SheMeansBusiness: Empowering Pakistani Women for Greater Societal Roles

For a nation to reach its full potential and achieve substantial growth, it must engage every citizen in the process of nation-building; regardless of their gender or socio-economic standing. Women constitute half the population of Pakistan and their marginalization can cost the country dearly. That is why; there has been a significant shift in gender dynamics as women give up traditional roles to reclaim their position as active contributors to the development of the country.

Fortunately, newer opportunities and avenues are opening up for women and youth in general to realize their full potential. Digital technology is one avenue that enables opportunities for women to unlock their economic potential. Global tech giant, Facebook through its flagship SheMeansBusiness program has been empowering female entrepreneurs around the world by helping them leverage the Facebook family of apps to grow their business. Facebook’s SheMeansBusiness program is catalyzing women development in Pakistan as well.

Pakistan offers great potential for digital entrepreneurship owing to its huge youth population and growing tech industry. About 73% of the population in Pakistan uses mobile phones but only 25% of households have access to the internet. Online connectivity is starkly skewed in terms of gender but the high gender access gap presents an opportunity for Facebook to drive connectivity and digital literacy for youth, women and businesses. The social media giant has been actively working in the country to prepare women to enhance their role by getting digital skills and exploiting opportunities for growth.

Last year, Facebook collaborated with Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA), Punjab through the SheMeansBusiness program to upskill established and aspiring women entrepreneurs. TEVTA is a public sector organization that works to enhance global competitiveness in Punjab by preparing a high quality and productive workforce through technical education and vocational training. The two partnering institutions piloted a series of trainings to support aspiring women entrepreneurs and vocational students by using online tools and equipping them with SheMeansBusiness modules.

TEVTA is a proud partner of Facebook in supporting skilled female entrepreneurs in their journey of financial independence. We consider the SheMeansBusiness training program as the best opportunity for connecting females with economic opportunities & leading them towards self-direction and empowerment. Despite many efforts to accelerate economic inclusion in southern Punjab, skilled females often have fewer opportunities to generate income & financial futures due to social norms and local taboos. This course connected these skilled females of a remote area with potential buyers through Facebook. From social norms and beliefs that hold females back, this course proved crucial in finding ways to support women micro-entrepreneurs tending more towards financial security and decision-making. –Ali Salman Siddique, Chairperson TEVTA Punjab

TEVTA Punjab engaged female students from across Punjab in the training program. Delivered by lead trainers from Facebook, the program trained participants in Online Marketing, Creating Business Pages and Effective Content, Using Whatsapp for Business and more. Apart from digital upskilling, the program aimed to provide students with basic tips to start and grow their businesses and to apply critical thinking, as well as empathy when navigating the online world.

“SheMeansBusiness Program by Facebook at TEVTA has enabled me to build a better life for me & my family. The course became imperative to empower girls like me and bring out unrealized talent & ambition to make economic growth despite all odds.

Being living in a remote southern belt of the Punjab province having low work opportunities for women, this course enabled me to open The first Female Fashion Boutique in Rahim Yar Khan for Custom Made dresses, named Sherry’s Stitching, with aim to facilitate female customers and render them at ease to be measured for their orders. This course not only boosted my confidence but also enabled my digitally focused economic participation for the betterment of my family. I have become an inspiration for every girl in my community. For that I am thankful to TEVTA & Facebook’s SheMeansBusiness for making inclusive & robust growth opportunities for females & their families through its institutes”  — Sher Bano, Sherry’s Stitching

Speaking with regards to the SheMeansBusiness and TEVTA partnership, Sehar Tariq, Public Policy Manager – Facebook said, ‘Education comes in many different forms, one of which is vocational and technical education also. We are delighted to be working with TEVTA Punjab through our program SheMeansBusiness, for the growth of women’s skills. Incorporating women into the fold of the digital economy will help benefit the country on a larger scale. SheMeansBusiness has worked tirelessly to provide a platform for the shift of women towards an earning sector of the economy. With our partnership with TEVTA, we are honored to be providing women an opportunity to enhance their skill set to be able to earn a living without dependencies. We hope to continue our contribution in enhancing the skill levels of Pakistan at the grassroots level.’

Under the Facebook and TEVTA arrangement, 33 digital skills training events have been organized since June 2020 and more than 2000 women have been trained. The participants came from all 36 districts of Punjab but nearly 90% came from rural regions of the province underlining the commitment to support inclusive economic recovery. Initially supposed to be face-to-face, the program was shifted to virtual space owing to the surge in the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

The training program will enable and up-skill women entrepreneurs to leverage digital skills to start or  grow their businesses, which not only improves their socio-economic conditions but will go on to create remarkable value for society. These entrepreneurs will create job opportunities for other people besides contributing directly to the national economy through taxes.

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