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Bosses at home but denied leadership in corporate world

By: Imran Rana

LAHORE: Pakistani women seem to take all important decisions in running households; but when it comes to the corporate world they are being neglected and denied roles suitable to their capabilities.

Due to a reduced role in Pakistan’s male-dominated society, women are found struggling and their living standards are not at par with men. This is not only affecting the households but also the macro-economic growth, as a large segment of society is barred from contributing to the national economy.

The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (Smeda) organised the Women Business Incubation Centre (WBIC) in Pakistan to promote women’s participation in the consumer sector. The major goal of the project is to provide a protected and hassle-free business environment to women entrepreneurs and to help them develop business skills that will enable them to compete successfully in the modern marketplace.

“Pakistani women entrepreneurs need to start inventing their own business concepts,” said Asma Maryam, project director of WBIC while talking to The Express Tribune.

Majority of women entrepreneurs fall within the 20 to 40 years age group. Women entrepreneurial ventures can create jobs, in which women are either the owner or the sales staff, Maryam added.

All the facilities provided by Smeda in WBIC like, electricity, gas, telephone bills, security are at a nominal rent of Rs7, 260 per month, she added.

There are two operational WBICs in Pakistan; one is in Lahore and the other in Peshawar. Centres in Quetta, Swat and Karachi are under construction. The Karachi project will be operational very soon. The Sindh government approved two more WBICs in Karachi, said Alamgeer Chaudhry, general manager of Smeda, Lahore while talking to The Express Tribune.

The funds are provided by the government but these projects may face financial constraints as Smeda’s funding will be suspended by the next fiscal year. Smeda is approaching international donors to fund the project. For this purpose, the University of Southern Queensland Australia and Lahore College for Women University have expressed their interest, he added.

Women are likely to buy products if they are sold by women, which has increased revenues of the women’s business centre by 60%, said Shahida Tahir, shopkeeper in WBIC in Lahore, while talking to The Express Tribune. She added that women were earning handsome profits because of this project and hoped that if granted increased funding, the project will open doors to more upcoming female entrepreneurs.

Huma Kiran, a designer in WBIC, said that previously, she was earning Rs15,000 per month by designing dresses at her home. But now her income has jumped three-fold to Rs50,000 after she managed to find a shop in the Smeda centre.

Mehwish Zahid, a customer at WBIC, said that she was feeling more comfortable while purchasing goods from women. She said that lack of motivation coupled with limited capital and skilled workers are the main causes of economic backwardness of females.

There is a need to setup both general and specialist support organisations in the country at various levels to encourage this sector. This can be done by financial institutions, business organisations and concerned governmental departments.

Mena bazaar of Karachi is the best bazaar where women are doing business; the government of Punjab should also organise such bazaars in Punjab to promote the culture of women entrepreneurs.

The Express Tribune

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