On the march to economic glory
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Sep 03 - 09, 2001
The society of women is the foundation of good manners; of course a pre-requisite to achieve brilliant results especially for success in business. The increasing trend developed among the women to be self-employed suggests that time is not far away when women factor would also have an important role in the economic growth of the country. Possessing the natural gift of politeness, women entrepreneurs, and if provided the level ground, are expected to bring new milestones to this country.
Besides joining the Information Technology sector in a significant number, the women entrepreneurs are successfully doing business in textile garments, fashion designing, handicrafts, jewelry, fancy candles of international quality, handmade gift items, leather garments etc.
The influx of women business graduates from various universities and business schools and a visible change among the females to be self-employed is the significant indicator of women's participation towards economic development of the society.
Minister of State and Chairman Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) Tariq Ikram has said that efforts were being made to streamline formal and informal entrepreneurial capability of women in Pakistan.
Speaking at the formal inauguration of WEXNET 2001, an exhibition for Women Entrepreneurs and NGOs organized by EPB at Karachi Expo Centre, the chairman expressed the hope that he feels that our women entrepreneurs are engaged with the business of untraditional items have the potential to add $25-30 million to Pakistan's exports. The objective of the 3-day exhibition and seminar was to encourage women entrepreneurs to come forward and contribute to the efforts of the government for economic revival and achieve higher export targets. Regarding the exhibition, Tariq Ikram said that it is the beginning of the journey towards the higher goals. Currently, the women entrepreneurs are being given proper guidelines and assistance by resolving their problems, this will certainly help in creating an export culture in Pakistan. He said after Karachi, exhibitions for women entrepreneurs will be held in other major cities of the country. He also agreed to look into possibilities to organize such exhibitions in the rural areas especially for the display of traditional handicrafts, which is likely to prove a fascinating view for the buyers from within Pakistan and abroad.
It was for the first time that an exclusive exhibition was organized at official level exclusively for women entrepreneurs. The purpose was to bring them on a platform from where their skill and expertise could be given a push for exports. The government on its part had already paved the way for women entrepreneurs and the institutions like EPB, Pakistan Export Finance Guarantee Agency, First Women Bank Limited, and Small Business and Finance Corporation etc are there to provide financial and technical guidance for the women entrepreneurs.
The exhibition provided a meeting opportunity to the buyers, exporters and the producers. The EPB chairman agreed that women entrepreneurs are facing difficulties particularly in the areas of finance, sourcing of raw material as well as marketing. In order to sort out such irritants, the EPB chairman said that the Export Promotion Bureau is hiring the servicing of a consultant who would be given the task to find out ways and means for resolving the issues faced by women entrepreneurs.
Miss Shameim Kazmi, daughter of late Major M.H. Kazmi is the Managing Director, Marketing & Research Consultants (MRC). She is also President of Association of Business, Professional and Agricultural Women.
Shameim, who has given her best of life for the cause of women in Pakistan, Says "Pakistan is among the many developing countries of the world with its own social-geographical environment and historical perspectives. The economy of the country is still predominantly agricultural, though it has undergone marked structural changes.
Despite efforts for achieving targeted growth rates, Pakistan's development experience has always been under the pressure of a high rate of population growth, which has persistently around 3 per cent. It is surprising that the birth rate has remained virtually unchanged over the last quarter century despite urbanization, rise in the age of marriage and some progress in female education. Employment pressures are rising as a result of high population growth.
Shameim said that a considerable number of women are working in agriculture, animal husbandry and poultry farming, especially in rural areas. The self employed in semi-rural and urban areas were never counted in the labor force. On the whole there is great paucity of quantitative information about women of Pakistan, which is causing hampering effect on any development policies and program planning for development of women. The Association of Business Professional and Agricultural Women has been continuously putting pressure through symposia and seminars, telegrams and personal contact with Policy makers to make the extra efforts for developing a database about the working women in Pakistan.
On national level the females are on low priority in all spheres in the two most important sectors i.e. education and health. Following statistics are clear indications of her low profile participation and share of the available resources.
Life Expectancy: In most countries females outnumber of live long than males except in Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Life expectancy of females at birth is 4 as compared to 51 for males.
