“I want to be a champion skater, and a writer. I want my picture in all the magazines. Maybe I’ll be a movie star. I want to be different from all the other girls. I want to be a modern woman, I want to travel. I want to study languages – languages and history. I want to be everything. I want to…”
Like Anne Frank, Pakistani women want to be everything. Last week, International Women’s Day was celebrated all around the world with a sprit of connecting women and inspiring the future. Fulfilling the aspirations laid out by Anne Frank, Pakistani women over the past year have made their mark at the highest levels of government, in football, sprinting, squash, and cricket, and even at the Oscars.
As Dr. Nasreen Aslam Shah recently noted in her research on the changing role of women in Pakistan, “women entrepreneurs have won respect of their families, kin groups and neighborhoods; and, that they are hopeful for a better future for themselves and their families.” This spirit of entrepreneurship is exemplified by Mehwish Abdul Sattar, head of the 3wOgle Group of Companies and winner of the Pakistani Blog Awards 2011 (follow her on Twitter).
The spirit of entrepreneurship continues to shine in the field of electronic journalism. Beenish Javed, representing ARY News, was trained in the CIPE Workshop on Business and Economics Reporting in Islamabad, September 30-October 1, 2011. She recently produced this video on women as vanguards of the spirit of entrepreneurship:
Like other developing countries, however, Pakistan also has significant barriers to the development of women entrepreneurs. ACCA Pakistan’s exploratory report about access to finance for female entrepreneurs in Pakistan recommends that “female entrepreneurs should adopt a proactive approach to learning about financing, maintain relevant and reliable accounting records and use the services of professional accountants, should consider refreshing or enhancing their accounting and finance skills by attending professional development courses of accounting and finance and build an effective lobby.”
This same topic was addressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she visited Pakistan last year. A women entrepreneur in the audience asked:
Because we have awards for women entrepreneurs, networking opportunities and training for women entrepreneurs, we’ve indentified incredible talent in Pakistan, and those are the headlines I would like to see and we’d like to see internationally. Furthermore, with virtual businesses and technology, could you perhaps share your opinions and guide us how we can get Pakistani women or Pakistani entrepreneurs and American entrepreneurs working hand in hand in entrepreneurship rather than in isolation?
Clinton pointed out that, for exactly that reason, the State Department’s entrepreneurship programs had focused particularly on women, “because we think entrepreneurship, small business, medium-sized business development is key to economic growth and prosperity,”
“Pakistan is a country of small businesses,” she added, “and there’s so much more that could be done and that can be linked to the global economy.”
CIPE Pakistan has helped to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to set up their businesses and advocate for their own interests. Until 2007, women had no voice in Chambers of Commerce in Pakistan. CIPE Pakistan worked with women representatives of different chambers, provided them technical training, and helped them successfully advocate for a change in the law on business associations to make them more inclusive, requiring female representatives on boards and allowing the formation of women’s chambers for the first time in Pakistan’s history.
Today, women play an active role at the highest level of chamber operations and are active participations in CIPE training and development programs, not only at women-focus specific workshops but also in general capacity-building programs.
Most recently, CIPE Pakistan organized a two-day workshop on February 15 and 16, 2012 in Lahore. Twelve women serving on the executive committees of various chambers actively participated in training on subjects including leadership and effective use of gender power, generating funds for chamber operations, and surviving in the age of social media.
CIPE has been advocating for the use of social media for democratic reform for quite a long time. The social media session was a highlight for most attendees, as they understood that a comprehensive understanding of emerging social media tools is now vital for doing business in the modern world. Besides Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and YouTube, participants were given a practical exposure of Pring, which is Pakistan’s fastest growing mobile social network.
Women have a contributed a lot towards the advancement of trade and industry in Pakistan. What they need is a way forward and the support to work towards their own goals. CIPE Pakistan plans to continue providing as much support and training as possible, and hopefully will have even more successes to celebrate for Women’s Day 2012.