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LAHORE: International Trade Center’s ITC-FCDO Programme, Revenue Mobilization for Investment and Trade (ReMIT) has offered collaboration with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) to develop a separate SME policy for women entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

In this regard a 4-member technical team of ReMIT visited SMEDA today in the leadership of Hamid Ateeque Sarwar to discuss the scope of collaboration.

The meeting held on this occasion was also attended by Asim Javaid Hashmi, Managing Director Punjab Small Industries Corporation (PSIC), Dr Shehla Javaid Akram, Founder President Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry along with a number of other stakeholders. SMEDA team, on this occasion was headed by Socrat Aman Rana, General Manager Central Support.

The meeting observed, while male labour force participation hovers at 67.9%, the figure for women is a dismal 21.4%. Of these, merely 19% are self-employed or own-account workers and an almost negligible 0.1% are employers. With approximately 3.22 million women entrepreneurs in the country, the Women Entrepreneurship Ratio is alarmingly low.

ReMIT team was informed on this occasion that SMEDA, with the support and guidance of the Ministry of Industries and Production (MoIP) had developed a National SME Policy 2021 along with its action plan that provides a comprehensive roadmap for the development and promotion of SMEs across Pakistan.

Recognizing the pivotal role of women in economic activities, the SME Policy features a dedicated section on women entrepreneurship development, and in line with the National SME Policy 2021, MoIP had constituted and notified a Consultative Group on Supporting Women-owned SMEs.

The stakeholders were glad to know that the Government of Pakistan is in negotiation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for signing a 5-year programme/policy loan agreement for a Women Inclusive Finance (WIF) Sector Development programme, in which SMEDA has been included as one of the key institutional implementation partners, among other agencies.

SMEDA GM Policy and Planning Ms Nadia Jahangir Seth informed that SMEDA with technical assistance of the ADB had conducted a Diagnostic Study on Key Barriers to Women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan that was presented to the Consultative Group on Supporting Women-owned SMEs during its 1st meeting held on 1st March 2023 and endorsed by MoIP.

Given the national importance of this exercise, SMEDA has been exploring partnership opportunities for the development of the WE Policy including Asian Development Bank (ADB), UN Women, ITC-FCDO programme “Revenue Mobilization for Investment and Trade (ReMIT) and other development partners.

Recently ReMIT has indicated their support through extending technical assistance to SMEDA for developing the Women Entrepreneurship Policy.

The discussion among experts of ReMIT and SMEDA concluded to develop a joint action plan for managing a country-wide consultation to lay down compressive women oriented SME Policy along with a road map to ensure its implementation in letter and spirit.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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