“Empowering Women to Improve their Social Status” is an ongoing Project by Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA) sponsored by The Asia Foundation (TAF). This eight months project is designed to give participants skills that will enable them to become Artisans. It also provides business development training in order that they can establish and plan businesses and become entrepreneurs. As part of this endeavor, a networking meeting was organized to build linkages between the Artisans and Islamabad Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI). The event was also attended by successful business women who are members of the Chamber to share how they started their business and what did they learn on their path to being successful business women. “Women must be encouraged to start their own businesses and be supported in order to succeed. The Chamber of Commerce is a key institution in this important process” – Sameena Nazir, Executive Director, PODA.
The Networking Meeting was organized by PODA and hosted by the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), Islamabad. PODA brought 53 women from three different locations including village Hassal Sharif and Mohalla Nasserabad in district Rawalpindi and village Shahpur, Barkahu, Islamabad where the current artisans training project is taking place. The project participants shared their experience of learning new ways of working as artisans. Ms.Sajida Bibi from village Shahpur center shared that she is a widow with three children but she has started learning about her social, economic and legal rights as well as craft skills and finds it very empowering. Ms. Saima from village Hassal Sharif center shared that she is coming to the training center from a nearby village and is motivated to learn skills and develop her own businesses even though she has many other responsibilities especially for children she also said that she was amazed that rubbish things can be recycled and paper and plastic can be utilized in such a way that new saleable products. Ms.Nazia Joseph from Mohalla Naseerabad center shared that girls in her community are not encouraged to go outside the home to earn money but now they have started to learn the handicraft skills and her family is also supporting her efforts because the center is near their home and in the community.
Mrs. Samina Fazil, Founder President, IWCCI welcomed all the women and explained to the meeting how the Women’s Chamber of Commerce was set up and what its goals are. She explained the benefits of membership for women who want to be entrepreneurs. She also advised participants that they should focus on developing at least one very proficient skill. They should also work together, trust each other but also ensure that partnership contracts are clear and in written form. She urged women to join the Chamber of Commerce so that together we can made a difference to the profile and success of women in business.
In the second part of the discussion, successful business woman members of the Chamber shared their experiences with the participants. Ms.Mumtaz who runs traditional handicraft businesssaid that she had faced a lot of criticism from her family but she struggled for her own success and now runs a successful business selling traditional handicrafts. Ms.Rizwana, Ms.Fauzia Naheed, Ms.Ambreen Fatima and Ms.Afshan Attiq also shared their stories of starting a business on their own and the kind of help and support they got from the women chamber.