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Training for rural women entrepreneurs: "I am working on my first website"

Muzamil has her own brand for hand-made clothes.

Training for rural women entrepreneurs: "I am working on my first website"

The internet, social media and digital tools offer many opportunities for women entrepreneurs. In Pakistan's provinces, however, they often lack the necessary knowledge and access. A PGFRC training shows them what tools they can use and how to use them to attract more clients and customers and grow their business.

In the heart of the vibrant Pakistani city of Multan, in one of the spacious conference rooms of Hotel One, 22 women of different ages are sitting. The tables together form a long U. The women have come from different parts of rural Pakistan to attend a five-day training seminar on digital tools and e-banking. They are mainly from the rural south of Pakistan's Punjab province. This training, organised by the Pakistani-German Facilitation and Reintegration Centre (PGFRC), is one of several free initiatives aimed at empowering and educating people across the country.

The training is offered separately for women and men to alleviate fears. The women are made to feel comfortable. All of them have had an interview with the PGFRC team beforehand. The women who attend are entrepreneurs or have started their own business. In this training group, they are women who run their own small garment, sewing, embroidery and handicraft businesses and their own shops in their respective towns and villages.

Finding new customers online

Salma, a mother of four in her forties, travelled more than 100 kilometres from her home in Bahawalpur to Multan to attend the five-day training. She got her diploma in dressmaking in Lahore a few years ago. Since then, she has been working in the field of fashion design: "A few years ago, I opened my own garment shop. I travelled all over the country to exhibit my clothes and designs. I tried to get new orders and build a client base. However, with my children growing up and now demanding more time and attention from me, it became increasingly difficult. I could rarely go to the bigger markets in cities like Lahore and Islamabad. That was one of the reasons why I really wanted to participate in the training. This way I can learn how to expand my business, even from home. Because in the training, I learn how to reach customers all over the country through the internet."

The training lasts five days and is led by experts from the industry. Topics include an introduction to creating online accounts, using different programmes and using smartphone cameras to improve design and photography. Other topics from the course: How do you create a Facebook page for businesses? How does marketing via WhatsApp work? What is microfinance? This basic knowledge and the skills learned are important for successfully marketing one's own business via internet and social media platforms.

"If you are willing to put in the work, you can benefit a lot from the training".

"I believe that this training is not only very useful but also very valuable," says Salma. "The important thing is that you are also willing to put in the work yourself. Then you can benefit a lot. I wish more programmes like this were offered. Such programmes are very useful for us. Because many of us have limited resources."

Apart from the training itself, the PGFRC also provides accommodation for the participants, who often travel from distant towns and villages to attend the training. Many of the participants are still young: Muzamil, who also comes from Bahawalpur, is only 22 years old. "I came to know about this PGFRC offer when my aunt shared a WhatsApp ad with me. She insisted that I apply for the programme." Muzamil's aunt was convinced that this training was just right for her.

Although Muzamil is still a student, she supports her mother in her own small business selling handmade clothes and decorative items for the home. Muzamil's mother has been offering hand embroidery services for many years to customers who come to her through word of mouth. Mostly they are acquaintances from the neighbourhood and the surrounding area. A few years ago, Muzamil started supporting her mother.

Participant Salma wanted to learn how to expand her business, including working from home.

Making your own brand better known

"One day I started my own brand of handmade clothing called 'Tanya Collection'. It's not named after anyone, I just like the name. Although I learnt hand embroidery from my mother, I am also studying textile science at Bahawalpur University. I want to expand the work my mother started and develop the brand we have created," says Muzamil. The university degree will certainly help her in this. But what is equally important to achieve this goal is a good understanding of digital skills and tools for networking.

"I do have clients from other parts of the country who recommend me. But so far I have not been able to set up my own website for my brand itself. I have been asked time and again why I don't yet have a website or social media to showcase my work. Each time I had to answer that I don't know how to do that. Since the training I feel much more confident in my skills. Right now I am working on my first own website. Soon I will be able to refer all interested parties directly to it."

As of: 07/2023

At the moment, I’m working on my first website. Soon, I’ll be able to refer anyone who’s interested directly to my web address.

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