Women in the Pacific, like in other less-developed regions, face two sets of challenges to realizing their economic potential. They share hardships stemming from geography, limited infrastructure and services, and a dearth of economic opportunities that hinder economic development throughout
the region. But they must also contend with a series of barriers—systemic, legal, and institutional—that compound these challenges and prevent women’s full economic contribution. These include laws that prevent women from owning land or registering companies, limited access to courts and lending institutions, a lack of opportunities to develop professional or marketable skills, as well as deep-seated cultural practices that discriminate against them.
Taken together, these challenges can severely limit women’s participation in the formal economy and exclude them from entrepreneurial activity. This confines many women to the informal sector, where they do not have protection of the law, are often subject to harassment, cannot access finance easily, and have difficulties entering into enforceable contracts. Moreover, operating home-based businesses means personal and business resources are combined, which hinders the accumulation of business assets and the creation of trackable business histories, holding back the development of enterprises. Informality also means that women have to rely substantially on informal lending, which limits their investment in their businesses and their acquisition of skills, resulting in low productivity and earnings.
To lower the barriers to Pacific women’s participation in the private sector, a multipronged approach is needed.Broader initiatives to ease the constraints to doing business in the Pacific should, wherever possible, include provisions to accommodate women’s specific needs to ensure their equal access and benefit. Meanwhile, dedicated projects are needed to deal with the skills and training shortcomings that limit women’s opportunities in the formal and professional sectors.This is the approach of the Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) and its Economic Empowerment of Women activities.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Empowering the Other Half: Women and Private Sector Growth in the Pacific | Asian Development Bank