Pakistan: Creating agents of change in Pakistan

A larger part of the work that the Financing Sustainable Development (FSD) component of the Support to Local Governance Programme (LoGo) has been focused on during the last few months has been on aligning the businesses of women entrepreneurs in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
FSD team approached to women enterprises in Punjab and KP through civil society organizations such as Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries Peshawar (WCCIP) and Chamber of Commerce and Industries Rawalpindi (RCCI). Such Chambers are mostly headed by males, who run standing committees for women enterprises. Similarly the women enterprise associations in Pakistan are also being controlled by the males. Whilst there was a greater understanding of the SDGs concept, women led enterprises that FSD worked with lacked the vision for aligning their businesses and understanding how they were contributing to the overall Agenda 2030.
Due to the lack in awareness, these enterprise owners were not exposed to all the national and international opportunities that arise from alignment with the SDGs. Global competitions, innovation challenges, grant and equity funding opportunities with a chance to scale up their businesses are just some of the opportunities that these enterprises were missing out on because of them not having a sound narrative to align their work with the SDGs.
The major challenge FSD team encountered during interaction with the Chambers was that the females were not well conversant to the SDGs subject and they were unable to link the goals to their respective businesses. It was also a very difficult task to enable the chambers that how they will convince the women enterprises to align their businesses with SDGs. For this FSD team organized awareness sessions and panel discussions including the government departments/authorities (Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority), ministries (Finance, Climate Change), government representatives (members of national and provincial assemblies), foundations, banks, and social entrepreneurs (e.g. Association for Behaviour and Knowledge Transformation headed by Shad Begum).
Apart from awareness session, two highlight interactions with the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries in Peshawar and Rawalpindi were conducted, which enabled over 80 enterprise owners directly and more than 700 women led enterprises indirectly, in aligning their businesses on the SDGs. Our push factors with these engagements deliberated on focusing philanthropic efforts into social entrepreneurship ventures and our pull factors focused on recognition of the existing efforts being done by these women to contribute towards the SDGs. The interactions aimed at understanding the types and forms of investment that the women led enterprises are working on and how they are contributing towards the Agenda 2030 with focus on gender equality (SDG 5), decent work (better employment) and economic growth (SDG 8), Industry Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9) for reduced inequalities (SDG 10) and building partnership for peaceful society (SDG 17). This understanding comes as one of key deliverables of the FSD framework. The key success factors which helped in achievement of the objective were cooperation between FSD team and chambers of commerce and a joint commitment of both to the objective of enabling women enterprises to adapt and adopt SDGs, networking with successful social entrepreneurs to strengthen relationship potential, trust building with the members of chamber to support their businesses in aligning with SDGs and learning on business inclination towards SDGs at the level of chambers as well as individual enterprises.
The mapping exercise of the businesses was an area which needed more support of the FSD. Post the initial awareness sessions, the pilot session with the Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry Peshawar on incentivization saw that the enterprises present their submissions that are tailored to analyze the impact that their enterprise has had on society. The impact, at a very basic level was on, job creation, providing better education facilities for children, employing more/only women in the workforce, improving pay structures for the existing workforce, focusing on eco-friendly products to name a few. The submission criteria allowed for the enterprises to think along the same lines so that they are able to reflect on the various dimensions of impact. FSD’s interaction also saw that we build a narrative in which women business owners look beyond the philanthropic model and focus more on a social entrepreneurship model that is profitable, scalable and yet have a wider impact on society.
From products to services sector, a vast majority of the women led enterprises were focused on quality education, decent work and economic growth, gender equality and efforts for zero hunger.
It is notable here to consider some women enterprise owners who were also recognized for their efforts. Aasiya, a social entrepreneur and running an esthetic clinic in Peshawar for the last ten years, not only provides trainings but also employees only females as her employees to better the livelihood of those working for her. “My main aim is to empower women both financially and socially by providing them enterprise training to set up their own ventures”, says Aasiya. Aasiya works with well-
known organizations across KP to help facilitate education of young girls so that they get quality education. Her contributions focus on gender equality as a focus area which is Goal 5 for the SDGs.
Shaheen Saifullah another awardee at the conference has a 30 years old journey running Rahat Ghar renamed Umeed-i-Noor to facilitate children with all kinds of mental and physical retardation. With a background of hearing impairment in her immediate family she worked untiringly to help keep a steady flow of finances to the Centre for Speech and Hearing, Mardan, an educational institute for the deserving deaf children of Mardan. For Umeed-i-Noor she is mainly helped by the local philanthropists and relatives. “I would now like to explore funding opportunities from various donors and scale beyond Mardan as well. This mapping has given me a direction and a starting point,” mentioned Shaheen. Today her center is providing special education and speech therapy to over 200 children almost free and she is aiming at scaling it further. Her venture thus focuses on good health and wellbeing.
These and many more examples from our sessions addressed how the micro enterprises will look at measuring benefits from their development related activities and focus on scalability.