USAID Pakistan launched Women in Trade (WIT) Programme

The United States Agency International Development (USAID) has launched an ambitious programme to improve gender ratio in the international trade sector of Pakistan. According to USAID brief, Pakistan has a very small base of women professionals employed in the trade sector. An initial benchmarking study conducted by the USAID Trade Project in March 2011 indicated that women represent less than 10 percent of the staff hired by private sector organisations engaged in international trade. A report published in English Daily Business Recorder reveals.

usaidThe low level of women’s participation in the trade sector reflects the low level of women’s participation in Pakistan’s formal economy. According to the study, less than one third of the 31 million working aged women in Pakistan (ie, women aged 20 and older) are deemed economically active. Approximately 64 percent of women in the labour force are either unpaid family helpers or low-skilled workers. Due to ingrained gender disparities related to access to resources and opportunities, only a handful of women in Pakistan are able to start and sustain an enterprise.

To commemorate the round two of the USAID Trade Project’s “Women in Trade (WIT) management training and mentoring programme,” its completion ceremony will be held here at a local hotel on June 18, which will be attended by CEOs, Presidents and HR managers from WIT programme partner organisations who have supported USAID in improving gender ratio in the international trade sector of Pakistan, besides Hussan Bano Burki, Asima M Awan, Saleena Beg, and Yasir Ahmed from USAID Pakistan Trade Project. It will be the closing of 2012 programme. The trainees from Karachi will be awarded their training completion certificates.

Under this cross-country programme the trainees have completed three months of management training with prominent national and international trading organisations including Engro Eximp Pvt Ltd, Interloop Ltd, M K Sons, Masood Textile Mills, Lucky Cement, Herbion International Inc, EuroCentra, Ellery Homestyles, C&A Europe/Mondial Orient Ltd, Target Sourcing Services Pakistan, Texlynx, Nishat Group, and Li & Fung Pakistan.

Completion certificates will be distributed to the 17 WIT Programme trainees in Karachi. Under the programme, recent women graduates have been placed as trainees with key international sourcing companies including Li & Fung and Target, and with large Pakistani exporting industrial groups such as Nishat group amongst others. The objective of the programme is to encourage more women to explore careers in international trade sourcing and marketing, product design and development and supply chain management. The WIT Programme is a collaborative initiative between the Trade Project, key international sourcing companies, Pakistani industrial groups and Pakistani universities.

The completion ceremony will provide an opportunity for trainees to receive public recognition for their accomplishment and to network with representatives from organisations participating in the programme, their mentors from the Trade Project and USAID officials. It will also provide an opportunity for USAID to showcase the achievement of this unique programme and encourage more women to participate in the international trade sector of the economy.

The event will provide visibility to USAID’s efforts to encourage women’s participation in a sector of the Pakistani economy where women constitute less than 10 percent of management staff. The event will also highlight a success story illustrating how USAID leverages private sector co-operation to support equitable economic growth.

The Trade Project’s WIT Programme has the objective of encouraging women’s participation in the trade sector by including women in the provision of services facilitating or furthering trade, thereby expanding economic opportunities for women in the sector.

The WIT Programme was launched as a one year pilot project in March 2011 to open opportunities for women by providing international sourcing organisations in Pakistan with the opportunity to staff qualified women graduates who had been orientated to the sector by the Trade Project. The programme’s pilot round, which was successfully completed in October 2011, provided training and internship opportunities for 17 women graduates.

In March of 2012, the Trade Project initiated the second round of the WIT Programme. This initiative was implemented in partnership with multinational and national companies engaged in sourcing, merchandising, quality control and supply chain management with respect to exports. The Second Round of the WIT Programme placed 57 trainees, 48 of whom had completed their three months of training by December 2012. Nine trainees did not complete the training, as they received full-time employment offers from other employers during the training period.

Under the WIT Programme, the Trade Project conducted an assessment of human resource needs for each of its private sector partners. Based on the assessment results, the project customised the recruitment strategy for each partner to select and place the required number of qualified women graduates for a three month training and mentorship program. The women selected were recent graduates about to enter the job market who were placed against the private sector partner’s hiring needs to increase their chances of employment upon completion of the programme.

In the second year of the initiative, the Trade Project’s objectives through WIT were as follows: Fifty women university graduates to be provided with three months of management training with leading companies involved in managing the supply chain for international trade in different cities of Pakistan. At least 25 percent of the trainees to be hired by the companies providing the training after the training period, 50 percent of the trainees to be engaged in trade related activities post training, and 70 percent of the trainees to be fully employed as a result of the programme.

Of the 57 women university graduates placed for a three-month training and mentorship programme with private sector companies in Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad, 48 successfully completed the three month training programme with the company where they were placed, nine women who left the programme before completing their training received full-time employment offers both within and outside the trade sector, and 33 percent of the 2012 WIT trainees have been fully employed as a result of the programme and several others are currently being interviewed.

In addition to the 33 percent who are employed, 17 percent of the trainees were offered permanent jobs which they declined. Of Karachi-based trainees, 59 percent have been employed as a result of the programme, 19 percent of the trainees have been hired by their respective partner organisations and several others are currently being interviewed.

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