KARACHI – Prime Minister’s Adviser on Women Development Nilofar Bakhtiar has said economic and political empowerment of women is one of the basic criteria without which their status in society could not be enhanced.
Speaking at a meeting with business women in Karachi on April 30, she said the government had increased the number of reserved seats for women in local bodies and parliament so that they were represented in decision-making and implementing bodies in a sizable number and could be able to safeguard their rights. The meeting was organized by the First Women Bank.
Ms. Bakhtiar observed that the bank was playing an important role in promoting the cause of a better role for women entrepreneurs in business and trade activities and also making women economically empowered in the process. She revealed that keeping in view the bank’s performance, the government was considering increasing its share-holding in the bank’s equity.
Referring to the laws believed to be discriminatory against women, she said such laws could be reviewed. More special complaint centres for women could also be established, she said, but a real change in their lives could come only when their economic and political empowerment was effected.
When a woman starts supplementing her family income, her say in decision-making at home gains weight which increases her self-confidence. As such, she said, woman could play an important role in the development of the entire society.
Earlier, chief of the First Women Bank Ms. Zarine Aziz, giving a brief resume of the banks’ performance, said that it had been maintaining the highest loan recovery rate of 95 per cent at present.
She was of the view that a country could not progress if half of its population was kept out of the mainstream economic activity. She pointed out that the United States had a budged spending of more than $1.3 trillion for women development.
There are over 6.2 million women-owned private firms accounting for around 28 per cent of total private firms and employing more than nine million people to generate around $1.15 trillion in sales. However, the US does not have a financial institution extending credit exclusively to women.
She said like Grameen Bank of Bangladesh which was helping landless peasants, the First Women Bank was working for the uplift of women. Besides providing loan facility, she said, the bank was imparting education and training to women in different trades so that they could develop skills in marketing, accounting etc., and handle tax matters.
Giving a brief history of the FWB, she said that in 1996, the bank had suffered a heavy loss of Rs319 million. Eventually, in 1997, it was decided that the bank be privatized. However, in 2001, the government reversed the decision and over the next four years, the bank regained its growth which emerged phenomenal.
The bank’s investment and lending to financial institutions has now increased from Rs2.5 billion to Rs7.5 billion; net equity has increased from Rs110 million to Rs629 million; net profit before tax has gone up from Rs26 million to Rs270 million; net asset value per share has risen from Rs5.50 to Rs31.5; and the per share earning has increased from Rs2.07 to Rs8.03.
The bank has also announced 20 per cent bonus shares which will increase its paid-up capital from Rs200 million to Rs240 million. The speeches were followed by an interaction session involving women entrepreneurs, representatives of NGOs and other people.