Today in this competitive world, women entrepreneurship and women empowerment plays significant role in the socio-economic development of all under developed countries like Pakistan. Women represent around 48 percent of Pakistan total population, while female employment participation is only 19-20%. A significant potential for women empowerment and engagement in various sectors could be achieved; such as light manufacturing i.e. garments, leather products, home textiles and other services.
The women economic development in Pakistan has been quite ignored and over the years most of the programmes have been directed towards removing violence against women, women’s primary education and health care, women crisis centers and most recently a rigorous drive on political empowerment of women by giving them 20 percent representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan. Despite governmental commitment and donors’ efforts to reduce gender inequalities, nothing has been done with regards to developing proper women economic action plan to uplift women socio-economic status.
On ad hoc basis, some common facility centers and vocational training institutes to enhance female participation rate have been established to provide them traditional skills. On the other hand, to mobilise youth energy into economic sectors, govt has launched internship programmes and other incentives yet its impact on the grass root level is not visible due to lack of information and knowledge to young females regarding these facilities. The result is that many girls become confined to their homes.
Looking at the demand side, during 2000-2005, a large group of urban based educated women proactively, knocked different govt department doors for enterprise development facilitation. But none of them were able to cater their specialised needs such as offices on affordable rents, display areas, specialised training programmes to improve employability of females through diversification in professional skills, direct guidance and support to young and creative potential female entrepreneurs and building strong network of Women Businesses.
However, there was a need for holistic program for enterprise and leadership development of women in Pakistan to enhance their potential. Hence, many organisations stepped in to support the development of this marginalized segment of economic enterprise. To address this unmarked and potential area, Shaoor Foundation for Education & Awareness (SFEA) has also initiated a project “Women Can Do” in Pakistan and through that program young Pakistani girls will be provided specified resources and trainings to be efficient entrepreneurs.
Indeed it is the responsibility of the government to develop ‘Women Entrepreneurship Development System’ (WEDS) to improve competitiveness of the enterprising women who want to move from home-based business to a fuller commercial venture and start their own businesses. Some private partnerships have successfully established a pilot WEDS in Pakistan and the sole purpose of this initiative is to facilitate women entrepreneurs specially from rural areas of the country. Through Public Private Partnership an exclusive female oriented environment has been created in Multan where women entrepreneurs are offered Furnished Offices, Exhibition display facility and Business Development Services (including training programs, marketing and designing).
Keeping in view the need of the hour, next plan of the government should have to be to setup WEDS Headquarter at different locations of the country. In this way products and entrepreneurs from rural areas may set up their business and market their products without middle man and get maximum financial benefits. In order to meet the need it is imperative to train women on latest generation equipment with a vocation to serve future oriented demands. These WEDS will offer business services to the women seeking affordability to house their business. It will also offer women entrepreneurs to display their products for certain time period in Display Centres.
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.