Dec 6 - 12, 20

Access to bank credit was a distant dream of the rural women and for the urban based entrepreneurs prior to establishment of the First Women Bank Ltd (FWBL), a vision of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, for economic empowerment of the women folk in Pakistan.

The speakers paid glowing tributes to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto for her vision of creation the FWBL for economic empowerment of women by providing them an access to bank credit especially rural based women in Pakistan. Today, when the FWBL celebrating its 21st birth day, the bank has successfully created a crop of enterprises run by women in rural as well as urban based entrepreneurs.

These observations were made by the President of First Women Bank at the 21st birth day celebrations last week.

Speaking at the 21st birth day celebrations at a local hotel, the speakers including Tauqir Fatima Bhutto, provincial minister for women development, Shafqat Sultana President FWBL, Ms Akram Khatoon, the founder president FWBL, Chairman Hidayatullah EVP and Head of legal division, area Heads from Peshawar, Faisalabad, Sialkot, a number of women entrepreneurs from private sector highlighted the significant role played by the bank for economic development in the country.

Shafqat Sultana said that 21 years ago in 1989, our visionary leader Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto established FWBL with a twin aim of providing women of Pakistan access to credit and to employment opportunities in a new area i.e. banking. Her vision has borne fruition and today the bank can justifiably claim its position as the only bank for women run by women in Pakistan. The establishment of a women bank in Iran and Tanzania on the pattern of FWBL is in fact a compliment to the vision of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.

The President said "Not only have women in general been given access to credit and to employment opportunities and FWBL employees in particular continue to benefit from her desire to economically empower women. In this connection, Shafqat Sultana expressed her thanks to the government for having included FWBL in the Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme thereby transferring 12 percent shares and making FWBL employees beneficiaries of this scheme.

In fact, FWBL's keys strength is customer loyalty, built over the 21 years and therefore it is a matter of great satisfaction what FWBL has contributed towards the growth of women as entrepreneurs and agents of change.

She said that a number of our clients have graduated from running small to medium enterprises and the growth continues to corporate. FWBL has truly come a long way, its journey being replete with its share of obstacles and achievements. We are happy to share that FWBL deposits this year as of 30th November, are approximately touching the Rs10 billion mark (9, 865, 706, 138) and advances for the same period have reached the Rs7 billion mark (6,327, 413, 629).

The FWBL, she said, began its journey as a public sector enterprise and is today once again in the process of gaining its status as a public sector entity. She expressed the hope that the recent decision of the government of Pakistan to keep FWBL in the public sector will enable FWBL in meeting the credit and investment needs of Pakistani women.

It must be pointed out that FWBL has striven to meet the national (outlined in the National Plan of Action for Women 1998 and National Policy for Development & Empowerment of Women 2000) and international (UN Beijing Platform for action 1995) goals and objectives of the government of Pakistan, for achieving women's economic empowerment and will continue to endeavourer for the achievement of these goals.

It is in this context that I call upon all our stakeholders and especially the women of Pakistan, to continue to support and lobby for a strengthened FWBL, please come forward and bank with FWBL (Your deposits will further strengthen the bank). Give us an opportunity to serve your financial and economic needs by offering more quality and innovative products.

We have a vision at FWBL, which is 'to be the lead Bank for women, to grow from a branch network of 38 in key cities in all provinces to 100 branches and more in every city of Pakistan, and to enable women's access to financial resources and economic empowerment.' This we can do but only with your full support, so as we celebrate the 21st year of the birth of FWBL, I wish to end with a prayer that some of us are there to see the centenary celebrations of this iconic institution. (AB)