LAHORE: Called Khadija, after the name of the wife of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a business plan competition organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO) is expected to drive women towards entrepreneurship by empowering them as independent individuals.
During the contest, held in Lahore early November and aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among women by providing skill training, the ILO honoured female entrepreneurs who presented the most successful business plans, leading to what they term socio-economic empowerment of women.
“The name itself pointed to the excellent examples of independent women entrepreneurs we find in Islamic culture – in this case the wife of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) Hazrat Khadija,” said Farida Khan, National Project Coordinator for Promoting Gender Equality for Decent Employment (GE4DE), under which the programme is being conducted in Pakistan.
She said the aim was to recognise Hazrat Khadija in her own right and encourage women to follow her example.
Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, the GE4DE is a five-year project launched in July 2010 in an effort to improve gender mainstreaming by engaging government employees, ensuring skills development for empowerment leading to decent employment and also working with the media, especially to raise awareness.
The project has covered seven districts across the country including Thatta, Karachi, Lahore, Rahimyar Khan, Hub, Charsadda and Skardu, where 1,500 people were trained, of which 80% were women.
In a business development programme conducted under the project in Lahore and Rahimyar Khan, training was given to women, leading to 43 of them presenting their business plans. These women, Khan said, were trained under a programme ‘Know about Business’, which ran around the lines of a similar programme offered globally by the ILO.
“The programme was aimed at identifying women who wanted to be entrepreneurs,” she said.
Of the 43 business plans, 14 were shortlisted and presented to a panel of judges, comprising representatives from the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, College of Tourism and Hotel Management and Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) and other business experts.
In the three categories of hospitality, fashion design and textile and garments, winners were announced by the judges, in which business plans having the most potential to thrive economically were selected. Cash prizes and gifts were given to the entrepreneurs.
Discussing the expansion of the project, Khan expressed the hope they might go now to Sindh where similar training programmes were expected to be held in Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2012.