Women Entrepreneurship: Rise of a Dream Or Fall of Oppression? by Amna Sheikh

Updated: Jun 17

Source: Thrive Global

In the past ten years, the way entrepreneurship culture for women has grown and thrived in Pakistan is incredible, yet alarming. Women have participated more actively in the economic sector contributing from homes. As a result, incubation programs have been designed by multiple institutes across the country to cater to the naïve businesses and facilitate their growth. However, when I look closely at the spirit of women residing in homes to set foot into the professional world, I wonder whether this need comes from a certain dream they had always yearned to fulfill or to get financially independent as an escape from the toxic relationships at home.

Given the patriarchal society we live in, women and their dreams related to career are often suppressed. Both men and women attain 14 years of education, equally spending mental, emotional, and physical labor to work on their future goals. However, when it comes to jobs, women are asked to get married and stay at home as men are enough to provide. It is an irony that the biggest restriction they face is within the houses, from their loved ones with whom they shared their ambitions throughout their lives. Owing to my own interactions with women entrepreneurs in different events, I have seen that entrepreneurship is not always women’s choice, but also an alternative option to meet their goals as going out for job is not allowed by the men in their households.

Having run two small scale startups for a short period of time, I came across challenges posed by our culture on amateur women entrepreneurs, who are at the get-go of beginning their careers. The first startup was my own dream 4 years ago to get financially independent and grow professionally in gifting industry. I started the venture named Posh Prezents with a friend during my undergraduate years, which provided trendy gifts on different occasions with exotic wrapping service across Pakistan. The other was my mothers’ ingrained talent named Chutnily (https://www.facebook.com/ammischutnily), a silent dream that urged us siblings to initiate her chutney business from home, that is solely her own. As I managed the two of them, I witnessed that women who attempt to enter professional market and compete men, need to seek a lot of approval for what they sell, by making others believe that their product is worth investing in. When I sought partnerships with logistic companies, my venture was viewed with suspicion as it had not reached the growth stage. I was perceived as a young woman who needs support from other links and sources to get into the business field. At the same time, I had to deal with doubts that came from family and relatives on whether I can manage this venture in the longer run.

While leading our own career progress gives us women agency and mental peace, receiving negative remarks and lack of support simultaneously adds to our struggle for breaking into the market. Even if it is a well-thought dream, the limitations and expectations that women undergo are inadvertently high as compared to men. However, the reason why most women come out stronger and more confident in their journey as an entrepreneur is the will power to work on their dream alone and not give up during setbacks.

On the other hand, when women seek refuge from oppressive households in the form of home-based businesses, it is a torture initially to convince the men of the family for it. The amount of pressure that they encounter just by expressing their need or desire for financial security is underestimated. While women take this step for their mental wellbeing, they also suffer from constant bashing that could overshadow their day and night efforts for the business. However, women tend to rise even from such toxic environment as their motivation to sustain themselves and grow from the suffering is matchless.

All in all, the domain of women entrepreneurship in Pakistan is a little more complex than what it looks on the surface. Indeed, women exercise passion and persistence to achieve their dreams as well as financial independence, sometimes, for their health, and other times at the cost of it. They make constant attempts to earn self-respect and self-esteem through financial means despite the cultural challenges. If only men of the families could stretch out their support and facilitate the prosperity and wellness of their women, they can make this journey more meaningful for them, by acting as allies rather than enemies. This way, women may also use their financial independence to support men instead to separate from them, which is often a threat perceived by the men in our society.


Amna Sheikh is an in-house writer at Perspective.

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