Women Entrepreneurship Development – Business Associations as Change Agents

Unlike many developing countries, in Pakistan bringing women into the mainstream economic activity has been challenging. A country with estimated population of 172,800,000, over 50% of which are women, Pakistan has only 3% of women engaged in economic activities, according to Federal Bureau of Statistics estimates. One way to improve economic participation is by providing entrepreneurship opportunities to women both in urban and rural areas. Over the last few years, government, donors and the NGO sector have been investing in building capacities of women entrepreneurs; however, the recent World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranked Pakistan 128th out of 130 countries, followed by Saudi Arabia, Chad and Yemen.

CIPE Pakistan team has recently interviewed radio producers to learn from their field experiences concerning women entrepreneurship development:

Considering the fact that Pakistan is the second largest (in terms of Gross Domestic Product) economy in the region after India, and other regional countries were ranked better (Sri Lanka 12, Bangladesh 90, India 113 and Nepal 120), one should look at what is needed at the grassroots level to bring about desired change. Therefore, CIPE team identified change agents that Pakistan lacks in pursuit to meet challenges in the area of women entrepreneurship development.

Discussing gender, it is appreciated that compared to other countries in the region, Pakistan has stronger social issues; however, women in the above mentioned countries have recognized the need for working together and formed business associations. These associations are acting as change agents. Whereas in Pakistan, despite enabling law which was enacted in December 2006, only two women’s business associations have been formally licensed to operate. And in the absence of effective business associations, women lack the opportunities for advocating change, networking and training. Moreover, in Pakistan low literacy rate among women complicates the situation further by reducing their access to information – which is already scarce.

CIPE in Pakistan has been working extensively in the area of women entrepreneurship development. To provide access to information about the entrepreneurship opportunities, together with Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Uks Radio Project, a series of radio programs have been developed. The focus of these programs is to discuss entrepreneurial issues and solutions. This series will go on the air at the end of May 2009 and will reach out to 99 cities of Pakistan.