Marriage Age: The reported mean age of marriage is 20.8 years for women as compared to 25.4 years of men, but there is evidence that it is considerably lower for females, especially in rural areas where they are married even in childhood.
Shameim feels that awareness among the females to get economic independence is growing at a much faster rate, which is a strong indicator of the economic prosperity for the women, which was in the store so far.
Shameim Kazmi while highlighting the aims and objectives of the Association of Business, Professional and Agricultural Women said the main objectives of the council are to achieve high standards of professionalism in respective fields of service. The council works to stimulate and encourage women from all fields of endeavor to realize and accept their responsibility to the local, national and international community, It encourages and enthuses women and girls to acquire both basic and advanced education, as well as occupational training, economic stability and security.
The Council aims at fostering better understanding and empathy amongst Pakistani women by facilitating social harmony, exchange of views and greater interaction. The Council also works to discourage and remove discrimination of women in order to encourage and promote equal opportunities and status for women in the economic, agriculture, and civil and political life. It makes conscientious efforts towards the uplift of the rural women in Pakistan. The Council offers a non-official, non-political and non-sectarian forum to promote activities targeted to enhance the well being of mankind with respect to health, education and culture.
The Council has identified business areas with feasibility reports giving technical know-how and investment requirements regarding certain projects where the women can do business. Some of them are: Washing Soap factory, Shoe laces, File tags & packing material, Paper tubes, Beauty Parlor, Readymade garments, Embroidery, Henna (Mehndi) Light Snacks (paparr, Roasted Nuts & Potato Chips, Packaging, toys and Dolls making, Rexene made products, Vocational Training Institute, Leather Goods, Hand-made Carpets, Marble Products (handicrafts) Acrylic Sheets, Pathological Labs, Livestock Poultry Farming and a number of other areas for service oriented and low investment business.
Zeenat Saeed, is the President of Pakistan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (Khi) and Vice President SAARC Women Entrepreneurs Council is an active businesswoman running her business of silver platted wares at Park Towers.
Zeenat while talking to PAGE regretted that overall conditions are not supportive for economic growth in Pakistan. Currently dealing in artistically made silver platted gift items, household wares and accessories, precious decorative items etc, despite having rich business experience is afraid of spreading her business due to what she called the bad conditions. She recalled that once she had started the export business in textile garments and more than 400 workers were earning their bread and butter were associated with her business. However thanks to the law and order conditions, ethnic and sectarian forces accompanied by bad laws forced her to wind up the business and made her a defaulter. She said with a sense of pain that she was still clearing the backlog of the bank loans, that is the price of the venture she has to pay.
Zeenat Saeed, a lady of grace and dignity in her every gesture, says "Pakistan having tremendous economic opportunities, so far failed to click due to poor infrastructure, cumbersome laws and attitude of the government machinery and absence of social and entertainment attractions for the visitors has failed to attract the foreign buyers". Due to dull and drab atmosphere prevailing here, what to speak of the foreign buyers or investors even personal relatives living abroad are reluctant to visit this country. She feels that we will have to provide matching facilities available in other countries in the region to survive economically. Citing the example of what she called the gross contradictions prevailing in the society, Zeenat said that officially speaking, local population is disallowed access to liqueur, however the ground reality speaks quite differently. The bulk of the liqueur, either made locally or foreign made is consumed by the local population. We have to say good bye to these contradictions by developing strong values to develop a true culture either this way or that way. Contradictory attitude never helps to achieve big goals, she remarked. Being the Vice President of SAARC Women Entrepreneurs' Council Zeenat will be representing Pakistan women entrepreneurs at a meeting of the SAARC women being held at Calcutta sometimes next month.
Someone has rightly said that man has his will — but woman has her way. This is what it is exactly in the field of business where a considerable number of women entrepreneurs have made their way to success, while many more are in the pipeline. The present government is also giving due priorities to the womenfolk in the economic, social and political policies. Our young business graduates have new ideas and zeal to work also, the only thing they lack is the financial support. The need of the hour is that our financial institutions should provide financial support especially to the business graduates so that instead of wasting the talents in employment they should be provided opportunity to be their own boss. This would certainly reduce the pressure of unemployment in the society.