Until 2011, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) was not a known term in Pakistan. In 2011, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) initiated events engaging university students and teachers in debates during GEW. To provide wider outreach, these events were organized in cooperation with regional chambers of commerce.
This year CIPE also wrote to over 70 universities and 140 business associations around Pakistan and provided information about GEW and how they can be part of this global celebration of entrepreneurship. These efforts have resulted in more independently-held events in the country.
While speaking at a joint event organized by the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce, CIPE, and GEW in Islamabad, Country Representative for GEW Kahif M. Khan said that:
“Celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week in Pakistan is a new phenomenon. I appreciate the role of CIPE in starting GEW activities three years ago. This now is becoming a movement. Until last year, a lot of activities were donor funded. The good news is that this year a number of organizations celebrated GEW in Pakistan through their own resources.”
Low primary and secondary enrollment for girls threatens Pakistan’s economic future. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The World Economic Forum has once again put Pakistan at the bottom of its index ranking “gender gaps” in economics, politics, education, and health. Last year, Pakistan ranked 132 out of 134 countries, down from 127 the year before. This year there is no change in the overall ranking, however the report suggests that the state of gender-based biases in Pakistan remains abominable — and worse, stagnant.
While women make up over 51 of the population in Pakistan, only 3 percent of women participate actively in the economy. Thanks to CIPE efforts in 2006, Pakistani women now have the right to form business associations, and as a result there are eight registered women business associations in the country. Additionally, every chamber in Pakistan now has to elect two women members to its board. But gender equality is still a major issue in the country. The recent Gender Gap Report also mentions that while the gap between men and women has narrowed slightly in most countries during the past year, Pakistan still ranks the lowest in Asia and the Pacific region.
“We should learn from Bangladesh model where banks are forced to extend certain percentage of loans to women entrepreneurs. This easier access to finance has helped Bangladeshi women to become economically strong. Banks in Pakistan need to develop products focusing women businesses and they should begin financial literacy programmers to educate women entrepreneurs about business procedures and financial management.” – Peshawar Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is Pakistan’s most terrorism affected province. The province is also known for a culture restricting women from participating in economic activities. Due to cultural barriers and terrorism, opportunities for women in KP province are limited; so much so, that in a number of KP districts, women are barred from casting their votes in the general elections.
Since 2006, CIPE Pakistan has been working with its partner Peshawar Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry to help them create a network of women entrepreneurs in Peshawar. The chamber started with only six members, and now has grown to over 150 active members.
“The sessions in Dhaka and Kathmandu helped develop structure and set direction and proper governance guidance to our business associations, which usually tend to be run according to individual chairperson’s goals. Setting vision and mission based on a membership needs assessment is such a simple idea that we learned…so basic but yet hardly used as we tend to overlook membership requirements in our day to day chamber activities and operations” – Rezani Aziz, Sri Lanka
Despite severe challenges, women’s business associations are playing effective roles in promoting interests of their members. However, CIPE has observed that most women’s business associations in South Asia are struggling to perform optimally.
CIPE took this challenge as an opportunity to work with a selected group of eleven business associations in the South Asia region, aiming at strengthening institutional capacity to help them become stronger advocates for their members. In the first phase of this project, CIPE organized a two-day session for the group in Dhaka in January 2013.
The second workshop for the same group was held in Kathmandu, Nepal on 22 and 23 April. After the Dhaka session, the Peshawar Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry embarked upon an advocacy project to identify barriers to women’s entrepreneurship in the terror-affected Khyber Pakhtoon Khawa region, while the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry conducted a survey focusing on their 600 women members. These two case studies from Pakistan were presented to participants in Kathmandu.