Pakistan is a male dominated country and there are not many schemes laid down by the Government to raise the status of women. Women are backward in Pakistan economically, socially and politically. Women literacy rate is not very high and they prefer staying at home and doing household activities than going out and taking part in income raising activities. They do not even get proper support from their families and from the Government. The women residing in the rural Pakistan work in fields, take care of the animals, do household activities and work in all possible ways to satisfy the traditional gender role of being a homemaker in the society. However, a small percentage of women in the urban Pakistan work towards contributing in the economy of the country. They work as either unskilled labour or skilled labour (stitching, sewing, embroidery, salons, etc). Some of the women who are educated work as officers, doctors, engineers, bankers or nurses. There are very few women entrepreneurs in Pakistan and they set up their business in the sectors like handicrafts, retail, salons, stitching and sewing industry or food industry. Researches have been conducted as to why women are still backward in Pakistan and why they are not confident enough to establish themselves as entrepreneurs. Researchers have found out the following problems faced by the women in Pakistan:

  • Women in Pakistan rely more on personal savings and funds from family and friends as a primary source of financing. As a result, their access to finances is less.
  • Cost of leasing in Pakistan is quite high.
  • Most of the women driven firms are unregistered which makes it impossible for them to access institutional finance.
  • Bank officials of small cities are not very friendly and cooperative.
  • The women cannot export their products, as they are not very adept to avail the facility of export financing but many of the women entrepreneurs are indirect exporters.
  • Banks have cumbersome document procedures and they delay in loan process.

Schemes and initiatives to encourage women entrepreneurship in Pakistan

Government initiative
Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sheriff, the Prime Minister of Pakistan have decided to provide small business loans to all young men/women in order to encourage them to expand their business. The criteria of providing this loan are as follows:

  • Age should not be more than 35 years and the person should have entrepreneurial potential.
  • 50% of the loan will go to women borrowers, women will get preference.
  • Debt-equity ratio is 90:10 with tenure of up to 7 years.
  • Pricing of 8% is fixed for borrowers but Government will pay the difference of the cost.

Women entrepreneurship Development (WED) Programme
This programme focuses on empowering women entrepreneurs who are residing in developing countries and provide them with financial and technical assistance, which is required for starting and growing their businesses. This programme came into being in mid 2000. The programme delivers financial, non-financial, public, private, associative and freelance services to the service providers who then assist the women entrepreneurs with these services. The programme aims to build the capacity of these service providers so that they can support the women entrepreneurs in a better way. The programme also works towards providing a more encouraging and conducive environment for WED by assessing the situation, and helping the Government and policy makers to come up with policies and scheme, which will eradicate gender biases those women entrepreneurs, may face in male-dominated society. The programme aims to create a society free from gender biases.

Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The vice President of WCCI Shamama Arbab said that the banks should begin financial literacy programmes to educate the women entrepreneurs regarding business procedures and financial management. She also said that a fixed quota of 25 to 30% of commercial loan to be given to women. According to WCCI, awareness and training session will be organised for women with the support of public and private sectors and women entrepreneurs should be included in relevant boards so that they get exposure of Government programmes and opportunities. The vice President decided to set up entrepreneurship development centres across the province to educate women about basics and dynamics of business and the process involved in setting up a business.