Last week, women entrepreneurs representing various regions of Pakistan gathered in Washington, D.C. to participate in an intensive three-day business mentorship program under the Propelling Women's Entrepreneurship in Pakistan (PWEP) program, a new initiative that has grown as a result of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Gender Working Group. Working in collaboration with Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Women Initiative, the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and the Organization for Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America (OPEN), the Office of Global Women's Issues launched PWEP with a program matching a delegation of nine Pakistani female entrepreneurs with successful business executives who will serve as professional mentors. PWEP participants seek to collectively champion women's economic empowerment by providing mentoring opportunities, leveraging social entrepreneurship, and facilitating access to existing networks for women entrepreneurs in the areas of business and management in Pakistan.
In support of the overall aim to build support for and expand women's entrepreneurship in Pakistan, the mentors will guide the Pakistani entrepreneurs on everything from fine tuning their business skills to developing more effective marketing strategies. The mentorship program covered key topics, such as leveraging your business and advocacy through technology; access to local and international markets; increasing access to finance; and business plan development with industry experts. The Pakistani participants are emerging women leaders who have played an influential role in their communities and have the potential to serve as multipliers upon returning to their home country. This conference will help to provide them the practical skills to be even more effective and versatile.
I had the honor of spending time with these remarkable women throughout the week. I found it so energizing and inspiring to be among this dynamic and talented group of women who are determined to turn their businesses into successful and sustainable models and pave the way for other Pakistani women to realize their own economic potential. They are a testament to the various ways women are making their mark in the economic life of their societies and how women often take a different approach to doing business. The Pakistani entrepreneurs represent a diverse range of creative and innovative businesses, from the production side of international fashion, garment manufacturing, textiles, and herbal care and agri-products, to more service-oriented and technical specializations such as web-based virtual assistance, management consulting and organizational development, to the field of contracting and interior design. Some of them have small home businesses, but are seeking to expand and scale up their enterprises -- and even enter the international market. They all share a commitment to empowering women, and some are particularly focused on employing underprivileged women, including the marginalized in rural Pakistan.
There is a distinct need for training in capacity building for Pakistani women who are running small or medium size businesses. We know that small and medium enterprises run by women are effective accelerators of economic growth. Women entrepreneurs often confront many barriers including lack of access to training, mentors, finance, technology and more. The PWEP initiative is an important step in addressing this need, by not only providing the participants with guidance and on-going support through mentors but also by offering them a unique platform to strengthen their efforts and leverage their roles as entrepreneurs when they return to Pakistan.