ISLAMABAD: APAC Facebook Director of Community Affairs Clair Deevy has said the SheMeansBusiness programme would equip Pakistani women, particularly women entrepreneurs with the knowledge, connections, skills and technology required to build and grow their businesses online and support their financial security.

In an exclusive talk with Business Recorder here on Wednesday, Clair Deevy said Pakistan is the 21st country where such programme has been launched. However, she added that it is the first time that 150 master trainers in collaboration with Universal Service Fund (USF) and Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) would be trained and they would train women in digital marketing across the country so that they might take their business to new heights online. Trainings would be free of charge, he said.

SheMeansBusiness is a space for entrepreneurial women to make valuable connections, share advice and move forward, together, she said.

During her visit to Pakistan, Clair Deevy said Facebook’s SheMeansBusiness partnership with USF and PITB aims to reach 20,000 women across Pakistan over the next three years, delivering digital skills training with a focus on small business development and online safety. The PITB partnership includes a three month digital literacy program offered as part of PITB’s ‘Herself’ initiative. The USF partnership will cover 80 cities and aims to reach more than 8,000 women across the country. The partnership with PITB’s Herself initiative will reach 150 trainers and 12,000 women trainees across Punjab.

In Pakistan, women entrepreneurship has the potential to create more jobs, boost economic growth and diversify the small business community. The entrepreneurs create jobs for themselves and enrich the lives of people including employees, investors, suppliers, and the organizations they work with, she said.

She shared that Facebook is committed to helping women entrepreneurs grow, connect and contribute through the expansion of SheMeansBusiness in Pakistan in partnership with USF and PITB.

Women are doing amazing things on Facebook around the world and in Pakistan. “This partnership will help us celebrate and share these achievements in Pakistan as a way to inspire, nurture and support Pakistan women’s own entrepreneurial success stories,” she said.

The #SheMeansBusiness partnership with USF will reach 80 cities and 8000 women annually across Pakistan, delivering digital skills training with a focus on small business development and online safety.

She explained that SheMeansBusiness will not only connect entrepreneurial women with empowering tools, peers and networks, but will also raise greater awareness of the importance of women’s entrepreneurship for overall economic and social development.

“When women are successful in business, it drives social growth too: more women are employed, more diverse role models are created and there is stronger diversity. Successful female entrepreneurs invest in their communities and in educating children,” she said.

By enabling entrepreneurship, SheMeansBusiness will help Pakistan harness the talent, energy, ideas and productive potential that women bring. The programme equips women with the capability and skills to start and grow businesses online, and helps them connect with the knowledge, people and peers who can help on that journey, she explained.

By creating an environment that supports women entrepreneurs we will support the financial security of women in Pakistan, and also the communities in which they live for a better tomorrow.

Clair Deevy said, “One of the reasons that we decided to partner with the USF and PITB is because they have network in the country. In every country we work with the implementation partner and here are two partners i.e. USF and PITB. So the reason for working with USF will be training their trainers so that they have 50 centers and so many trainers. We will train them on Facebook skills and enable them to train women to implement the project.”

Clair Deevy said, “We are providing basic infrastructure. Women can learn from this, expand their businesses and earn much better livings.” She said this would provide huge economic opportunity to women who would improve their life standard.

“In Pakistan, we have found women are hungry for networking opportunities and training opportunities… One very inspiring story from here in Pakistan is Nadia. Nadia is one of our lead trainers for the SheMeansBusiness programme in Pakistan. Nadia founded Sheops which is Pakistan’s first women-only online marketplace with 2,700 entrepreneurs and 90,000 members. It provides ambitious women a platform to buy and sell products from/to each other. Sheops wants to empower women in Pakistan to establish themselves as entrepreneurs and grow their businesses by connecting them to the right people in a safe and secure environment. Nadia has helped empower thousands of women in Pakistan and turned the idea into reality,” she said.

She said many small businesses operated by women have encountered barriers to growth such as inadequate access to capital, lack of ownership of land and resources, restrictive concepts of the role of women in society, undeveloped business networks and insufficient business training. Being better connected as part of the SheMeansBusiness global network will help address some of these obstacles, allowing women entrepreneurs to access new markets, new customers, and new products to create more sustainable long-term businesses, she added.