Until a few years ago, lack of proper legislation hindered the participation of Pakistani women in business. The outdated 1961 Trade Organizations Ordinance was no longer compatible with the modern business environment and did not reflect the true voice of entrepreneurs, especially women who could not effectively contribute towards growth in the country’s economy.
CIPE was instrumental in facilitating reforms that led to the enactment of 2006 Trade Organization Ordinance which for the first time in Pakistan’s history allowed for the establishment of women’s chamber of commerce. CIPE initiated the process of engaging women entrepreneurs from across Pakistan by using a two-pronged approach. It involved engaging the leadership of women’s chambers in capacity-building programs and consultative discussions on issues related to women entrepreneurs, and helping women’s chambers with basic infrastructure problems such as access to electricity, installing computers, and developing websites.
Secretary General of one of CIPE’s partners, Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry Peshawar (WCCIP) in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Region, highlighted that when she joined the chamber, it was an infant organization. After the chamber was registered in August 2010, the day-to-day activities and office requirements needed a lot of financial strengthening. At the beginning that is difficult for almost every organization and the newly established chamber was finding it difficult to run smoothly. Therefore, the chamber’s executive committee sought assistance from donor organizations to ensure that the organization develops and thrives.
With CIPE’s financial and technical assistance, the Peshawar Women Chamber achieved substantial changes in its performance. Before, the chamber did not have even basic office automation, and there was no proper promotion plan and resources to implement it. Because of these basic shortcomings, organizational structure was neither properly identified nor properly working. Since the chamber was new, local entrepreneurs and established business women were not aware of the chamber’s existence and its services.
CIPE’s support for WCCIP resulted in bringing many new faces to the organization, as membership drive increased day by day. The office equipment was purchased, and the chamber started publishing a newsletter and successfully launched its website. With the website in place, it has become a lot easier for current and potential members to become familiar with the chamber’s structure, services, and benefits of membership. Members’ contact information has also been uploaded to the website for women entrepreneurs to network both locally and internationally.
A significant increase in membership followed. To-date, WCCIP has 150 registered members, which means a 45% increase in the membership since the inception of the CIPE project. Currently the chamber is also in contact with a large non-governmental organization Khwendo Kor that helps women take practical steps for the betterment of themselves and their families, aiming to register more than 200 women entrepreneurs from different districts with WCCIP.
Initiatives such as this are required to boost the business environment in Pakistan and make it more conducive for women entrepreneurs. Especially in the region like Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, which has been suffering through a tough period because of security problems, support for local women through a dedicated chamber of commerce is crucial for women’s empowerment.