Azerbaijani Women Identify Areas of Growth to Promote Women’s Entrepreneurship

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A panel of WNBA steering committee members speak at the November 2022 WNBA conference.

By promoting women’s entrepreneurship, removing the identified barriers, and implementing the recommendations by the Women’s National Business Agenda (WNBA), women in Azerbaijan are seizing an opportunity to grow the country’s economy while building their businesses and increasing their financial independence.

In Azerbaijan, women represent close to half of all employed people and contribute significantly to the country’s socio-economic welfare. Despite this, several barriers put them at a disadvantage, including a gender pay gap, fewer high-paying employment opportunities and limited access to finance, markets and social services.

In 2021, the USAID Private Sector Activity created a steering committee of nine women’s business and professional associations to develop a white paper that addresses these issues. With more than 3000 enterprises and individuals represented, this culminated into the creation of the WNBA, which set out to research barriers to women’s participation in the economy and propose recommendations to remove these barriers.

Through surveys, key informant interviews and focus group discussions, the steering committee drafted a white paper in 2022 and presented it at the WNBA conference in November of that same year. The paper identified specific obstacles facing women’s entrepreneurship and employment and provided recommendations to both the government and the private sector in three main areas: supporting women in entrepreneurship, supporting women in the workforce, and developing gender-sensitive support mechanisms.

Members of the WNBA steering committee meet with Azerbaijan’s State Committee for Family, Woman and Children Affairs. (Photo credit: Milli Majlis)

To ensure an inclusive, private sector-led result, The WNBA process also utilized roundtable discussions, one-on-one consultations, and meetings with government representatives. The Women’s National Business Agenda, completed in 2022, consists of concrete policy and regulatory recommendations that ensure opportunities for fruitful cooperation in the advancement of the government’s agenda for economic reform, with women and private sector partners at the forefront.

Detailed recommendations from the WNBA include: providing women with better access to finance, creating better fiscal incentives, aligning the financial stipend for stay-home parents with the cost of childcare support, removing the ceiling for maternal stipends, granting future mothers decision-making power to manage paid maternity leave periods, improving leave policy on childbirth for farther, adopting remote work options, enforcing harassment and bully prevention policies, designing policies to support single mothers, increasing the number of women in high-level positions, removing legal barriers inhibiting women’s employment, tracking gender statistics more reliably and abundantly, redesigning the childcare support policy, and finally developing care services for the elderly, people with disabilities and people in need of palliative services.

“We truly believe that with the government and private sector working together, and with the influence of discussions facilitated by WNBA, changes are possible,” said Tatyana Mikayilova, a member of the WNBA steering committee.

In addition to organizing the WNBA, the USAID Activity continues to support women’s associations and business entities across initiatives to advocate for environments where women in business can thrive. The launch of the WNBA platform has been central to uniting Azerbaijani women’s organizations and business representatives to speak with one voice behind a common goal.

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CNFA (Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture)

We stimulate economic growth and improve livelihoods by cultivating entrepreneurship.