Aug 1 - 7, 2011

Today, poverty in Pakistan is targeting our society in more than one way. It is adding to street crimes, which indicate fast degeneration of socio-human values.

There is no tool and no remedy for development effective than the economic empowerment of women which constitute 53 percent of the total population, this was recommended in a firm tone by the President of First Women Bank Limited Ms. Shafqat Sultana while she was launching capacity building and skill development through training programs for economic empowerment of women with a focus on poverty alleviation from the society.

It is certainly a strategic training program for capacity building being launched by the bank in collaboration with various private and public sector organizations across the country to achieve the vital goal of poverty reduction.

Ms. Shehla Raza, Deputy Speaker Sindh Assembly, and Shoaib Siddiqui, Secretary Youth and Sports Affairs of Sindh, were also present at the launching ceremony held last week.

President FWBL resolved that her bank would continue to strive for economic empowerment of women by employing all available resources to enhance their capacity. In this respect, FWBL has initiated many training courses for entrepreneurial capacity-building and skill development so that women are mainstreamed in all economic sectors and become a visible and productive part of the economy.

"Our Business Development and Training Centers are being re-vitalized and FWBL has entered into strategic partnership with the Textile Institute of Pakistan, Pakistan Institute of Hotel management, Ministry of Tourism, and women Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The bank is now entering into an agreement with Ministry of Youth Affairs to launch a two-month training program in banking commencing from August 1, 2011. This program would be followed by three months internship program in different branches of the bank."

Ms. Shafqat Sultana said that empowerment is a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and multi-layered concept and women's empowerment is a process in which women gain greater share of control over resources-material, human and intellectual like knowledge, information, ideas and financial resources like money-and control over decision making in the home, community, society and nation.

Actually, the empowerment of women is intertwined with respect for human rights. The president sounded a meaningful note in her voice that there cannot be true democracy unless women's voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives, she remarked.

Shafqat Sultana is determined that the women have a role to play in all aspects of the society including resolving the economic crisis, promoting civil society, human rights, education, healthcare, the rule of law and good governance. "It is imperative that women like ours stand up for the rights of women. It is not ancillary to our progress, it is central," she remarked.

Highlighting the significance of economic empowerment of women, she mentioned that in late 80s, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had initiated the process of empowering women and ensuring their due rights in the society. She established First Women Bank with a focus to meet the special needs of women entrepreneurs.

She said the bank caters to women at all levels of economic activity including micro, small, medium and corporate. The bank's credit policies are designed to promote asset ownership.

Most importantly, the bank provides women the support services required to navigate the obstacles to the development of business; hence the bank is helping them emerge as key players in the national and global economy. In early 90's, FWBL was the first commercial bank which introduced micro loans for women along with the support services including entrepreneurship education and skill training.

It was discovered that the biggest problem for women entrepreneurs was ignorance of financial rules and lack of legal awareness.

In order to address these issues the bank had set up computer literacy center where women learnt the basics of e-management. Soon after, the bank set up a product promotion centre in Lahore. This was because helping clients buying embroidery threads was not enough. Women needs to be inducted into a system whereby they could exhibit their goods and get a fair price for their hard work.

In 1998-99, the bank followed up this initiative with a business center that would provide women with skill and management training and help them identify business opportunities. Not only did bank show them how to tap into existing resources, the bank also helped them develop business networks and linkages.

After 21 years of FBWL, we witness that a transition has taken place in the professional lives of the women and there has been a shift from traditional specialized professions from teaching to managing, organizing, administrating and owning the most prestigious of private schools and universities; from medicine to running private hospitals and clinics; from law to criminal law, corporate law and human rights; from banking to banking finance, commerce and accountancy; from TV actors, directors, producers to owner of television channels; from journalists to owners of magazines and newspapers; and from boutique to textile & fashion designing.

The bank has gone through some challenging times. At present, FWBL has no direct presence in the rural areas but through strategic partners like NRSP the bank has enhanced socioeconomic status of thousands of women by creating opportunities for employment and self-employment in almost all sectors of the economy.


A dynamic economy begins with a good education. Education is extensively regarded as a route to economic prosperity and the key to scientific and technological advancement. It is the driving force of growth and progress in an increasingly interconnecting and globalizing world. It creates choices and opportunities for people, reduces the twin burdens of poverty and diseases, and gives a stronger voice in society. For nations, it creates a dynamic workforce and well informed citizens are able to complete and cooperate globally and opens doors to economic and social prosperity.