Any society’s female population is half its asset and giving that faction room for growth and opportunities for utilizing their full potential is a factor that transforms nations from underdeveloped to thriving ones. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) historically speaking has been a very behind in this regard of giving its female population is due share in the growth of its overall society. Culturally this province has restricted women from participating in utilizing their potential, especially, for economic growth. Coupled with the degenerated security conditions of the region participation of women in the formal economic fabric of the province had until recently been reduced to almost nothing. However, things have been changing, tremendously and currently we are witnessing very good initiatives introduced in the province. Secondly, the success stories of various brave women have also open a whole new horizon for other change makers. In this regard, the article tries to summarize such initiatives that can tell the current state and Rise of Women Entrepreneurship in KPK.
Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WCCI)
Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCCI) was a forum established in 2010 to promote and safeguard the interests of female entrepreneurs at different the economic forums, with the basic aim of empowering women of the region socially and economically. Along with working for increasing the participation of women in the economic fabric of the country, working with the belief that women economic progress is the way forward for a prosper province and, thereby, economically prosper Pakistan.
Rise of Women Entrepreneurship in KPK: What has been done so far
Some of their stated aims and objectives are:
- To create an environment that is conducive to the development of women entrepreneurs.
- To provide a forum for local entrepreneurs where they can discuss, debate and resolve issues pertinent to their respective business ventures.
- To help women entrepreneurs in establishing and consequently expanding their business interests nationally as well as internationally.
- To create network linkages nationally and internationally
- To recognize and award businesses owned by women entrepreneurs.
- To invite and facilitate delegations of women entrepreneurs nationally and internationally; to interact, exchange ideas and products.
- To equip women entrepreneurs with required skills in the fields of marketing and quality control geared towards product improvement.
- To organize and conduct seminars, workshops, conferences for the purpose of capacity building and raising awareness amongst women.
Things are improving for the women entrepreneurs in KPK by introducing very welcoming initiatives
Separate industrial park for women in KPK
Government KPK in 2017 announced a first of its kind in Pakistan initiative for the improvement of the female representation in the economic sphere by establishing a separate industrial park for women entrepreneurs of the province.
This one of its kind initiative was disclosed by Shamama Arbab, president of Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry Peshawar. She stated that 25 industrial plots would be reserved for women entrepreneurs, along with the earlier announced package specified in the industrial policy that made 25 per cent of equity reimbursable to industries owned by women in the industrial estates.
The women chamber’s president appreciated the provincial government for its progressive economic initiatives and the progressive role they are playing in empowering women.
Role played by WCCI in creating favorable environment for female entrepreneurs in KPK
Centre For International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has been working in close partnership with Peshawar Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry to help build up a network for female entrepreneurs in Peshawar.
Starting with about six members the chamber now has not just increased their own numbers but has helped many project across the province, and now even engages the provincial government in its different ventures in improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women of KPK.
In addition to taking the local government on board they also engage provincial office of Central Bank to facilitate women with getting financial aid easily. This was made possible with the help of CIPE and their provision of advocacy guidance, facilitating the process of developing a set of recommendations.
Backing the initiative, Dr. Mehr Taj Roghani, adviser to the chief minister of the province and MPA, said that:
[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” class=”” width=””]“There was a need for doing more for women than just giving them ‘thread and sewing machines,’ symbolizing projects aiming at vocational training only, and the government believes empowering women and the youth to help develop the province.”[/box]
One of the most appraised recommendation as a result of this project was made to the provincial minister of education, Atif Khan, was to include basic business education in school’s curriculum in standard 6,7, and 8.
PWCCI in association with CIPE and the Kauffman Foundation celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week in November,, where around 50 students and lecturers from different universities gathered to discuss the various hurdles female entrepreneurs face in Pakistan, and the reasons KPK region lags behind the rest of the country in this regard.
During these discussion it was stressed that a business development centers should be established to tap in new firms and encourage student who are interested in entrepreneurship.
In May 2017 over 200 female entrepreneurs attended the First Women in Business Summit (WIB-SUM) organized by WCCI in association with KPK Economic Zones Development and Management (KPEZDMC). It was a platform for female entrepreneurs to network with guest speakers.
Guest speakers included: director and producer Momina Duraid, leading retailer of sterling silver decorative accessories Zeenat Ahmad from Taneez, famous model, actress and cosmetologist Nadia Hussain, CEO SEED Faraz Khan, former CEO Gillette Saad Amanullah Khan, founder of Roots School System Faisal Mushtaq and aspiring first female truck driver Shamim Akhtar conducted the plenary sessions.
International speakers included entrepreneurs from Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Afghanistan who shared their experiences that could be replicated by women entrepreneurs in Pakistan.
President WCCI Shamama Arbab, who is also the Board Member KPEZDMC also spoke on the occasion and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SEED Venture to promote women entrepreneurship in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
With these initiatives both by the private sector and the provincial government things are starting to change for the betterment, and hence, more and more women can be seen in the previously male dominated economic sector.