Tajikistan learn from Turkeys Women Entrepreneurship Ecosystem
Photo: Empower Women
In view of the deep poverty levels in Tajikistan, male outbound migration and renewed mandate of the Tajik presidency for women’s economic empowerment, UN Women is implementing a project on “Empowering abandoned women from migrants’ families in Tajikistan” since 2014 with funding from the Government of Norway. In fact, Tajikistan is the poorest country in Central Asia, and one of the 30 poorest countries in the world, with 38.3% of the country’s population living below the poverty line.
In 2015, a knowledge exchange was organized between dairy producers from Tajikistan and Switzerland to share dairy processing practices.
Last week, a group of Tajik policy makers from the State Committee on Investments and State Property Management, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment and the Association of Innovative and Technological Entrepreneurship participated in a second knowledge exchange with various institutions within the Turkish entrepreneurship ecosystem.
The four-day Study Tour was led by Empower Women’s Regional Coordinator at UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. Through this knowledge exchange, participants:
- Gained new knowledge on new and innovative models to support women entrepreneurship;
- Enhanced skills on implementation of female entrepreneurship projects;
- Improved consensus between different public and private institutions;
- Enhanced connectivity through networking.
Photo: Empower Women
Participants emphasized that Tajikistan considers Turkey as a good model of development where female entrepreneurship has been developed and women being represented in decision making positions. Importantly, Tajikistan sees Turkey as a country culturally close to them and therefore could be used as a model for replication. They expressed interest in learning more about the linkages between the various institutions within the Turkish women entrepreneurship ecosystem with strong horizontal and vertical linkages between the government, international organizations, financial organizations, NGOs and women entrepreneurs. They explained that in Tajikistan these linkage were absent and that they were eager to learn how to establish cooperation between relevant institutions for the benefit of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to the Turkey visit, participants had been looking at various partnership models to unite entrepreneurs with public and private institutions in Tajikistan. They were eager to learn about good practices and innovative forms of entrepreneurship in different sectors of the economy. Most importantly they wanted to understand how those different actors in female entrepreneurship ecosystem could work together, and how to make female entrepreneurship a priority issue for all institutions.
During the discussions, participants discussed existing barriers for developing the female entrepreneurship ecosystem, such as legal, regulatory-, policy-related barriers as well as cultural and technological barriers. As one participant expressed it:
“There are good strategies and laws to promote gender equality and female entrepreneurship in Tajikistan which is supported by the Government, but there is lack of mechanisms for their implementation and the information about those efforts are not public knowledge. Political representation of women is very low. Culturally, in rural areas, women’ access to the development of entrepreneurship is more limited because of societal and family pressure. In rural areas, women entrepreneurs are not well regarded as they move around a lot. The understanding is that the women belong to the family and her first duty is towards her family. However since the large immigration of men outside of the country, there is a trend that begins where, women can begin working and more, and more women work without asking permission. The occupancy of women is generally small trades, with no production activities. Generally women try to buy things cheaper and sell them at a higher price.”
The Tajik participants had the opportunity to visit the first and only Women’s Investment Platform (ARYA), two banks specialized in women’s banking (Garanti Bankasi and TEB), two women’s associations (Kagider and KADEM), a public institution (Municipality of Sisli, Istanbul), a technological park (Istanbul University Incubator Center) as well as very active sisterhood networks (TurkishWIN and Bin Yaprak).
At each visit, they met with successful women entrepreneurs having profited from the services within those institutions. Immediately after each of the visits, participants engaged in exchange of observations and learnings around the specific institutions, their models, and lessons learned of the women entrepreneurs. They specifically discussed how they could apply their learnings upon return to Tajikistan, and how to tackle the challenges they would face while customizing and localizing the Turkish model.
Participants shared that they were most impressed by the great investment in girls’ and women’s entrepreneurship in Turkey, their engagement in networks and mentoring, the effective banking system to support entrepreneurs, the innovative banking model of offering incubators and entrepreneurship programmes, as well as creation of a gender-responsive ecosystem for entrepreneurship in the Sisli Municipality.
Photo: Empower Women
During the final assessment of this knowledge event, the participants expressed that by being exposed to the new ways of doing things and with the opportunity to share tacit knowledge, this study tour gave rise to new ideas, generated different perspectives on reform programmes and solutions, built networks and more importantly built consensus between different public institutions in Tajikistan. As their next steps, participants from Tajikistan will:
- Define the roles of each actor within the female entrepreneurship ecosystem, and the mechanism to guarantee effective collaboration between the institutions.
- Define Tajikistan’s main objective for the women entrepreneurship ecosystem: a means to create female employment, economic growth, or to generate income for abandoned and disadvantaged women.
- Suggest to municipalities to establish affordable child care services and increase maternity leave provisions.
- Consider proposing public procurement quotas. There are two options: (1) Quotas on the number of procurement processes per year; and (2) Quotas on the number of contract awarded.
- Organize female entrepreneurship forum
- Consider different innovative approaches, such as the creation of crowdfunding for women entrepreneurs, gender responsive public procurement policies, concessionary finance from governments, Knowledge Expos where sellers would have chance to showcase their work and network with buyers.