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Women's Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises (WLSME)

Celebrating women entrepreneurs on International Women's Day

Cecile Fruman's picture
WomenX – Taking It To Scale – Women At The Helm


It takes a special type of woman to be an entrepreneur.

I didn’t quite know what to expect when, earlier this year, I met with a group of women entrepreneurs in Karachi who are participating in the World Bank Group’s womenX program. I had read a lot about the low numbers of women running businesses in Pakistan, the challenging environment they operate in, and their many constraints. But I was struck by the positivity and drive of the women I met. They shared with me how they are improving their business and financial practices, building their confidence, and expanding their networks.

Take for instance, Mussarat Ishaq, who runs Al-Karam Packages. Mussarat was a Karachi-based housewife, pregnant with her third child, when her husband divorced her. With no work experience, little education, no money and no plan, she learned the ropes of polythene production and with a business partner, started out small – purchasing the raw material from local markets, using outdated machinery to produce plastic bags, and supplying them to small businesses in their area. Today, they have purchased more sophisticated equipment and they employ 250 employees, working to provide low-cost, high-quality, reusable and environment-friendly packaging materials to Pakistani clients.

Pathway to profitable women-owned enterprises

Francesco Strobbe's picture

Pathway to profitable women-owned enterprises @ Evgeni Zotov / FlickR

Women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia are disadvantaged from the start. They have less access to the finance, networks, and education which help their male counterparts advance. They face regular discrimination and harassment from society--sometimes even from their own families and communities. The challenges a woman entrepreneur in Ethiopia faces in growing her business are overwhelming.

Gender-smart development starts with the right questions (Pt. 2 of 2)

Steven R. Dimitriyev's picture
See Pt. 1: Gender-smart development starts with the right questions

We had great difficulty finding any married female business owners—and learned that under national laws, a married woman couldn’t register a company, open a bank account, operate a business, or own property without the prior written consent of her husband.

Gender-smart development starts with the right questions (Pt. 1 of 2)

Steven R. Dimitriyev's picture
WASHINGTON, May 14, 2015—Six hundred million jobs. That’s what the world must generate over the next decade just to keep up with population growth. And that’s not even counting the 200 million or in developing countries who are jobless now, and the millions more, mainly women, who are either underemployed or shut out of the workforce entirely.

Most of these new jobs will come from the private sector, so private entrepreneurship solves part of the problem. But unleashing the untapped productivity of female entrepreneurs will be essential.