When women succeed, Pakistan succeeds

December 04, 2023

Within the intricate tapestry of Pakistan’s socioeconomic context, the position and influence of women have always been characterized by inadequate representation and marginalisation. Nevertheless, a significant change has occurred in the country’s narrative in recent years.

In Pakistan, there is a notable trend of women liberating themselves from traditional and conservative norms, hence establishing a significant presence in the realms of entrepreneurial leadership and innovation. The seismic change being discussed not only represents a significant step forward regarding female equality but also has the potential to revitalize Pakistan’s economy and cultivate an environment conducive to societal advancement.

Women’s empowerment is a matter of moral or ethical responsibility and a crucial economic need. Approximately 50 per cent of Pakistan’s population comprises women, whose underutilized capabilities embody a substantial reserve of ability and ingenuity. In recent decades, a focused endeavour has been to promote gender equality for women in Pakistan, emphasising enhancing access to education and career prospects.

People work at their stations at an incubation centre in Lahore. — AFP/File

This ongoing initiative has started to yield positive outcomes, resulting in the emergence of a new cohort of female entrepreneurs and leaders who are driving significant changes in the socioeconomic fabric of the country. One notable aspect of this societal shift is seen in the widespread emergence of startups and enterprises managed by women around the nation.

The emergence of female entrepreneurs in Pakistan may be ascribed to a multitude of circumstances, with education assuming a crucial part in this phenomenon. Providing high-quality education equips women with the requisite knowledge and competencies to effectively traverse the intricate landscape of the business realm. With the acquisition of this newly acquired information, women have embarked upon a wide range of professional domains, including technological advancements, fashion, medical care, and agribusiness.

Sarah Ahmed, a youthful entrepreneur who established a technology firm in Lahore, shows an illustrative case of achievement. Her inventive methodology in addressing practical issues has garnered global recognition. The individual believes that women’s distinct viewpoints and experiences often result in unconventional and innovative solutions.

Sarah’s narrative serves as a representative example of women in Pakistan actively defying conventional societal standards and breaking through barriers that hinder their progress. The significance of women-led firms in terms of their economic contributions should not be overlooked. These enterprises provide job prospects, boost efficiency, and foster innovation.

According to research conducted by the World Bank, it has been estimated that achieving gender equality in economic participation between men and women in Pakistan may possibly result in a significant 30 per cent rise in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Moreover, it is worth noting that women entrepreneurs in Pakistan exhibit a distinct characteristic of not just pursuing financial gains but rather assuming the role of catalysts for societal transformation by actively engaging with and resolving pertinent social concerns. A significant number of businesses run by women are actively involved in social entrepreneurship, whereby they provide sustainable resolutions to various challenges, including but not limited to clean water, healthcare services, and educational opportunities. These individuals use their enterprises to effect concrete and beneficial transformations within their localities.

Despite the significant advancements, women entrepreneurs in Pakistan continue to encounter considerable obstacles. The development of women-run firms is hindered by persistent gender prejudice, restricted access to financial resources, and a dearth of mentoring opportunities. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that governmental entities and diverse groups are demonstrating a growing awareness of these difficulties and actively engaging in efforts to tackle them.

The creation of specialised facilities for women entrepreneurs, such as the Women Entrepreneurship Development Center (WEDC) located in Lahore, has facilitated a nurturing environment for women, enabling them to acquire training, mentoring, and financial resources. These activities are crucial measures in achieving gender equality in the corporate sector.

Technological improvements have significantly influenced the democratization of entrepreneurship in Pakistan. The advent of the digital era has presented novel prospects for women to develop and enhance their entrepreneurial endeavours.

The advent of e-commerce platforms, social media marketing, and online payment methods has enhanced accessibility for women entrepreneurs to connect with clients not just domestically inside Pakistan but also internationally beyond boundaries.

An illustrative instance may be seen in the case of Maryam Khan, a fashion designer hailing from Karachi, who effectively used social media platforms to expand the reach and influence of her business. Through the use of Instagram as a platform for display and collaboration with online marketplaces, she has effectively expanded the reach of her traditional Pakistani costume to a diverse and international audience. The narrative of Maryam serves as a testament to the profound impact that technology can have when wielded by ambitious female entrepreneurs.

Providing governmental assistance is crucial in fostering the development of women-managed firms. The Pakistani government has recently implemented many programs and policy changes to enhance women’s economic empowerment.

These measures include the implementation of reserved quotas for women in public procurement, the establishment of advantageous financing schemes, and the eradication of discriminatory practices. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is a noteworthy effort to provide financial aid to women facing economic hardships while facilitating their engagement in entrepreneurial endeavours on a smaller scale. These programmes provide economic assistance and enable women to achieve self-sufficiency.

Women’s empowerment in Pakistan requires more than just economic and legislative modifications; it also necessitates a transformation in cultural attitudes and norms. Challenging the preconceptions that confine women to home areas is a persistent endeavour. Together, the media, educational institutions, and community leaders assume a crucial function in reconfiguring societal perspectives and advancing gender equality.

Asma Khan, an advocate for women’s rights in Pakistan, underscores the need to alter cognitive frameworks. She thinks that genuine empowerment is derived from external assistance and women’s self-confidence and resolve and asserts that once a woman recognizes her inherent value and capabilities, there are no limits to what she may do.

The promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Pakistan extends beyond mere notions of fairness, including significant economic implications and serving as a driving force for entrepreneurial leadership and innovation.

The notable accomplishments of women entrepreneurs in Pakistan are reshaping the country’s economic terrain and generating beneficial effects that impact many individuals. Nevertheless, the pursuit of absolute gender equality remains incomplete, necessitating ongoing backing from governmental institutions, societal entities, and the global community.

Pakistan is now experiencing a notable transition characterized by the emergence of women as prominent figures and trailblazers in several domains.

By liberating themselves from the constraints of conventional practices and questioning deeply ingrained societal standards, individuals are actively shaping a more promising trajectory, not just for their own aspirations but also for the collective progress of the country.

Women’s empowerment in Pakistan is unquestionably a powerful catalyst for societal transformation, advancement, and economic growth.

Zoofishan Hayat has a PhD and works as a lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland. She can be reached at: z.sehgallive.com

Muhammad Ahmad is an immigration and human rights lawyer based in Birmingham (UK). He can be reached at: muhammad.aahmadoutlook.com