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.



26 responses to “Women Entrepreneurship Development – Business Associations as Change Agents

  1. Good post, Hammad. I agree with you on the unavailability of avenues for networking/training of women entrepreneurs. I am especially happy to read about the radio programs. Please do publish a schedule so that we may share it within our networks as well.

  2. The women’s entrepreunership development focus of CIPE Pakistan has truly enabled women to build skills and achieve tangible results. CIPE’s role in building both institutional capacity and individual capacity will be critical in enabling long term impact!

  3. Imran Ahmad Khan

    Dear Hammad,

    You are doing nice and valueable task of women empowerment by searching new opportunities for them. Best of luck!
    I am working in a Recruitment firm, we have a very nice enviornment, You can say ideal for woman to work, But one thing I would like to share with you is that 95% of female Colleagues left the job after marriage although the enviornmet was ideal for them. The ratio of leaving jobs is much higher in females as compared to males. So this thing is included in our culture. We cannot blame anyone for IT.

    I think you should utilize your energy in the poor areas of Pakistan,where women knit/sew different types of item(clothes,Embroidery,etc) but in return they get much less reward.

    Our woman has participated in every field of life. So these international rankings are just rational figures without considering social factors.

    These are my thoughts, if you feel something wrong/bad please do correct me.



  4. Nahyan Mirza

    Hammad Bhai, We are hosting a Women in Business and Leadership Conference WIBCON 09 at Karachi on 13th May. Check it out on facebook event sa well as http://www.terrabizgroup.com. Contact me if you are interested in attending..


  5. Dear Sirs / Madam:
    How can the leaders in the non-profit arena be helpful to this initiative? I am interested in helping this movement as it directly intervenes on the depression in that region from a systemic perspective that can be changed with the right paradigm shift in thinking.

  6. Dear Hammad
    Its very nice….I really liked the one with the Bangladeshi entrepreneur and the one on democracy…both are very heart warming.

    You deserve an award for bringing all these wonderful women from across the globe on to this platform! Keep up the good work.

  7. Dear Hammad,
    I would agree with Unjela below, keep up the much needed good work.

    It is extremely important to capitalize and benefit from the strength in numbers in all walks of life. In Pakistan women face many challenges and the formation of a collective bargaining platform can go a long way in not just enabling their voice to be heard but to institute long-term changes through policy formulation and implementation.

    Once again best of luck.
    Sheherbano Burki

  8. Tasneem Ahmar

    Looks and reads great. Thanks a lot Hammad for supporting the cause of women’s empowerment with such commitment and passion.
    tasneem ahmar

  9. Bill Corby

    Hi Hammad,

    I read over the information and was surprised by the lack of participation of women in economic ventures. In the US we see many women activley involved. I assumed it was similar around the world. That’s great information to share and be aware of.

    You opened my eyes with new knowledge.

    My best to you!

  10. Unjela Siddiqi

    Its very nice….I really liked the one with the Bangladeshi entrepreneur and the one on democracy…both are very heart warming.

    You deserve an award for bringing all these wonderful women from across the globe on to this platform! Keep up the good work.

    Warm regards


  11. AoA All,

    Well, IMHO, women are participating very actively in socio-economic domains of life, but we [male dominating world] are not recognizing their contributions.

    So far only 3% of contributions made by women acknowledged.

    Our struggle should be in the direction to give them recognition they deserve in life.

    It’s what I believe and think and wish to work for too.

    Allah Hafiz

  12. Rubina Rasheed

    Hamad you are doing a great job . I am peresonaly greatful on behalf of Pakistani Women. We are working on the same path, lets see what we all can do . The situation is not that good or satisfing but old saying that will makes the way so we are with you.Any thing which we can do in that manner with CIPE and you ,will be an honor.

  13. Neelofar Hameed

    CIPE is definitely doing a commendable job in creating awareness about women empowerment.
    I think there are a sizable number of women in the rural areas, who do take part in economic activities like working in fields or in handicrafts, who are not even mentioned in the workforce, let alone be empowered.

    The global report and Pakistan’s place is simply appalling
    Good work Hammad .Many thanks

  14. Brooke Millis

    @ Satcey Dowdle: Thanks for your comment! You might find the case study CIPE recently released on women’s business organizations in South Asia (http://www.cipe.org/publications/papers/pdf/South%20Asia%20Chapter.pdf) of use in determining where your NGO can best apply its efforts. As you say, part of the problem is that women in Pakistan have been systemically removed from consideration in the business world. NGOs can play a role in educating people on the important role women can play in the economy and in alleviating poverty through entrepreneurship. NGOs can also assist development efforts by identifying specific skills that are in demand by new entrepreneurs, such as design selection, marketing, or even practical skills like weaving and gem polishing. Here’s hoping that non-profit leaders can help women in Pakistan!

  15. Business association involvement is certainly required. However, this link can only be effective if it reaches out both urban and rural populations. The whole idea of Entrepreneurship is to bring innovative products and services originating from the skills and knowledge base of the women in Pakistan and give them control of the business. One of the area these association should do is to identifies sectors where there are niches in market for women entrepreneurship. A simple example from my experience of Entrepreneurship in Pakistan is that if a woman in a community finds out that his neighourhood needs a certain kind of clothes and they prefer the fexibilty and approachability of sewing woman. There she got a niche and she captures it. It’s empowerment in most simlplistic terms

  16. Sahil Rana

    I had heard about CIPE but it is for the first time that I am knowing how much work it is doing for developing the capacities of women folk. The job is indeed wonderful and by developing entrepreneurial capabilities of our mothers, sisters and daughters, we can move forward.

