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Women entrepreneurs are a proven economic force

Pakistan faces gender disparity at various social levels. The country ranks 143 out of 144 in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2016 in terms of economic participation and opportunities for women. This global ranking has been unchanged since 2015 because of the complexity surrounding the socioeconomic factors like employment, financial inclusion, business and asset ownership. More than 126 million women are currently running businesses in the global economy and one billion women are expected to enter the global workforce in the coming decade.

Pakistani women are still struggling to find their footing and unfortunately there are very few women entrepreneurs in the country succeeding in the business sphere. Pakistani women have come a long way in the business enterprise sector of a country that’s combating on many fronts while in the world a large number of women have made good impressions with their distinct achievements.

In 2014, only 25 percent of the 90 million Pakistani women actively participated in some form of labor. From 2004 to 2013, the average work force gap between Pakistan and the South Asia market decreased. An in-depth review of the statistics reveals that most of this development is due to the growth in Pakistani agriculture sector, which increased from 67 percent to 75 percent as there are large women contributions in the agriculture sector. But the share of women in industry, services, wage and salaried work has declined by 3.6 percent 4.6 percent and 6.6 percent respectively. Women contribute 11 percent to industry and 75 percent to agriculture (twice as much as their male counterparts), and more than 90 percent of agricultural employment is susceptible.

The above mentioned decline in women’s work participation appeared at the time when adult female literacy rate was increased by 75 percent between 2005 and 2015. The fact that we have a good number of educated female individuals but the number of females who are actually contributing to the various strata of economy is very less.

The Women’s Economic Participation and Empowerment status in Pakistan published by the UN Women, analyzing various factors representing gender disparity, reported that the policies in Pakistan and subsequent initiatives merely focused on income generation rather than economic inclusion targets set for women. This kind of short-term focus results in one-off initiatives and greater unskilled employment rather than entrepreneurship or highly skilled jobs.

The report also highlighted the financial inclusion of females, a sustainable solution, and associated it with the deeper inclusion of women in conventional economy. Only 13 percent of women are able to borrow from a microfinance institution and merely 5 percent of women have a bank account and in Pakistan. This is because of the fact that a low percentage of women have ownership, joint or otherwise, of physical capital which is an important requirement by the financial institutions.

Gender gaps exist due to high risks of vulnerable employment and discrimination in the labor market leads to a loss in income and output. Women around the world are generally inducted in low paying, low skill jobs, practically due to the absence of enough knowledge of economic rights. There is an outright gender imbalance of social and legal protection in the country, leading to belittlement of women in most spheres. In Pakistan women are 40 percent less likely to consider employment opportunities available for men. A sizeable proportion of women who step into enterprising, do so out of necessity.

 

President Women Entrepreneurs Association of Pakistan (PWEAP) Anum Kamran says 95 percent of Pakistani women are failing to realize their full potential. The contribution of women to the economy has not found its way into the GDP. Talented and educated women entrepreneurs offer a bright view of work. Greater access to formal finance can improve economic empowerment and allow an increasing number of women to participate in the formal economy.

It can be argued that better financial access is both a cause and a result of economic participation, as more working class women signify better financial inclusion. Financial Inclusion of Women in Pakistan 2016 states that employment is often tied to banking, as wages need to be received. Hence, greater economic opportunity through employment or entrepreneurship can be a vital factor for the financial inclusion of women in our country.

The UN Women report recommends that there should be incentives for enterprises that have better women employment ratio, women decision makers or the woman owner of the enterprise. The report also recommends improving the ownership of physical assets, technical and management training, improved working conditions for women, and financial inclusion through supporting financial institutions like banks.

The report, Financial Inclusion of Women in Pakistan 2016, supports these focus areas and highlights mobility constraints, banking regulatory policies, property rights and collateral, and the financial literacy as a few factors impeding the financial inclusion. The challenges along with a complex environment for banks and other financial institutions are the bottlenecks for them as well. This includes expensive and scarce infrastructure, limited understanding of end user needs, and predominance of informal financial services, low literacy rate, a skeptical mindset and limited possibilities of revenue generation from existing models.

ENTERPRISING WOMEN ENTREPRENEUR

In 2015, the young social entrepreneur, Fiza Farhan, co-founder of Buksh Foundation, was listed in Forbes 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs.

Shiza Shahid, co-founder of the Malala Fund, and Khalida Brohi, founder of Sughar (NPO), was named in the very same list.

Maryam Adil, a dynamic young Pakistani entrepreneur and founder of Gaming Revolution for International Development (GRID) has gained distinctions through her work as a game developer.

Women like Jehan Ara (from Pakistan Software Houses Association), Roshaneh Zafar (founder of Kashf Foundation) and many more have continued to make it through several road bumps.

Late Sabeen Mahmud (T2F) was also a force to think. Leading from the front, she never failed to manage the courage that reared hope in the hearts of thousands of aspiring young Pakistani women.

Social enterprising, Software Design, Gaming Industry, Digital Media Services, Marketing & Communications, Hospital Management, Textile and Apparel are just a few industries explored by Pakistani women of strong caliber.

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