Islamabad: The third Women Entrepreneurship Conference’19 (WECON ’19) brought together women entrepreneurs, stakeholders and industry experts from diverse backgrounds under one roof at a local hotel on Saturday for discussion on their issues and challenges for finding solutions.
The organisers said the event’s theme was ‘khudi’, which talked about self-belief and self-determination.
They said many brilliant women besides facing socio-economic challenges also suffered from a lack of self-belief and self-determination, which stopped their businesses from taking off.
Besides discussing the topics about the theme, the event, the media partner of which was Jang Media Group, also launched the WECON Movement, a nationwide initiative to help aspiring women entrepreneurs prevent business failures.
As part of the WECON Movement, two innovative platforms, the WECON Tribe and WE Portal, were launched.
The WECON Tribe was meant to help women entrepreneurs in early stages of their business journey through local communities, while the WE Portal was designed to create a place for women to market their products to corporates and organisations.
CEO of the Change Mechanics Sayyed Ahmad Masud said the WECON was launched by his organisation, a network of entrepreneurs, change agents and educators, to bring change and innovation to everyday life.
“Realising the constraints of women in the field of entrepreneurship and the resultant disparity in the ratio of male and female startups, we launched WECON,” he said.
Ahmad Masud said the event was meant to showcase local women entrepreneurs as inspirations to students and budding entrepreneurs and create knowledge opportunities and collaborative framework to help organisations working in the field to connect and partner with each other. “By helping women succeed in business, we can address the most serious societal inequalities through innovation and entrepreneurship as women bring a unique perspective and can create practical solutions to everyday problems,” he said.
Romella Hameed, founder and CEO of SMT: an online self-management training for special persons, said Pakistani women’s participation in business activities was direly needed.
She said most women wanting to become entrepreneurs weren’t encouraged and supported by their families but those who managed such hurdles somehow had turned out to be successful businesswomen.
She said as lack of finances, mentoring and networking were the major challenges startups faced, such events could help address them.
Gul Zeba Jawad, CEO of Pernia Couture, and vice-president of the Women Entrepreneurs Standing Committee at Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said WECON was a very good platform for women entrepreneurs of different sectors and cities to meet and connect, and learn from experts.
She said women entrepreneurs faced multiple challenges including family and social pressures and financial and administrative issues but the entrepreneurship was all about facing and managing them.
Shannon Grewer, CEO of Victoria Road, complained about sexual harassment and discrimination against working women in the country and called for steps to end it. She, however, said Pakistan was changing for women entrepreneurs as they’d better chances of training, mentoring and growth compared with the past though finances continued to be serious issue for their development.
“Women entrepreneurs have still a long way to go,” she said.
Clinical psychologist Uzma Sadaqat said she had come all the way from Lahore to interact with businesswomen and learn from their experiences and had a wonderful time at the event.
She said healthy discussions should happen among women about how to progress using their skills and talents, and the WECON was a very good platform for the purpose.
The organisers honoured successful women from different fields.
The Most Promising Female Led Startup award went to Ayesha Ahmed, co-founder, and CEO of Pak Agri Market, a tech startup that has established an online marketplace to address market access problems in the current supply chain faced by small farmers.
Founder of SWITCH Danielle Sharaf grabbed the Female Tech Entrepreneur of the Year award for bringing health solutions to adolescent girls, bridging the knowledge gap and empowering women across all socio-economic strata through cellular technology, while the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award went to founder and CEO of TrashIt Anusha Fatima for working on organic waste disposal by making nutrient-rich compost and empowering citizens to adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
Also, Tasleem Bibi got the Woman of Influence award for directly impacting the lives of more than 425 women and contributing to the livelihood of 1000s more, encouraging them to start their business.