ISLAMABAD-A growing number of women connected to tech-enabled start-ups in Pakistan are facing cultural deterrents including lack of a supportive environment for mothers and difficulty in networking for business development. Additionally, the lack of reasonably priced and safe commuting options is hindering women’s mobility limiting the growth of their start-ups. 

These conclusions were drawn in a new publication ‘SheConnects – tech-enabled women entrepreneurship in Pakistan’, launched by Media Matters for Democracy and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).

The research also highlights challenges with the taxation system that has been deemed unfriendly to start-ups by multiple interviewees.

The author recommends creating new tax brackets that are responsive to the particular challenges of new start-ups that have yet to become profitable. The research celebrates growing and active engagement of multiple government initiatives and private sector incubators and accelerators as enablers for women entrepreneurs.

However, the role of academic institutions has been found to be questionable and the author recommends academic institutions to institutions to offer expertise about local markets, to increase connections with the industry and to increase the focus on innovative, tech enabled solutions.

Speaking at the report launch, Marain Kappeyne, Acting Ambassador of Netherland appreciated the research saying, “I think it is a very timely report, on what are the challenges Pakistani women can face and how can technology and internet help.

The recommendations are very clear and I recognized many of them as in my country it was and still is difficult for women to start a business. I think this research is giving tools to Pakistani women,” she said. She also added that women should join forces and support each other in such matters.

“This study is a very basic mapping of the growing trend of women entrepreneurs entering the tech enabled economy in Pakistan. Based on interviews with ten women entrepreneurs, I have mapped the enabling factors, the pitfalls, the challenges and possible solutions”, says Sadaf Khan, co-founder/director Media Matters for Democracy and author of the report, “It was very interesting to note that technology is not just enabling women entrepreneurs but actually expanding opportunities for different kinds of home-based workers who start working with these start-ups” 

 Dr Jokish Deputy Head of the German Mission noted that women around the world face similar issues when they step out to work or use technology. He stressed that we need to work collectively to overcome the barriers. Speaking at the event, Sidra Saeed, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, noted that “Women entrepreneurs to face a lot of challenges.

These include patriarchal enrooted issues and others like lack of education, knowledge etc. therefore this discourse on women in digital entrepreneurship needs to be strongly embedded not only as an economic topic but also culturally.