Pakistan WE-NET & USAID – Women Leadership in Trade Policy

Pakistan WE-NET in collaboration with USAID – PREIA (Pakistan Regional Economic Integration Activity) organized a workshop on Women Leadership in Trade Policy in Islamabad on August 8, 2018. The workshop explored the benefits of trade for women businesses, whilst sharing knowledge on business development in international markets. The workshop featured representatives from corporate and SME sectors with diverse experience and knowledge. The session had a diverse representation of women entrepreneurs from several cities including Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi, Mandi Bahaudin, Jhelum and Peshawar.

The session began with welcome remarks from Yasmin Hyder, President, Pakistan WE-NET and Hussan-Bano Burki, Chief of Party USAID PREIA. Hussan-Bano thanked the WE-NET team for their contribution to women’s economic empowerment and discussed upcoming projects of PREIA aimed to benefit Pakistani women. Yasmin Hyder discussed the benefits of engaging in international trade and examined the current situation of Pakistan’s export market as well as its accompanying challenges.

Roubina Taufiq Shah, Former DG Trade Dispute Resolution Organization, Director (Admin), CPEC Center for Excellence, discussed the ‘Impact of Trade Policy’. Her session highlighted the current challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and measures that need to be taken to address such challenges faced in macro-level trade policy reforms. An advanced module on ‘Strategic Trade Policy Framework’ followed this session, which provided an overview of STPF reforms specific to women entrepreneurs. Roubina stressed the need for women to educate themselves about trade policy in order to become effective agents of change. Roubina also highlighted the need for women chambers and associations to educate themselves on trade policy matters so as to become significant contributors to future trade policy frameworks.

Qashif Effendi, CEO, Reem Rice delivered a talk on marketing and branding for international markets. Qashif provided an overview of Pakistan’s international trade performance and through case studies, illustrated the importance and significance of branding while competing in global markets.

The session was well received by participants who expressed an interest in more detailed workshops regarding trade policy. The workshop also featured notable guest speakers who shared their personal experience of scaling up and competing in international markets. Guest speakers included Myra Qureshi (CEO, Co-Natural), Sapna Kavita Oberoi (Partner, Oberoi Traders) Farzeen Irtazaz (CEO, House of Rani Emaan) and Lubna Farooq (Board Member, Pakistan WE-NET).

Business Networking & Marketing for SMEs

Pakistan Women Entrepreneurs Network for Trade (WE-NET) conducted an exclusive session for women entrepreneurs from across Pakistan, including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Hazara, Peshawar and Karachi. The 2-hour session featured Uzma Quresh, Social Development Specialist, World Bank Group, Zahid Latif Khan, President, Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Reem Abbasi, President, Islamabad Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Qashif Effendi, CEO, Reem Rice, and others.

Yasmin Hyder, President, Pakistan WE-NET, introduced the network to the audience of women entrepreneurs and detailed its objectives, and recent achievements. She urged the women entrepreneurs to take advantage of Pakistan WE-NET’s global linkages in order to trade and grow their businesses.

Uzma Quresh spoke about the low rates of female entrepreneurship in Pakistan, and detailed some of the leading constraints of entrepreneurship for women in Pakistan, including lack of access to finance, time scarcity due to household responsibilities, and lack of collateral.

Zahid Latif Khan appreciated the efforts made by Pakistan WE-NET and expressed interest in future collaborations between RCCI and Pakistan WE-NET.

Qashif Effendi gave an interactive presentation on “Branding and Marketing for the Future” which was received with great enthusiasm by the women entrepreneurs who were eager to learn about marketing their products for the international market.


The session provided B2B networking opportunities for women across the country, and provided a platform to discuss the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs engaged in trade. A panel discussion on “Challenges of Entrepreneurship” featuring Reem Abbasi, President, IWCCI, Farzeen Irtizaz, CEO, House of Raani Emaan and Lubna Farooq, Board Member, WE-NET provided insight into the challenges faced by women in trade.

Pakistan WE-NET was able to add 60 women entrepreneurs from diverse sectors to its database of women led SMEs, and created B2B linkages between women entrepreneurs from a variety of sectors including agricultural products, handicrafts, jewelry, general order suppliers, construction accessories, business consultancy, overseas employment promotion, food and spices, agricultural produce and furniture.

Closing the Gender Gap – A Tool for Economic and Trade Development

Pakistan’s first conference on Gender and Trade co-hosted by the World Bank Group, Pakistan Women Entrepreneurs Network for Trade (WE-NET), Ministry of Commerce with the support of the Australian Government addressed issues regarding gender inclusiveness in Pakistan’s trade policy.

The conference highlighted the gains of closing the gender gap in terms of growth, exports and jobs in Pakistan and raising awareness within the area of women’s economic empowerment. It provided a forum to discuss innovative empirical and theoretical research on gender and trade, with specific application to the challenges of women traders and entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

Over two days, almost 250 participants consisting of government officials, civil society
implementors, academia, women’s organizations and others involved in practical or theoretical work in this field, engaged in discussions to provide suggestions for trade policy formulation and to explore challenges and bottlenecks faced by women entrepreneurs.

Day one featured Zoubida Allaoua, Director, World Bank Group, Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director, International Trade Centre, Geneva, Mohammad Ashraf, Director General Trade Policy, Ministry of Commerce Pakistan and H.E Margaret Adamson, High Commissioner of Australia to Pakistan and Her Excellency Ingrid Johansson, Ambassador of Sweden to Pakistan.

