By Anzal Amin
ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday said Pakistan direly needed financial inclusion of women to turn fifty percent of its population into a productive workforce.
He said helping women promote their business startups through information technology was the fastest route toward their empowerment. Addressing an event BizNet 2023 themed ‘Celebrating Diversity, Inclusion and Pakistan Startups’, he said financial empowerment of women and other under-represented groups such as differently-abled persons was crucial for the progress of the country.
President Alvi emphasized gender parity at the level of organizations and companies and urged them to ensure their representation in mainstream and leadership roles.
In the digital age, he said, technology could increase the productivity and efficiency of a business. Inclusion of women in IT-related startups could also help them earn a livelihood from their homes, he added. He stressed that women needed to be encouraged to become bank account holders in order to keep authority over their finances.
He pointed out that despite the rights enunciated by Islam for women, the culture and harassment were the two main impediments to their emancipation.
He highlighted that it was important for society to adopt a positive approach toward women by creating opportunities and ensuring a harassment-free culture for them.
The president expressed concern that fifty percent of the women graduates of medical colleges quit pursuing their careers after wedlock, which was a big loss of a talented workforce. He proposed counseling parents, husbands, and women doctors to help them encourage in utilizing their professional capabilities. He mentioned that both religion and the country’s law supported women’s right to inheritance, however, ills in the society hindered this in a majority of cases. The president regretted that the business loans for women offered by the State Bank of Pakistan were not even utilized by five percent of them.
In this regard, he said, the responsibility lied on women parliamentarians and other prominent women to effectively communicate the message to ensure gender equity.
He mentioned that the Special technology Zones Authority could also play a role in advancing the role of women in diverse fields of economy.
Birgit Lamm, Country head of Germany’s Friedrich Naumann Foundation said her organization was committed to promoting entrepreneurship among the masses including women to help them engage in business activity in a dignified manner.
Iftikhar Hussain, CEO of Transforming Hub and Founder of Women Business Network said Biznet aims to bring the legacy of big business, financial institutions, policymakers, and successful startups under one roof to initiate a much-needed collaboration for the rapid growth of economy.
Faryal Sadiq, Chief Sustainability Officer of Interloop startup spoke about extending technical support to women to ensure equity and diversity in businesses.