SMALL enterprise are considered as a vehicle for innovation, employment, poverty reduction and social integration and are important part of national economic and social structure. ‘Enterprise is the antithesis of command and control. It integrates the working of the large with the small enterprises through sub-contracting and by creating support institutions.

But very few poor people especially women have salaried, institutional employment throughout the developing world. They depend mostly on earnings from occasional, low-paid wage labour, self-employment from micro-enterprises or employment in small and medium-scale enterprises.

Involvement in economic activity is a necessary condition for acquiring gender equality in the economic sphere. Encouraging the creation of opportunities for the poor and facilitating their participation through micro enterprises will have positive impact on poverty reduction. Enterprise development increases the capacity of individuals, families groups and organizations to supply useful goods and services profitably to the market.

Private enterprise, large or small, creates jobs and incomes, and provides essential goods and services. They serve the crucial purpose of minimising the economic risk across families, particularly when their principal source of income (notably agriculture) fails.

Self-employment and entrepreneurship can help the poor escape from poverty very quickly and on sustainable basis. Since all business require capital, micro-entrepreneurs need appropriate credit services from micro-finance institutions to support long-term micro-enterprise growth.

To ensure that poor especially women have the possibility of earning additional incomes, they have to be provided training in micro enterprises and given access to credit.

Despite the recent efforts of many micro-finance institutions in extending savings and credit to the poor, these services still reach only a small proportion of micro-enterprises. The rest survive with no institutional finance, depending instead on family savings or informal moneylender credit that is usually either too scarce or too costly to permit business growth.

Gender discrimination is arguably the greatest social constraint to equitable enterprise development and to economic growth. Women generally do not have sufficient access to formal financial institutions, most of which do not have specific credit programmes for poor women.

To help such poor people, National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) under the umbrella of Barani Village Development Project (BVDP) in rain-fed Pothwar provides loans in the area for micro enterprise development.

The Gender and Development Programme (GAD) at Social Sciences Institute (SSI), NARC carried out an empirical research study in collaboration with the BVDP research component for evaluating the benefit gained through the micro-enterprise development.

The study was aimed to examine the effects of micro credit programme on gender empowerment. This credit was provided to the community organization members through a very easy and convenient procedure for women.

In case of credit for micro enterprise development, males obtained credit for expanding the present business while majority of females took credit to start new business. Relatively more income/month was recorded in case of expanded business than new ones. Overall access to credit has increased, especially among women and landless households.

Credit provided an opportunity to the poor people for investing capital in income generating activities. It also provided self-employment in the rural areas to poor people who can improve their prevailing economic condition with help of financial capital (credit). However, most of the respondents utilized credit and were getting some benefits from it but they were not satisfied with the amount.

The credit amount given was too small to start a sound new business as the average amount of credit came out to be about Rs12500 only for a period of 12-18 months, ranging from Rs3000 to 20000. Very few of them (12 per cent) credit for starting a new business. However, as women have limited choices and opportunities to work independently still most of women respondents (65 per cent) have started new business and only one third expanded their existing business with credit amount.

Retail shop was a dominant business started by the both men and women followed by small-scale poultry farms. Women were more interested indoor activities like vocational school, embroidery etc. Another loophole was found that in most of the cases the credit was advanced against the name of female member but used by a male of that household.

There was little employment or enterprise development by women as men remain the main focus of income-generation activity. In most cases. profits from women-led business is relatively low. The main reasons could be the low experience and skill of women and low literacy as well. Secondly, majority of women started new business and that’s why they were earning less. In contrast majority of males expanded their existing business. Both men and women earned Rs1007 and Rs550 as the incremental profit respectively.

The proportionate change in income was too small to effect the consumption pattern of the target households, still an increase in consumption of meat, milk, eggs, fruits, confectioneries etc. was reported. A little decrease in the consumption of wheat flour and pulses was also recorded. Welfare effect is also depicted from the change in the spending pattern with the increase in income.

Similar to the consumption pattern, most of the respondents reported that their spending pattern was not changed except for 30 per cent in case of clothes, four per cent for ceremonies, 150 per cent for repair of house/furniture and for medical care and children education nine per cent. The increased income was spent mostly on clothes and repair of household.

On the basis of results from the study, following suggestions could be helpful while enhancing the efficiency of the micro credit programme:

* Increase in credit amount was highly demanded and it should be according to needs and capacity of the receiver.

* Instalment starts from the very next month and it is suggested that the grace period should be at least of six months in case of enterprise because at the initial stages there are not much profits to repay instalments.

* Interest rate should be lower then 20 per cent.

* Credit utilization and benefits could be enhanced along with reduced risk if the target group was provided with proper training before credit was disbursed.

Opinion

Editorial

IMF’s unease
Updated 24 May, 2024

IMF’s unease

It is clear that the next phase of economic stabilisation will be very tough for most of the population.
Belated recognition
24 May, 2024

Belated recognition

WITH Wednesday’s announcement by three European states that they intend to recognise Palestine as a state later...
App for GBV survivors
24 May, 2024

App for GBV survivors

GENDER-based violence is caught between two worlds: one sees it as a crime, the other as ‘convention’. The ...
Energy inflation
Updated 23 May, 2024

Energy inflation

The widening gap between the haves and have-nots is already tearing apart Pakistan’s social fabric.
Culture of violence
23 May, 2024

Culture of violence

WHILE political differences are part of the democratic process, there can be no justification for such disagreements...
Flooding threats
23 May, 2024

Flooding threats

WITH temperatures in GB and KP forecasted to be four to six degrees higher than normal this week, the threat of...