Facilitation of Women Entrepreneurs urged by CIPE & FPCCI

Women National Business Agenda aims to introduce Economic Policy Reforms

Women comprise a majority population of Pakistan and can help foster sustainable economic growth of a country. There exists a dire need to facilitate small and medium enterprises run by women through skill development, capacity building and easy access to cheaper financial resources to facilitate business women enhance their outreach to regional and international markets.

The public-private consultation on the development of ‘Women National Business Agenda ‘ was organised by the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and USAID Pakistan Regional Economic Integration Activity (PREIA) in collaboration with the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).

The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) is an initiative which works to strengthen democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reforms. CIPE has worked with a wide range of chambers of commerce and business associations, think tanks, academic institutions, and others to carry out its programs.

CIPE has seen significant achievements through its work in Pakistan, including in reforming chambers of commerce and business association, building the capacity of women’s chambers, improving the quality of economic journalism, and encouraging better corporate governance in privately-owned firms.

The aim behind this women-specific agenda was to give them a voice which serves as ‘a first step towards their participation in the economic policy advocacy process’. Women National Business Agenda (WNBA) is a vital tool for the women entrepreneurs to encourage investment, stimulate business activity and economic growth.

The key objective of developing the agenda is to mobilize the women for using their skills to contribute in public policy reforms. This is achieved through defining legislative and regulatory priorities and clearly communicating them to policymakers. WNBA also offers concrete recommendations and reforms to remove these barriers and improve the trade ecosystem for business women.

While addressing the occasion, FPCCI Vice-President Mosooma Sibtain highlighted the need for encouraging and empowering business women. “Women entrepreneurs face a number of challenges which hamper their growth and survival. These include limitations pertaining to access to finance, networking opportunities, relevant business and marketing trainings and lack of an enabling environment,” she observed.

She was of the view that WNBA Project would help address all these issues since it was a collective voice to be shared as a document so that it could be added in the women related reforms.  She mentioned that eight consultative meetings were planned under this project and in the first phase, three meetings were held with Women Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Karachi, Islamabad, and KPK.

CIPE Country Head Hammad Siddique highlighted the salient features of the project and said collective efforts of FPCCI and CIPE would lead to collective voice and it would help filter the valid and fruitful points, then an effective policy could be formulated. He said that WNBA was an initiative of FPCCI, whereas, CIPE Pakistan is facilitating the process as a technical partner to enhance women participation in businesses. Upon finalization of the WNBA document, FPCCI would advocate for inclusion of women-focused economic reforms in political parties manifestos.

The consultative meeting forwarded its recommendations to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) which included allocation of 25 percent quota for women exporters to ensure their participation in TDAP-sponsored trade delegations/exhibitions, establishing of platforms for knowledge sharing, and increasing formal exports by women entrepreneurs in online business.

It was also suggested that the SME policy document be revised with a gender angle and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority needs to build a stronger outreach network and take initiatives to encourage more women to participate in the economic system and prepare business guidelines for themselves.

One glaring problem identified was that the 24 districts with concentration of women-led businesses were excluded from the State Bank of Pakistan’s Credit Guarantee Scheme, with the current policy being too stringent and little support from the commercial banks.

Moreover, the State Bank of Pakistan was asked to improve coverage of the credit scheme and simplify the requirements for business women to become eligible for obtaining loans. On the occasion, a TDAP representative said they were launching the National Exporters Training Programme next month along with “She Trade” trainings for women. The program will not only ensure the capacity building of women entrepreneurs but also boost the exports of Pakistan by inclusion of women enterprises in the exports industry.

The Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) in collaboration with Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) conducted Women National Business Agenda (WNBA) consultative session with women chambers, think-tanks and public sector officials to highlight lack of women-focused economic reform related policies.

On this occasion, FPCCI Vice President Mrs. Masooma Sibatin stressed the need for establishing business conductive environment. “Pakistani women entrepreneurs are facing a number of challenges for setting up and running their businesses, the non-conducive business environment is one of the major reasons, hampering the process of new business establishments, survival, and growth of running businesses,” she added.

Masooma urged that women have to work for themselves in real sense instead of just debating on this topic and this meeting required recommendations from your side as representatives from different departments were present including TDAP (Trade Development Authority Pakistan), SMEDA (Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority), SECP (Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan), PCSW (Punjab Commission on the Status of Women), APWA (All Pakistan Women Association), PBIT (Punjab Board of Investment and Trade, and LCCI (Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry).

SAARC CCI Vice President Iftikhar Ali Malik appreciated the project and suggested that SMEDA should cultivate the benefits of the project and come forward for the positive reforms relating to women entrepreneurship. He said that concept of warehousing should be introduced for supporting women entrepreneurs as other countries were following it. He welcomed all the women for any type of assistance related to business and said that he had more than 3,000 women working in his Guard Group of industries, and being leader of business community, he would help all women entrepreneurs.

FPCCI Regional Chairman and Vice President Manzoor-ul-Haq Malik said that Masooma Sibtain had truly represented women business community from FPCCI platform and WNBA was proud of her efforts for women development. It was really needed to bring reforms in policies related to women entrepreneurship, he said and added that FPCCI always focused to facilitate and encourage women entrepreneur. He said the government should bring easy loan scheme for women entrepreneur.

CIPE Country Head Hammad Siddique highlighted the salient features of the project and said collective efforts of FPCCI and CIPE would lead to collective voice and it would help filter the valid and fruitful points, then an effective policy could be formulated.

He said that WNBA was an initiative of FPCCI, whereas, CIPE Pakistan was facilitating the process as a technical partner to enhance women participation in businesses. Upon finalization of the WNBA document, FPCCI would advocate for inclusion of the women-focused economic reforms in the political parties manifestos.

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About Leyla 15 Articles
The writer is Head of International Affairs Desk at Mélange Int’l Magazine & Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR).