There is a very small base of women entrepreneurs in Pakistan, and an even smaller base of women entrepreneurs engaged in exports. Out of a total women population of 31 million above the age of 20 years, 8.9 million (28% of total women) are part of the country's labor force. Out of this estimate, only 0.012 million (0.13% of women labor force) are employers. Trade Project's research suggests that 'Procedural Barriers' or 'Lack of Policy Support' rank top in the barriers to women's participation in Pakistan's export sector. Most women felt that the time and effort spent in complying with bureaucratic procedures was "just not worth it". Many women failed to recognize the benefits foregone by deciding not to comply. For this purpose, USAID Trade Project through the Training Team developed a formal training course on "PROCESSES & BENEFITS OF FORMAL EXPORTS", and successfully trained 300 women entrepreneurs from across the country. These included potential exporters, entrepreneurs involved in informal exports, and exporters who wish to upscale their export business. The objective of this initiative was to encourage women to engage in exports using formal channels. The course was based on a comprehensive study of the step by step export procedures in Pakistan, roles of trade facilitation institutions, marketing techniques, and softer aspects of international trade.
The training team organized interactive trainings for staff members of main cities, Chamber of Commerce & Industry and other trade associations from their surrounding cities on "Effective Business Communication Skills for Data Collection". The objective of this training was to enhance the chambers capacity to collect accurate data from their members for the Exporter's Database as part of the Trade Portal. It was designed to help staff members improve their communication, negotiation and time management skills for effective and efficient data collection. The opening sessions of this training series took place at the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry between 21st October and 25th October 2010 respectively. Both sessions were well-received by all participants who said they had learnt to interact with their members other stakeholders to retrieve and update information.
Some national level Trade Promotion Organizations (TPOs) have shown interest in collaborating with the USAID Trade Project for the initiative of developing a robust trade portal. This training series is now expected to be rolled out across country for the staff of both chambers and TPOs .
This training course is part of Trade Project's initiative of collaborating with trade stakeholders for developing a comprehensive Trade Portal for Pakistan. The development, maintenance and use of a comprehensive web-based trade portal will leverage Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a means to connect enterprises in Pakistan to potential export opportunities. The trade portal will maintain an updated exporter's database, information from all Commercial Councilors of Pakistan posted in different parts of the world and will also provide access to the directory of potential international buyers. For this purpose it is very important to activate the staff of Chambers of Commerce & Industry, and other trade associations who will be responsible for collecting information at their respective institutions for exporter's database. The outcome of these trainings will be measured in terms of the number of registered businesses on the Trade Portal and the quality of information provided by these institutions.
More details will be published after the training's full roll out across the country.