Pakistan: Women’s Access to Business Success not Without End of Bias

Jan 2018
Pakistan, January, 14 2018 - Ironically all the country’s successful entrepreneurs, who started modestly and then progressed to medium and even large-scale enterprises, happen to be men for reasons that are too obvious and clichéd to reiterate.

Sadly, none of the small businesswomen, especially after availing microfinance, has ever been able to scale her venture up to the level of her male counterparts anywhere from Sialkot to Karachi.

Why only men achieve that kind of celebrated success in business?

Why women, despite having same talents, skills, and determination, lag far behind in the same trade?

Gender bias may be one of the reasons but there are other roadblocks as well that deny women access to success. The double-standards of our hypocrite society bless men with the right to move freely, while at the same time they throttle women’s ability to go out to procure, market, or even pursue a loan.

Even for those women, who dare to be outgoing, things are far from easy as studies have shown female entrepreneurs having no assets of their own lack access to finance, markets, training/skills, networks --dealing with bureaucracy.

Sialkot and Gujranwala have produced a number of male entrepreneurs, who started their business at micro level and have advanced to higher. More than 15 percent of our exports are in the hands of thousands of those entrepreneurs, who upgraded themselves with every passing year.

However, it is hard or even next to impossible to find a former small businesswoman, who became some sort of a tycoon in her trade over a period of time. There are some exceptions that are deceptive and do not show the real as well as the big picture.

There are women from affluent class, who started small and were encouraged by their rich families to expand. It shows that in the presence of facilitation women of this country have the potential to move up.  Women simply need the same treatment from the society that is available to the men.

There are institutions that are meant to guide women entrepreneurs to move up and remove the hurdles they face in running their enterprises smoothly. But these institutions cannot serve all the women, who make up the 50 percent of the population.

Moreover, these institutions serve in big cities or at the peripheries of these cities. Their penetration among deserving women is too low. Gender experts point out the only way to induct the women in economic mainstream is to change the attitude of the society.

Microfinance is the only major source of funding available to the women in Pakistan. Globally microfinance has done wonders for the women.

Bangladesh stands out as the country that lifted its population out of poverty through microfinance offered almost exclusively to women. Over 90 percent recipients of microfinance worth billions of dollars in Bangladesh went to women.

In Pakistan the major recipients of microfinance are men and hardly 20 percent women are served by small financing institutions or non-government organisations.

Microfinance institutions in Pakistan usually do not try to know “what became of their clients’ ventures” as long as they are getting their repayment installments in time.

Microfinance provided to the majority of recipients ranges from Rs25000 to Rs35000.

A startup that establishes a business from this amount is expected to return the loan in one year along with interest that carries a markup almost twice as much as that of a normal bank. Many recipient of this loan do service it but seldom borrow further due to organisational design and policy in a particular product design.

Many borrowers consider the loan size to be inadequate and payment time unfavorable. Some borrowers drop out because of unexpected events.  There are few microfinance borrowers that upgrade themselves and start living off of their retained earnings or turn to commercial banks for bigger loans.

Unfortunately, the most successful of the borrowers are men as they are more acceptable to the commercial banks and the society at large. Moreover their mobility is not chained like most of the women of this struggling country.


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