Q. With passing years, we see a lot of women entering the market, either by running businesses from their homes or by joining the workforce. Does SheMeansBusiness distinguish between the two? Meaning can anyone take part in the training or is it specifically for women who are running their businesses?
A. SheMeansBusiness programme is designed for women-owned and women-led micro and small businesses, startups, and even aspiring entrepreneurs. The training is tailored to different audiences and are meant to help women entrepreneurs learn digital skills to be able to enhance the sustainability and resiliency of their businesses. For other people keen to learn digital skills, we have other programmes in the deck.
Q. Over the years SheMeansBusiness has been in Pakistan, how many women have been trained?
A. SheMeansBusiness came to Pakistan in 2018. During these years, we have reached more than 22,000 women in 51 cities across the country with training and training resources. I would say our primary focus remained on rural areas as one-third of the Pakistani SheMeansBusiness community came from rural areas. We are proud to say that almost all participants of the programme found it helpful and relevant to the growth of their businesses.
I believe we were the most helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic when businesses were the worst hit and struggled for survival. In 2021, we launched ‘The Business Resiliency Training’ through Financial Education (BRFE) programme in collaboration with the State Bank of Pakistan to help the entrepreneurs cope with the impacts of the pandemic by taking effective financial decisions.
We helped them diversify their clientele and use Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Messenger effectively for advertising their products and services and finding new clients and business partners to grow their businesses.
Q. What partners do you have on-board for this initiative in Pakistan, what sort of support do they provide?
A. In Pakistan, we have worked with USAID, TEVTA, State Bank of Pakistan, and the National Institute for Banking and Finance (NIBAF), the KP IT Board, World Bank, and Invest2Innovate so far; and intend to collaborate with more partners with shared vision and ambitions. These partners helped us reach out local communities all across Pakistan and provide women them with technical and financial education and training on the ground. Just as importantly, our amazing community of local trainers and women entrepreneurs provide living proof of the impact these trainings can have.
Q. What is the rate of success in the businesses, whose owners receive the training?
A. Our partners have reported that internal surveys showed that more than 96 percent of women entrepreneurs found SheMeansBusiness training to be impactful and relevant to the growth of their business. We are glad that the new knowledge and skills imparted to these talented and hardworking women not only helped them successfully navigate their businesses through daunting challenges posed by Covid and otherwise, but also prime them for sustainable growth and firm resiliency.
Q. What is the growth trajectory for this initiative? Will there be other courses added on to the ones already being taught?
A. Currently, the formats vary from half-day to up to three-day sessions depending on the needs of the participating women. We will continue to enhance the scope of the programme and are always looking for opportunities to scale and make resources available on-demand. We added a module on financial training as COVID disproportionately impacted women-owned and led businesses. Our partnership with NIBAF is helping us deliver financial education training to thousands more women and we’re particularly excited to find ways to make these resources easily accessible. In the same manner, we will be on the lookout for the evolving needs and challenges of female-owned and run businesses. We will continue to work with them in order to prepare them to face challenges and opportunities impacting their enterprises.
The writer is a staff member