To effectively empower women socially and economically and reduce economic inequality, it is critical to encourage women in rural entrepreneurship. Rural women’s entrepreneurship is a relatively recent phenomenon in Pakistan, and policy efforts to encourage rural women’s interest in entrepreneurship need more work in well-targeted ways. The absence of or lack of awareness of entrepreneurial processes is having a significant impact on the enterprising capability of aspiring rural women entrepreneurs in the country. Furthermore, their lack of experience or expertise in formal enterprises’ management and marketing affairs further impacts their potential for business expansion and profitability.
Community World Service Asia (CWSA) has worked with rural women artisans on enhancing their skills, providing them exposure and promoted their craftsmanship in the national and regional market for more than a decade. CWSA has worked with over a thousand women artisans through its livelihoods programme, giving them a platform to enhance their embroidery and stitching skills and become economically empowered. We have particularly worked towards creating and establishing many market linkages for these artisans to expand their clientele and increase demand for their products. We believe that by establishing sustainable links and maintaining partnership models that are tangible in their deliverables and outcomes, we can provide a critical platform for changing rural women’s position from one of vulnerability to one of decision makers and successful change makers.
By creating or participating in a formal Chamber of Commerce, women entrepreneurs can avail more opportunities to prove their economic clout and convince the government and large corporations to pay attention to specific requirements of women in the workplace and in the enterprise sector. The establishment of an active association specifically focused on women will ensure mentoring, information sharing, simplification of processes and support to rural businesses through policy lobbying.
To develop a pertinent platform, an Association of Rural Women Entrepreneurs is in the process of being registered with the Women Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Pakistan, which will ensure representation of thirty rural artisans as members. CWSA’s team supported the women artisans to prepare and submit all required documents for the registration of the association, including SIM cards, national identification cards and complete profiles of each artisan. Shaiyanne Malik, CWSA’s consultant on women’s skill building and empowerment projects, is in close coordination with the Women Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Pakistan to process and complete the registration of the association successfully. The association will promote entrepreneurship of rural artisans and help rural women connect with business hubs and institutes that will further help them achieve social and economic empowerment.
The primary goal of this association is to give technical assistance and coaching to women who are starting businesses, as well as to promote initiatives from the Export Development Funds (EDF) that are specially targeted for women. It will provide women economic liberty as well as an effective voice to echo their issues, challenges and needs. The chamber will assist rural women in building and operating successful and secure businesses and careers, along with gaining access to government contracts and developing their leadership skills.
This association will be dedicated to changing the economics of business and labour markets, as well as removing impediments to long-term business and economic growth of women in rural regions. In the future, the association will look at funding and capacity-building options, along with promoting the work and products of these rural artisans on a global scale.