Amidst challenging security situation, the respective governments have been striving to woo foreign investment to uplift the fragile national economy, but they have long been ignoring a huge and easily exploitable potential existing in the country in form of women entrepreneurship.
As women represent almost 51 percent of country’s population, we have been neglecting their talent in name of traditions, due to illiteracy and lack of proper awareness and training mechanism both at public or private level.
Pakistan is faced with security challenges and in such scenario when attracting huge foreign investments can be difficult but it can achieve objective by supporting small and medium women enterprises that would bring in huge revenue besides creating more jobs in the country.
Women Entrepreneurship Day is observed annually on November 19 across the world to acknowledge their efforts in social building. This year, Global Women Entrepreneurship Week was celebrated in connection with the international day.
But unfortunately, the day went by silently except few events held by some organizations. A Women Can Do summit was one of such an effort to encourage country’s women by highlighting the talent of country’s brilliant women who have excelled in their respective fields.
With several women having excelled in various fields, Pakistan is rich of huge potential market for women entrepreneurship.
However, they lag behind just because their achievements do not get public attention due to lack of publicity The need of the hour is to publicize the achievements of women entrepreneurs in Pakistan so that other women who wish to start business can be encouraged to do so.
The wise saying that educating a woman is tantamount to educating a family underscores the importance of critical role the women play in progress of a society.
In its report, the World Bank Country Gender Profile of Pakistan deplored the fact that the status of women in Pakistan is among the lowest in the world. The situation hasn’t changed much.
According to Deputy Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, Qazi Abdul Muqtadir, Pakistan stands second lowest among 136 countries, based on the female population in their workforce. In addition, UNDP describes the strong “inside/outside” dichotomy in Pakistan, where women are restricted to the “inside” the household. This restricts women’s access to education, employment, training opportunities and social services.
Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz in his paper on gender has lamented the poor indicators of Pakistan compared with other developing countries. Despite women make 52% of the total population but “formal employment in Pakistan is heavily biased in favor of men i.e. approximately six times more men than women work in formal economy.”
In a country like Pakistan, entrepreneurship can become a way out for poor women by empowering them and giving more personal autonomy. Women inputs in running the daily affairs of life have changed considerably during the past few decades. Women were not allowed to vote, they used to work as housewives, but now the society’s expectations have evolved with the passage of time and women are taking new roles for the betterment of society.
Women entrepreneurs in the country signify huge and unexploited resources for creating more jobs and business opportunities. It is evident from successful women entrepreneurs that they see the world through a different lens and do things differently.
Pakistan needs more women entrepreneurs who must be extended support by their families and government to help flourish women-led businesses.
As Pakistan’s 70 percent population is rural, so creating entrepreneurship trainings and opportunities for rural women can enable such women to market their products. It would definitely have a positive impact on family as well as the national economy.
To strengthen women entrepreneurship in the country, special programs for entrepreneurial education should be introduced in universities and at district level for the women who cannot attend universities. There are thousands of ideas, concepts over which women can work and set up small businesses but sometimes, women cannot exploit these opportunities owing to lack of confidence.
The government needs to provide women entrepreneurs an easy access to capital. Small loans can make a big difference. Besides, more mentorship opportunities should be created and young women entrepreneurs should be guided and shown the benefits of businesses to motivate them. Education and training mechanism on entrepreneurship can help build confidence in women to start own business.
A landmark development that needs to be commended is that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has provided Ghulam Ihaq Khan Institute (GIK), a grant of PKR 100 million for entrepreneurship development.
A non-profit organization has launched a project titled ‘WomenCanDo’ aimed to provide training and mentoring to university and Islamic seminaries women in different areas of Pakistan. This is a great initiative as promoting entrepreneur thinking is the need of the hour.
The federal government should also announce special entrepreneurship training, mentoring and financial assistance program for women who desire to become entrepreneur.
Writer: Hamid Hussain
The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist. He tweets at @Hamidlawangeen
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