Panel discussions with Dr. Farrukh Iqbal, Dean & Director, IBA, Karachi, and Dr. Shahida Wizarat, Head of Economics, IoBM, Karachi, deliberated on Labour Participation and Trade Patterns for Women in Pakistan and Gender Sensitive Trade Policies in Pakistan. The heads of Nestle Pakistan and Unilever emphasized the importance of showcasing success stories for promoting the Business Case for Gender Diversity in Pakistan.

Dr. Mohammad Ashraf, DG, Trade Policy, Ministry of Commerce, in a panel discussion on Gender-Sensitive Trade Policies in Pakistan, described initiatives already taken for gender inclusiveness in Government of Pakistan’s trade policy and welcomed suggestions for the STPF 2018-2023. In a panel discussion on Mainstreaming Gender in Trade Policy – Global Best Practices, Her Excellency Ingrid Johansson highlighted the best practices adopted in Sweden to promote gender equality.

The second day featured Dr. Ishrat Husain, Former Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, Ingrid Christenson, Country Head, International Labour Organisation, Anne Marchal, Minister/Deputy Head of Mission, Delegation of the European Union to Pakistan,

Robert Skidmore, ITC, Geneva, and Dr. Gulden Turktan, Founding Chair, W20. Shahid Mustafa, CEO, Telenor Bank, Aamir Niazi, Chairperson, Advisory Council, Pakistan WE-NET, spoke about Cultivating Male Champions for Gender Diversity. Taghrid Nafeisi, CEO, Al-Mutaqaa Brokerage Co., Jordan, Danysh Hashmi, HBL Nisa Women’s Banking, and Naureen Hayat, CEO, Tez Financial Services reflected on Access to Finance – Challenges & Opportunities for Women.

Sanem Oktar, President, KAGIDER (Turkish Women Entrepreneurs Association) spoke about The Transformational Power of Women Entrepreneurs and shared international success stories from KAGIDER members. She invited Yasmin Hyder, President, Pakistan WE-NET to lead a delegation to Istanbul in 2018 for B2B trade networking with women entrepreneurs in Turkey. She referred to the successful hosting of SheTrades B2B value chain conference last year in Istanbul to emphasise the importance of such networking events.

Ingrid Christenson, Country Head, International Labour Organisation, highlighted the importance of social protection in trade policy and identified gender as a key concern.

“Strong women are the driving force behind social and economic change,” noted Zoubida while Yoonyoung Cho, Senior Economic, World Bank Group, revealed “Female labour force participation in Pakistan is 11% in urban areas and 33% in rural areas.”

H.E Margaret Adamson addressed the audience appreciating Pakistan WE-NET’s achievements such as the network becoming the first representative body of women entrepreneurs from Pakistan to join Femmes Chefs d’Enterprises Mondiales (FCEM). She expressed a need for WE-NET to reach out all over the country.

Yasmin Hyder, President, WE-NET revealed that “Gender disparities are stark in Pakistan – only 1 percent of women are entrepreneurs compared to 21 percent of men,” and so we require robust and impactful policy and legislative support to bring about change. She further explained, “Since its launch, WE-NET’s aim has been to create an inclusive and collaborative community of women entrepreneurs that will foster women economic empowerment for the betterment of Pakistan, by developing global linkages as well as engaging in advocacy, knowledge sharing and mentoring activities.”

Dr. Gulden Turktan, Founding Chair, W20, stated “It is in the best interest of Pakistan, as a country, to support and encourage women entrepreneurs’ for trade and inclusion in the economy if the expectation is growth for all.”

Entrepreneurs engaged in an interactive panel discussion on “Marketing Your Business: The Digital Roadmap” where panelists described e-commerce opportunities for global trade and digital platforms that can increase consumer volume.
Through collaboration between Pakistan WE-NET and RLCC, income was generated for 300 women in RLCC’s livelihood department, through handicrafts distributed at the conference.

The two-day power packed conference not only featured leading international entrepreneurs, policy advocates, implementers and high-level corporate figures who discussed steps to close the gender gap; it provided B2B opportunities for women entrepreneurs interested in trading with different countries.

Launch We Net 35

Group Image

Pakistan WE-NET Board Members at the launch event on 9th November 2017. From left to right Lubna Farooq, Yasmin Hyder, Founder & President Pakistan WE-NET, Sadeqa Tayebaly, Dr. Mahnaz Shah & Mariya Suhail.

Launch We Net 19

Launch of We net

Group photograph taken on the occasion of the launch of the Pakistan Women Entrepreneurs Network for Trade (WE-NET) with President and Board Members, Pakistan WE-NET, Country Director, WBG Pakistan, WBG team, and Australian High Commissioner.

Launch We Net 34

Launch of We net

Yesim Sevig, Secretary General, KAGIDER, Turkey addressing the launch of Pakistan WE-NET on 9th November 2017.

Launch We Net 32

Launch of We net

Yasmin Hyder, Founder & President, Pakistan WE-NET addressing the audience at the launch event on 9th November 2017.

Launch We Net 31

Launch of We net

Yasmin Hyder, Founder & President, Pakistan WE-NET with Yesim Sevig, Secretary General, KAGIDER, Turkey at the launch of WE-NET on 9th November 2017.