency Committee on Rural Women. In her acceptance speech, Acayen urged her fellow women farmers to recognize the equal rights of women and men and to embrace sustainable agriculture.

During the awarding ceremonies, Philippine Department of Agriculture Secretary Processo J. Alcala recognized the contribution of rural women in addressing hunger and cited their enormous untapped potential to generate results.  He said that rural women are not just “helpers” of their farmer-or fisher-husbands but also the decision-makers in looking for capital, selecting crops, handling recordkeeping of finances and paying of debts.

The national annual search for outstanding rural women is part of the worldwide celebration of “International Day of Rural Women”, which highlights rural women’s critical role in food production and food security.  This year’s theme is “Celebrating the role of rural women in sustainable food production.”

The search recognizes rural women who have excelled in  their fields of endeavor and made outstanding contribution in the field of agriculture and fishery, thereby making significant impact on the lives of rural folk in their respective communities.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, women worldwide produce 60 to 80 percent of the food  requirements in the developing countries.  For this reason, the whole world recognizes the multiple roles that women play, most notably as farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs in the food sector. Representing over a quarter of the world’s population, rural women greatly contribute to both the well-being of their families and the development of their rural economies.

“If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4.0 percent, thereby reducing the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent,” Ann Tutwiler, United Nations Food Agriculture Organization deputy director-general said.

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Innovative business practices keep women’s small businesses survive economic crisis

Faced with problems that hinder business growth and development, micro, small and medium enterprises run by women rise to the test of overcoming obstacles to realize the full potentials of their businesses.

In Zimbabwe, seventy-two women’s SMEs from Harare, Masvingo, Marondera and Kadama explore innovative ways of getting their businesses on the path to robust growth and development. Through the WINNER, which is a program being implemented by the Technological Information Promotion System (TIPS) in Zimbabwe, these women created opportunities for themselves by building linkages, sharpening their technical skills and exploring new markets.

Among the innovative ways explored by these women are regular breakfast meetings during which invited technology and business experts give talks on relevant topics on best business practices and improved production techniques. In addition, these women SMEs launched regular visits to companies to observe operations, exchange ideas with factory supervisors and get advice from owners of these the companies on aspects of business and production. Subsequently, these women formed business clubs to continue the exchange of ideas and experiences among themselves, particularly in moving forward with their respective businesses. These women’s business clubs also organize meetings to keep members abreast of developments in the business environment in Zimbabwe as well as to explore prospects for new markets.

In Nepal, women entrepreneurs engaged in intensive training on innovative handicraft design to establish powerful connection between creativity and business.

Organized by WINNER-Nepal, in collaboration with Women Entrepreneurship Committee of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), the training comprised several sessions, with each focusing on: design principles, materials, ideas and elements of design, colors, product development, pricing, targeting market niches and online marketing campaigns.

WINNER-Nepal Director Nibedita Shrestha said: “There was strong interest on the part of the women to learn everything there is to know about design and how to capture the market’s imagination.” In summing up the training outcome, Ms. Shrestha said that “clarity and simplicity of design”, “pragmatic view of design” and “autonomy of design” are the basic principles learned by the women.

Meanwhile, KIP-UN Initiative (Knowledge, Innovations, Policies and Territorial Practices for the United Nations Millennium Platform) and Devnet (Development Information Network) recently signed a cooperation agreement to mobilize efforts and resources towards the creation of an international school of policies and best practices aligned with the United Nations Millennium Platform. This gives focus on innovation as key to sustaining business growth and development. The initiative is a strategic approach to development as it is based on the active role of local communities in enhancing local, natural, human and historical resources and in integrating all social sectors to capitalize on the knowledge gained from the experience of territorial development and to expand the network of experiences that are coherent with the UN Millennium Platform.

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New leaders to guide DEVNET embark on bold agenda to meet 21st century challenges

Recent global events have caused the redefinition of the context within which international non-government organizations conduct their activities in the field of development cooperation.

