The number of Internet users in Pakistan has increased by 11 million between 2019 and 2020 states the Digital 2020: Pakistan report by Simon Kemp. With 76.38 million Internet users in Pakistan by January 2020, the digital landscape promises immense economic potential. And it certainly is not rocket science to see that the ecommerce sector is levelling the playing field for women especially in developing countries as it offers access to markets while working even from the comfort of one’s home.
But to join the economic bandwagon digitally, actually avail virtual opportunities and therefore bridge the digital gender gap, the aspiring as well as professional Pakistani woman need to have a rethink – what are those important tools direly needed to not just help her participate but really make it big in the digital market.
It actually starts with learning and then leveraging the right tools. Keeping this in mind, the EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age, alongside CodeGirls Pakistan, and Women’s World Wide Web (W4), a member of the global EQUALS Skills Coalition – have partnered to organize GSMA-led Tech4Girls workshops for girls and women in Pakistan on November 30th and December 1st, 2020.
Talking about the initiative, Co-founder CodeGirls Pakistan and Founder WomeninTechPK, Faiza Yousuf chats with Sabin Muzaffar about catapulting women in the Pakistani ecommerce space and the importance of representation in the sector.
This is a pilot project focusing on eCommerce. What goals are you trying to achieve?
Tech4Girls initiative has two types of workshops, one is on eCommerce and another is on mobile app development. This is our first partnership with them and we picked up the eCommerce workshops as Pakistan has a growing eCommerce industry and the participants can really take benefit out of this hands-on workshop. The goal is to teach them how to build and manage an eCommerce business and give them the right tools so that they can start their own businesses and become part of the country’s economy.
Women are globally one of the biggest consumers so their representation is also key in this sector. Keeping this in mind, what is the scope of women’s participation in the e-commerce sector?
In the past few years, women have actively participated in the sector and have built successful brands and businesses. The sector is growing and still needs more women-owned businesses that cater to different innovative products and services. New tools are coming up every day, adding to the ease of starting and managing these online businesses and women also don’t need to learn how to code to build and run an e-store.
Where does the Pakistani woman in tech as well as the aspiring woman in tech stand as far as the platform economy is concerned?
Women need more representation in this sector, both as a consumer of platforms as well as in developing these platforms. But we still see women using platforms for developing solutions for their businesses and customers, using shared economy and gig economy platforms to get ahead in their careers.
What are some of the barriers when it comes to leveraging technologies as far as women and girls are concerned?
Access to IT infrastructure and the Internet are problems for women and girls, which are due to some economic as well as cultural constraints. Formal technology education is expensive and families tend to invest in boys more than girls when it comes to college-level education. Women have more care work responsibilities and are expected not to engage in building a career, be it employment or a business. Access to finance and industry sexism are also some of the barriers when it comes to the inclusion of women in the tech and eCommerce industries.
Tell us about this collaboration and the way forward.
This is a partnership between EQUALS, W4, and CodeGirls and we are doing two workshops in collaboration with Tech4Girls, which is a GSMA-led program, funded by Verizon. W4 is already a sponsor for CodeGirls and have recommended us to the other global organizations for becoming the local implementation partners for this program. These workshops are designed to give hands-on training to girls on the eCommerce platform so that they can break into tech and the eCommerce industry. This partnership will also explore the possibility of an e-mentorship program for the participants and successful projects from the workshops will also get featured on Equals website.