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Supporting Women Entrepreneurs In Pakistan

Women work in a garment factory in Faisalabad, located in Pakistan's Punjab province August 23, 2011. Pakistan's textile industry accounts for 38 percent of workers in the manufacturing sector and over half of its exports, which stood at nearly $25 billio

Melanne Verveer recently spoke at the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs, or OPEN, meeting in Silicon Valley, California.

Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, recently spoke at the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs, or OPEN, meeting in Silicon Valley, California. OPEN Silicon Valley promotes entrepreneurship through regular mentorship and networking initiatives.

Supporting Women Entrepreneurs In Pakistan
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OPEN has been an important partner for the State Department, said Ambassador Verveer, in supporting entrepreneurship among Pakistani women. It is well understood that women are the engines of economic growth. A converging number of studies in recent years, from the World Bank and the International Financial Corporation, among others, have shown that investing in women is smart economics. These data illustrate how women’s economic participation promotes enterprise development at the micro, small, and medium enterprise levels.

But serious barriers stand in the way of women’s full economic participation. According to a recent report by a United Nations commission, this lack of participation has been calculated to cost the Asia Pacific region alone between $42 and $46 billion a year in Gross Domestic Product growth because the potential of women goes untapped.

All over the world, women still face obstacles when trying to establish new businesses or to expand existing ones beyond a certain revenue mark. Among the biggest hurdles are training, technology, markets, mentors and networks, access to credit and financing, as well as discriminatory laws, regulations, or entrenched cultural practices.

That is why initiatives like the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council, launched by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting last year, can make a difference. The Council’s mission is to promote economic opportunities for women in Pakistan, by connecting businesses, universities, foundations, and individual donors with organizations and initiatives in Pakistan devoted to women’s economic advancement.

Indeed, many companies operating in Pakistan, know the value of having women in their workforce and serve as role models for other companies. The mission of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council will be to reach out to companies in the United States and Pakistan to contribute to the economic advancement of women in Pakistan.

“No country can prosper if half of its population is left behind,” said Ambassador Verveer. Closing the gender gap is the best prescription for economic growth. When women thrive, all of society thrives - men and women, boys and girls.