ISLAMABAD: Chand Bibi, a businesswoman, works alongside other chefs in the restaurant she runs in Peshawar.

She used to work in a United Nations organisation, she told Dawn, but left work after she had children and it became harder to manage an eight-to-five office job.

“My husband and family supported me in this business. We decided to open a restaurant because Peshawar is known for its traditional food. I run the restaurant myself and work in the kitchen,” she explained.

Despite the support of her family, Chand Bibi said she faces many challenges on a daily basis. She believed that there was no social acceptance for women to work in such public places, and her husband was sometimes irritated by the behaviour of customers.

Madiha Bilal from Lahore said she has been running her garment business for six years and faced challenges, but added that strong nerves and commitment were the keys to success.

“Working in a labour intense environment where we have male dominance who don’t take women seriously is challenging. However, support from family and a clear idea of what one wants to do is very important in business,” she said.

Both women were among the 19 women-led businesses from across Pakistan that were awarded contracts at the launch of the second round of the Women Entrepreneurship Challenge.

The programme by Karandaaz Pakistan is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.

Under it, Karandaaz will invest up to Rs20 million per business in enterprises with potential for growth and provide business development support for businesses that qualify for the programme.

Businesswomen from across the country were awarded contracts during the ceremony for business in sectors such as clothing, manufacturing, education, beauty, food and food processing, IT and digital media and gems and jewellery.

“Our programme is helping these dynamic entrepreneurs compete at par with other mainstream businesses in their domains and tackle impediments such as access to finance, market linkages, and lack of knowledge about industry certifications and standards that traditionally hamper women-led businesses’ growth,” Karandaaz CEO Ali Sarfraz said at the ceremony.

Women from the media industry were also invited to speak at the event. Among them was Nadia Hussain, a model who runs a salon on the side. She said she initially faced difficulties with her business and that it was difficult to balance family and professional life.

Television host Sidra Iqbal said that working women try to prove to everyone around them that they can manage everything, but this is not possible because they need support from their husbands and family.

“They should say that they need help from their husband, mother-in-law and others in managing everything successfully,” she said.

Last year, 36 women-led small and medium business received incubation services and 15 were selected to receive support through this programme. This year the programme has targeted businesses with an operational history of at least three years that are looking to grow.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2018

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