An international organization that has implemented a number of a pioneering programs under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme, DEVNET has embarked on a bold attempt to put the organization on the map as a globally recognized leader in the field of development cooperation, particularly in sectors where it has accumulated over 20 years of experience.  It has injected new dynamism into its global network and adjusted its focus on new priority areas with the election of the organization’s new leaders.

At a board meeting held on 29 September 2011, two new officers were elected to guide DEVNET through the critical new phase of its organizational life. Manuel Manonelles from Spain assumed the position of Chairman of the Board and Phil Harris from Scotland, as Executive Director.  Both are committed to strengthen the organization and realign its vision  and mission to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Manuel Manonelles is the Director of the Office of Barcelona Culture of Peace, responsibility that he combines with that of Director of the Secretariat of the World Forum of Civil Society Networks, better known as the Ubuntu Forum, institutions that are both chaired by Federico Mayor, former Director General of UNESCO. He has also served as Special Adviser of the co-Chair of the UN High Level Group for the Alliance of Civilizations. He is a member of the Steering Committee of the Jean Monnet Centre of European Excellence on “Intercultural Dialogue, Human Rights and Multi-level Governance”, based at the University of Padua, Italy; and member of the International Council of the World Social Forum. A political scientist specialized in International Relations, Human Rights and the Democratization process, he  has acted on several occasions as International Relations, Human Rights and the Democratization process,  he has acted on several occasions as International Electoral Observer and Supervisor for the European Union and the OSCE.

Phil Harris is a communications policy and strategy adviser with an extensive and important career in communications management and research. Harris is also an author, editor, journalist, and development communication specialist. He has been a communications consultant for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Food Programme (WFP). For 18 years, he served as Director of Publications and Senior Editor for Inter Press Service. At present, he is Managing Editor of Working With Words, a communication services agency.

The international DEVNET Association is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that enjoys Consultative Status (Category 1) with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This status was granted through ECOSOC  Resolution 1296 (XLIV) in 1995. As such, DEVNET is entitled to propose agenda items for consideration by ECOSOC and its subsidiaries as well as submit written statements and be granted hearing on agenda items of the Council.  It may also designate its official representative to the United Nations headquarters in New York and UN offices in Geneva, Vienna and Rome.

DEVNET has implemented TIPS (Technological Information Promotion System), an interregional programme sponsored by the UNDP, to foster technical and economic cooperation among developing countries. It also implemented WINNER (Women into the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement) to promote women economic empowerment under the auspices of UNDP/Unifem (now UN Women).

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Women Leadership University to Rise in Ordos City, China

Preparing the next generation of women leaders to meet the challenges of the 21st century is behind a project initiative to create a women leaders university, on the platform of women economic empowerment, under the aegis of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)-WINNER (Women into the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement) global program.

China has committed its full support to the initiative in order to put to action gender equality in the pursuit of development and peace.

DEVNET, an executing agency of the UNDP, recently sent a technical mission to Ordos City in Inner Mongolia (China), to confer with local authorities and project collaborators to identify a suitable location for the physical infrastructure for the project.  Ordos City is ready to provide the site and needed resources to implement the project.

The project is dubbed as WINNER Women Leaders University, in the framework of the WINNER global program that has developed women leaders, particularly in the business sector,  from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America.  Todate, WINNER has benefited over 40,000 women with training courses on information and communication technology and best practices in management as well as economic cooperation in the global economy.

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Accord Signed to Extend WINNER to China and Mekong Countries

An agreement between Devnet International and the Women’s Federation of Shanghai was recently signed to intensify the cooperation and communication between international organizations and local Chinese government entities in the run up to the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. The agreement is viewed as a strategic alliance between these organizations, whereby Devnet will undertake preparatory activities for the introduction of the WINNER Program in China, including the countries of the Mekong Sub-region in Southeast Asia. Continue reading

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