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High time to involve women in entrepreneurship for a sustainable economy

Speaking at the recent launch of a new financing programme titled “Women Ventures” (WV) by Karandaaz Pakistan, in collaboration with the UK Department for International Development (DFID), aimed at improving access to finance for women-led businesses, former State Bank Governor Shamshad Akhtar, also Karandaaz Chairperson, said; “only 8 percent of micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) owners were women their access to finance is 6 percent and only 1 percent of women are engaged in entrepreneurial activities as opposed to 21 percent men.” On the contrary the total number of women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh is above 10 percent. Not only that many women have proved their skills and beat their male counterparts in the small and cottage industries, especially the handicrafts sector; while many of them have excelled in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Shamshad Akhtar has rightly pointed out that one of the major reasons for women in Pakistan to remain behind entrepreneurially is the lack of access to finances. The gender-wise distribution of gross loan portfolio of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) shows that women get only 3 percent of small-medium business loans whereas the men get 97percent. Similarly, only 19 percent of the microfinance loan is lent to women while 87 percent to men. Moreover, an inspiring female entrepreneur in Pakistan cannot open a bank account without mentioning her father or husband’s name in the presence of a witness. According to a study conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), this discrimination is the result of the banks’ preconceived notions that female clients lack creditworthiness.

Bangladesh has proved this notion of ADB absolutely wrong. 97 percent of Grameen Bank’s (GB’s) clients are women with almost 100 percent in time recoveries. Not only that, in Bangladesh banks are bound by the government to lend 15 percent of their funds to women entrepreneurs and report on their progress towards the target. By following the Bangladesh initiatives Pakistan can promote potential women entrepreneurs. It goes without saying that the benefit of microcredit for women through their empowerment is one of the much-acclaimed achievements of the Grameen model. Pakistan will also have to improve the system to achieve high female engagement in economic activities. The Bangladesh model of women empowerment can be adopted with changes keeping in view the ground realities and existing circumstances. on Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) must come forward and initiate business plan exclusively for women.

Now what are the possible ways to make the women engage in economy? Most women love cooking and can use their skills in opening a catering or baking business. For sure, men can never beat women from becoming a food entrepreneur marketing delicious and tasty foods. The bakery industry is a huge business that caters to people’s weaknesses for tasty breads, cakes, pies and sweet rolls. According to pre-feasibility report available SMEDA website, the proposed Bakery & Confectionery business can be started as sole proprietorship with an investment of Rs. 3.98 million, based on 50 percent debt and 50 percent equity ratio. Projected Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Payback of this project are Rs. 8.31 million. The business will provide employment opportunity to 12 individuals including the Owner Manager – seems to be a manageable project for women entrepreneurs.

They can even go for homemade organic/herbal beauty products. There are many women who are very expert at preparing the home beauty products like face washes, bath oils, soaps etc. Needless at add that there is an increasing demand for herbal beauty products, owing to the rising consumer awareness regarding harmful effects of the chemical added to the beauty products.

Euromonitor International’s Dermatologicals in Pakistan report offers a comprehensive guide to the size and shape of the market at a national level. It provides the latest retail sales data 2014-18, allowing you to identify the sectors driving growth. Forecasts to 2023 illustrate how the market is set to change.


At a time when the market is flooded with fake cosmetics that is posing grave dangers to the health of the consumers, our homegrown beauty recipes, specially prepared by our very own ‘Zuabiada Aapa’ can easily capture the market. And when a product by a woman is marketed for women will definitely be an instant hit. Interestingly enough, the more modern and tech-savvy women from posh localities are seemingly going back to their roots in the true sense of the term. The imminent trend of organic food and beauty products among those living in the most expensive neighborhoods of the country can be quoted as an instance.

Similarly, there are a number of untapped services and women entrepreneurs can probe the possibility of entering into such ventures like elderly health caring center, baby care center etc. According to a leading Pakistan daily report UN projections indicate that by 2045 the 65-and-above population will stand at 7percent, with the number of such elderly doubling to 40 million by 2050 there will be a need for community centres where trained workers provide care and counseling services also need to be established, the taboo against old-age homes needs to be tackled. So now is the time for opening such centres specially for working mothers and Pakistani Diaspora.

Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein once stated, “We are disciplined in our investment, and when you get to the topic of trying to invest and create GDP, there is no better or more efficient investment — no lower hanging fruit in the world to pick — than the investment you make in women. Additionally, as compared to men, economically active women have been found to spend more resources on the education and health of their children.”

According to a survey conducted long back by the All Hyderabad Churi Welding Contractors Workers Union, 45 bangle manufacturing factories were operational in Hyderabad at the time. It was estimated back then that more than 10,000 male workers work at these factories in separate eight-hour shifts. However, the majority of the workforce engaged in the industry remains home-based women workers even today. So depending on bangle contractors and operating from home, the women entrepreneurs can easily enter into the bangle manufacturing business. In fact like beauty products this is also one of the purely women business ideas.

Now is the time for the government to take some measures to create awareness among the society to involve women in entrepreneurship for a sustainable economy. State Bank may be asked to formulate policy for granting loans to women entrepreneurs and commercial banks may be asked to set aside at least 15 percent of their funds for women entrepreneurs. Hopefully there will be no default on loan granted to them. It may be mention here that Pakistan Vision 2025 has embedded five components of women’s empowerment into its objectives, including activities that promote women’s self-worth, right to determine their choices, access to opportunities and resources, right and power to control their lives – both within and outside the home – and ability to influence social change.

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