    My salutes to CIPE’s team that conceive and implement women empowerment initiatives.
    Best regards

  17. If we look around, the world is fast going into the grip of extremism. One of the root causes of extremism is the abject poverty that forces the people to be used and misused and abused by anti-state elements with overt and covert agendas.

    By developing entrepreneurial strengths of women, CIPE will be taking the families away from poverty and powerlessness which in turn will be creating a peaceful atmosphere among societies. Eliminate poverty to eliminate extremism is the best way that CIPE has adopted.

    Congrats to CIPE’s team.

    In its effort to create entrepreneurship abilities among women, CIPE can always count on me.

    Best of luck.

    Ashraf Chaudhry
    Corporate Trainer and Author of The Craft of Selling “Yourself”

  18. Syed Zafar Hasan

    Hi Hammad,

    Good to see that someone is working in the dorection which is badly needed in this land of pure. Since illiteracy and social barriers becomes the hurdle, I would suggest to encourage women to begin the business in groups so that they can take strength from each other which would help them in their confidence building in the long run as well.
    Good Luck

  19. Qudsia Mehmood

    Dear Hammad,

    Keep it up .We are with you.

  20. Halima A. Rauf

    Dear Hammad,

    This initiation of yours is really commendable. Through this platform, you are bringing the awareness of women empowerment. To promote this forum, we all need to gather, meet each other and exchange new ideas to support and help our women. I agree with the comments of Unjela and Sheherbano…

  21. Tahira Hyder

    good inforamtion, thanks, keep it up. There r various organizations/ associations working for women entrepreneurs, apart from literacy, information sharing/ capacity building is an important tool for entrepreneurship development.

    Radio programs would be good, pl let me know the channel & time & will try to listen. Need to know what activities have been undertaken with LCCI & r there other organizations/ associations & NGOs with whom CIPE is working, what about the AHAN program of Smeda/ Govt ???
    Look forward to hearing more on women entrepreneurship.

  22. Hammad Siddiqui

    The program will go on air on radio pakistan and several regional FM stations in Pakistan. It will be in Urdu language. However English transcripts will be available soon for uploading on CIPE website.

    We are also working with women groups at Sarhad Chamber and women chambers in central and southern Punjab.

    As far as SMEDA, yes we tried, but there are several administrative issues. Hence for the time being our relationship with them is only at meetings.

  23. The post is very good. There is one comment I would like to point out and that revolves around low literacy rates. Would be female entrepreneurs or those who would like to assist would be entreprenuers should not be deterred by low literacy rates. This has a “work around”. I am the Founder of the Khaya Cookie Company (khayacookies.com and email is info@khayacookies.com) located in South Africa. Today we successfully export our gourmet cookies to the United States where they have been featured on Rachael Ray (Rachaelray.com) and won Food Network’s Edible Entreprenuer of the Year Award. Khaya (or ‘home’ in Xhosa) was founded on the belief that job creation, skills training and an inspiring work environment are among the most self-sustaining gifts one can give. That’s why our uniquely flavored, healthy gourmet shortbreads and granolas help create jobs for previously unemployed women and men in South Africa. We foster opportunity and the chance to lead more fulfilling lives.

    The model of the Khaya Cookie Company is replicable, scalable model that is transferable across cultures and languages and does not depend upon literate staff. Do not be deterred by literacy rates. You must work with the labour pool you have and focus on the outcome NOT the obstacles. I know this firsthand.

    I have very high hopes for this country and its Women.

  24. Dear Hammad,

    Nice post, highlighting some important facts. We are a learning and development organization with the name of Headway operating in Karachi, we are planning to do a course on “Entrepreneurship Training” on 24th October 2009 the cost of this program is Rs. 2,000, if you can send me your email address I will send you the details.

    Best Regards

  25. Hi,
    I don’t agree with the Federal Beaure of Statistics, I personally know women who are active in their businesses but not being registered anywhere or being in the informal sector no one knows about it. Their activities are concealed behind the rock walls which does not make them economically unproductive rather invisible. The important thing from my point of view is (which I am working on as well) to look at these activities from the perspective of household where the business & business person is located rather then the individual who is running it, because most of these businesses are response to economic insecurity in the middle and lower middle class. it may be a source of self provisioning for the elites, but the need is to focus more on the providers not on the provisioners. We should think what can be done at the micro foundation at the household level, to make the creative souls and there businesses better off.
    I appreciate the steps u have taken and r taking to enlighten the entrepreneiral pathway of Pakistani women.
    I hope we all can do something for them, to make their lives easy.

  26. Dear Hammad,
    I salute your efforts and agree with all the others that several isolated but noteworthy initiatives have been taking place and the CIPE platform is one way of bringing the experiences and the lessons to the forefront. In these challenging times micro entrepreneurs who are primarily women need to benefit from the supposed funds that are pouring into the country.

    In my research I found three factors that undermined donor support: 1) their lack of harmonization among themselves; 2) government’s “administrative” processes and procedures; 3) the project design that prevents the target group from benefiting in the manner envisioned.

    Look forward to more collaboration between US, UN and EU projects.

    all the best