Year Completed: 2009 -2014
In 2008, the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan 127th out of 130 rated countries on key gender issues and 117th on women’s participation in the workforce. These rankings reflect low female literacy and primary education enrollment rates, and indicate a society which limits women’s involvement in economic activity.
As a subcontractor to Deloitte Consulting, IBI is implementing efforts to increase women’s roles in the trade sector to address sensitive and difficult matters of access, opportunity, and capacity as part of the USAID-funded Pakistan Trade program. IBI assessed women’s export potential, supported designeding an enabling environment to create business and trade opportunities, and worked with USAID and other donor-funded initiatives to build the skills that enable women to take advantage of those opportunities.
The presently modest level of support in the Pakistani society for female participation in business creates a self-perception among women that they should not enter, or cannot succeed, in the business world. Therefore, the opening of Pakistan’s export sector to greater female participation will require shifts in perception and practice in society and its institutions. IBI is emphasizing building strong women-to-women business networks and enhancing the roles of women in male-owned trading firms. This assistance will provide the opportunity for women to learn the skills and build the confidence that may one day lead to the creation of their own enterprises.
In the first year of this project, IBI completed a study to highlight and rank factors that enable or inhibit Pakistan women entrepreneurs’ responses to export opportunities. IBI experts interviewed 52 women exporters from the main commercial centers, held workshops with women exporters located in provinces, and published the findings and recommendations in a report entitled “Responding to Export Opportunities: Suggestions for Enhancing the Ability of Women in Pakistan to Tap International Markets Effectively.”
A key recommendation was to train women on the processes for formalizing their businesses. Subsequently, IBI trained over 250 women from across Pakistan on business registration processes and benefits of engaging in formal export channels. The trainings covered topics including procedural requirements for participating in formal export channels, document preparation, record keeping, and establishing and sustaining business linkages. Post-training evaluations showed an average increase in knowledge of 45%. The entrepreneurs who received training are now maintaining proper records of their expenditures and sales to calculate profits. This enables them to make more informed decisions regarding their business sustainability. Many who were exporting through informal channels prior to the training are now considering using formal export channels in their business and establishing linkages with international buyers.