FIRST WOMEN BANK 

Striving for speedy growth of women entrepreneurs in Pakistan

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Sep 03 - 09, 2001

Zarine Aziz, President of the First Women Bank Limited (FWBL) has disclosed that her bank has a plan to launch a new product in the market which has been especially designed to accelerate the pace of development of women entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

Carrying a rich banking experience spread over more than 11 years to her credit, Zarine seems to have the manners adorned with true professional spirit, knowledge and wisdom to smooth her way to the targets she has set in to take the bank to the new heights.

Her resolve to make the FWBL a unique organization entirely run by the women and for the women, was reflected in her firm tone to pave the way of success for women folk by providing an even ground especially in the financial sector so that the women could play their due role for revival of the national economy.

With her pleasant personality, nature is kind to Zarine by gifting her the art of making people easy with whom she converse and that is the quality required to make our women desired to come-forward in the field of business so far dominated by the males in the society.

She said that now it is the need of the hour that women have to prove themselves as they have done in the rest of the world for the economic development especially in the developed world.

Talking to Pakistan & Gulf Economist (PAGE), Zarine said that the forthcoming product of FWBL would ensure speedy disbursement of project financing especially for women entrepreneurs. The maximum period for disbursement of loan under this programme will be two weeks. The uncalled for procedural complexities have been simplified to save the customers from unnecessary hassles, she observed.

The micro-financing scheme already going in full swing especially in the rural areas of the country in general and in the interior of Sindh in particular is of course a success story to the credit of the FWBL.

Zarine cited the example of the micro-financing scheme being provided to the rural women with almost 100 per cent recovery rate as one of the strong indicators regarding the potential of women in our society to achieve better results in business at small scale. She expressed the hope with a sense of confidence that the forthcoming scheme relatively at a larger scale project financing should also produce the similar encouraging results by the women of the urban areas as well.

It may be mentioned that FWBL has provided financing facilities to about 6000 women entrepreneurs out of them some have already been established in export business also especially in textile and leather garment sectors.

Recently 7 stalls of women entrepreneurs, sponsored by FWBL at WEXNET Exhibition recently concluded at Karachi, were the focus of attention to the visitors.

She regretted that despite having potential to contribute significantly in the efforts for economic revival of the country, the women folk representing half of the country's population has been denied access to the opportunities.

Zarine, while appreciating the economic policies of the present government, said that all credit goes to the government for inducing a sense of stability in the bank by removing it from the list of public sector organizations to be privatized. She said that performance of the bank was adversely affected for the last four to five years due to policy of the government for dis-investment of the bank. The hanging sword of disinvestment causing a sense of uncertainty among the bank staff has now been removed. The staff is working with confidence and determination, which is reflected in the operational results of the last 6 months. She said that deposits and profits of the banks during past 6 months are almost equivalent to the results of the entire preceding year.

Describing the efforts of the bank to provide a direction to the potential women entrepreneurs, the FWBL has set up "Business Centres" which are aimed at to lend a helping hand to the women entrepreneurs in the form "Advisory and Consultancy Services" in various segments of the economy. These Business Centres are there to provide technical assistance for product development, pricing, packaging, marketing and sale promotion of the products.

These centres offer all secretarial services including facility of conference room equipped with the essentially required facilities such as telephone, fax and e-mail etc.

The bank is also providing assistance in conducting business management courses in collaboration with leading business schools besides introduction of skill training programmes. All these efforts are directed to provide a helping hand to the potential women entrepreneurs in Pakistan.