The instability in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, leading to the influx of internally displaced persons into the surrounding areas, has been dominating the news from that region. Yet even in the midst of difficulties, there are some positive developments worth highlighting. CIPE’s work with women in the Mardan district is one such example.
District Mardan of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) has a significant position in the region in terms of trade and business. There exists an untapped potential for the promotion and development of trade and industry. However, due to lack of entrepreneurial skill and professional training, the ability of local businesses to flourish and contribute to the economic development is hindered.
The business environment for women in Mardan reflects the complex interplay of many factors, which fall into two basic categories. The first category is made up of social, cultural, traditional and religious elements. The second category is induced by the factors of the first component, taking the form of constitutional structures, policy documents, regulatory arrangements and institutional mechanisms. However, women in Mardan do not have access to basic technical training to optimize their potential and generate sources of income.
Under the Business Support Organization (BSO) grant program, CIPE in partnership with the Mardan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) last year established a training and resource center with the capacity to develop entrepreneurial, business and computer skills for its women members. The computer training center was inaugurated in April 2008 at MCCI. CIPE together with MCCI also organized a workshop on women entrepreneurship development on May 27, 2008.
The computer center is now acting as a valuable resource to those living and working in remote areas of the North-West Frontier Province. It was the first break-through that women were brought to the limelight. They were informed about the usefulness of this computer center. In this very conservative Pashtoon region, it was the first time that women were given an opportunity to gain technical skills. Prior to the installation of the center, one can imagine the difficulties with which they were confronted. Now young graduate girls and even married women attend.
Despite the cultural barriers in the society, this opportunity to work and learn in a collective environment has brought about change in the thought process of the women in Mardan – they became more entrepreneurially minded.
Due to these efforts of CIPE, Mardan Chamber of Commerce & Industry has imparted training in computer to a number of women, developed a pool of 150 women entrepreneurs, and filed provisional application for establishing separate women’s chambers in the region. Also, the computer center has so far enrolled as many as 160 members for the Yousafzai Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries, which is under formation. These successes show that a day is sure to come when women in this region will play an effective role by contributing their share toward the economic growth of the country.