Over a period of two weeks, the Alliance for Integrity organised a four-part event series to introduce the Integri-Tea format in the north-eastern states of India, namely Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya. The series was conducted in partnership with Her&Now and Dhriiti. It provided an informal setting for women entrepreneurs to discuss challenges, lessons learnt, and best practices related to corruption in daily work. Besides, members of the Advisory Group and Trainer Working Group India attended the sessions. They will later help to develop practical solutions to support the participating women.
Despite the distance and the unfamiliar setting, the women were openly sharing their personal experiences. During the discussions it became clear that women are often discriminated against due to their gender. Traditional stereotypes complicate business operations and make it difficult for them to compete in a male-dominated economy. In this context, one participant told how a cost accountant demanded a higher fee from her for filing tax returns than from her husband.
Many of the women entrepreneurs reported that they did not know how to react properly to difficult situations related to corruption. The fight for economic existence or the expansion of business operations was often more urgent for them than doing the right thing. It seemed more logical to pay the required amount of money than to delay the work. The participants also pointed out that there was a lack of knowledge about the different types of corruption and no access to reliable information when it came to the implementation of effective compliance systems. Furthermore, most entrepreneurs started their business based on trust and therefore have only few written contracts with their suppliers. This makes it difficult for them to prove violations.
The four Integri-Tea sessions have revealed many challenges for female business owners that now need to be tackled. Together with compliance experts, the Alliance for Integrity will therefore discuss what concrete measures can be taken to offer women support in their daily work. For the future, webinars focusing on the issues that were raised during the event series are planned. In addition, bimonthly peer-to-peer learning sessions are in preparation as well as trainings on specific soft skills and topics relevant to the target group.
Author: Seema Choudhary