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Saturday May 18, 2024

Groundbreaking initiative launched for nurturing women-owned businesses

By Riffatullah
March 07, 2024
A participant speaks during a event organized by USAID, UNDP, and SRSP on March 6, 2024. — UNDP Pakistan/Shahzad Ahmad
A participant speaks during a event organized by USAID, UNDP, and SRSP on March 6, 2024. — UNDP Pakistan/Shahzad Ahmad

PESHAWAR: The United States government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) on Wednesday unveiled an initiative aimed at nurturing women-owned businesses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the merged areas.

This transformative programme is set to offer interest-free microfinance loans coupled with comprehensive business management training to 2,000 women entrepreneurs. Designed to cultivate a vibrant ecosystem, the initiative is dedicated to enhancing financial literacy, business acumen, and networking opportunities for women, thereby fueling the resurgence of local economies in the flood-stricken districts of Nowshera and Swat.

“The launch of the microfinance initiative for women-led businesses in flood-affected districts is a testament to our collective commitment to advancing economic growth and building a brighter future for Pakistan,” said Shante Moore, Consul General at the United States Consulate General in Peshawar, in a virtual address.

“This initiative is not just a reflection of our partnership but also a step forward in our shared journey towards empowerment and equality,” he added. The initiative builds on the success of the USAID-funded FATA Economic Revitalisation Programme (FERP), which has assisted women-led businesses through business management training and grants.

The FERP has been instrumental in broadening access to finance for micro small and medium-sized enterprises, and in creating avenues for better employment through financial assistance, workforce development, and business support packages.

The programme has also played a crucial role in assisting the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in formulating gender-responsive investment promotion strategies, enhancing SMEs’ access to credit, and fortifying government service delivery through capacity-building in monitoring and evaluation.

“UNDP Pakistan is committed to addressing systemic barriers to women’s empowerment by advocating for gender-responsive policies, promoting women’s leadership across all spheres, and ensuring their voices are integral in decision-making processes,” emphasized Mustafa Mahmood, Assistant Resident Representative and Unit Head, Crisis Prevention and Inclusion, UNDP Pakistan. “True progress for any nation lies in empowering women to dream without boundaries and fully achieve their aspirations. This initiative to support women-led businesses marks a significant step in that direction,” he explained.

Masood Ul Mulk, Chief Executive Officer, SRSP said: “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s cultural norms and logistical challenges pose significant obstacles to financial inclusion, particularly for women. To address this urgent need, the SRSP has introduced an innovative solution: a locally developed village banking model.”

“This model empowers thousands of women across the province, showcasing the transformative potential of tailored approaches in overcoming complex challenges,” he added.Masood Ul Mulk said this initiative not only underscores the collaborative efforts of international and local partners towards economic revitalisation but also highlights the critical role of women’s entrepreneurship in driving sustainable development and social change.