By Anil Datta
A two-day seminar on the role of women in trade policy formulation opened at a local hotel on Tuesday morning. The seminar is sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Inaugurating the seminar, Martin Schulman, an official of the USAID office at Islamabad, said the programme aimed at promoting gender-balanced trade policies.
“The USAID programme aims at development, collaboration, stabilisation, and good governance in various fields. It has brought large capacity-building programmes in the education, health and social development sectors,” he said.
Denise Herbol, the USAID provincial director for Sindh and Balochistan, said, “Women require access to market intelligence and must be given the ability to mobilise resources effectively to meet market demands, scale up, and respond to trade opportunities. We recognise the need for women to have the managerial and organisational resources and skills to develop business and export readiness and to manage and organise their businesses effectively”.
Later on, while talking to The News, she said, “It is heartening to see the interest elicited by women in such entrepreneurial training programmes and to see the participation of women in all spheres, even those that were hitherto considered purely a men’s domain.”
A large number of women entrepreneurs attended the round-table sponsored by the USAID’s project Pakistan Regional Economic Integration Activity (PREIA). The participants came from a wide spectrum of vocations, from fashion designing to industrial projects, their export and other matters pertaining to these. There were women from the corporate sector, academia, and think tanks and the discussions pivoted around gender inclusion in Pakistan’s trade policy formulation.
Participants shared their views and experiences they came across in the course of their functioning. The opening technical session was conducted by Roubina Taufiq, former Director-General of Pakistan’s Trade Disputes Resolution Office and presently at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad. She dwelt at length on various aspects of export and import operations and various laws and treaties governing these operations. Her views elicited an animated response.
The USAID-PREIA project is a five-year initiative to further the development of Pakistan’s trade sector. Under the provisions of the project, a series of round-table discussions is being conducted as part of the women’s leadership Development Programme (WLDP) in collaboration with the USAID Training for Pakistan Project. The WLDP seeks to support women from various trade sectors like the government, the corporate sector, the academia, business and to brush up their skills to include them in the development sector.
Women, ostensibly, seemed to welcome the programme, as indicated by the opinions expressed to The News.
A fashion designer, Irum Fawwad, talking to The News, said that she welcomed the programme as it gave women entrepreneurs an insight into the more technical and complicated aspects of trade and exports. She thought that such a programme was highly warranted.
Mehreen Elahi, a noted exporter of the Art pieces and handicrafts, said such a programme was very useful as it would spur formation of women’s associations in the field that would help them get greater insight into export matters and spur their participation in the process of trade policy formulation.
Apart from Karachi, such round-table discussions have already been held in other cities where participants from Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and Azad Kashmir were in attendance.