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Solving one maze at a time

Bushra Ahmad, Youth officer in Pakistan urges the Empower Youth for Work programme to keep building upon successful strategies that worked in other countries especially when addressing gender inclusive entrepreneurial environments.

I am pretty sure many of us are familiar with the phrase "As easy as pie". And I dared, Oh Yes, I dared using it in front of my mother when she was actually cooking a pie. Perfect rookie’s mistake and that too while snapping my fingers…. (I still curse that moment by the way) .

But later on when I tried to prepare one I realized the difficulty in accomplishing that perfect taste and touch especially when you don’t know the right steps nor did you ask for support. Oh and bigger mistake you try to enter a professional arena, dare to tame the wolf by labelling your disaster as invention in front of the a chef no less than the likes of "Gordon Ramsey" without even doing the ground work.

Without knowing the recipe first and the challenges which usually occurs while baking the perfect slice I in my over confidence "Just did it"...

Put on our gender lens

Well the underlying lesson learnt from this incident was that you "Just cannot do it" if you don’t familiarize yourself with the whole steps of the journey and the challenges associated. And in our case we all really need to put on our gender lens, roll up our sleeves and start paving that innovative path with the right tools leading a women or young girl on her journey to be an entrepreneur.

That is why EYW (Empower Youth for Work ) project with Gender and specially youth economic empowerment goal Empower Youth of Work (EYW) project. With this focus it is channelling all its efforts first and foremost in creating an enabling environment for women, building the skills of women and young girls to be at par with corporate moguls to feel inclusive of corporate continuum.

Burden of lenses

Hence here I am along with my team (Pakistan) at a global learning event of EYW learning and sharing the success, innovations and challenges with teams of Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Indonesia faced during last year of empowering youth.

Let me take you towards one special segment where we were given huge googles to wear Green for Climate, red for Youth and Yellow for Gender. The glasses as you can see were larger than life for our faces and so was the task associated with them. We were to relate all our learnings keeping in mind the gender youth and climate change in our minds. When I wore the Gender lens and try to walk the talk of entrepreneurship from the perspective of a rural girl in my country.

One strategy will not do...

A quite familiar scenario of a certain meeting with who’s who of bank sector flashed through my eyes. I could again feel the echo with subliminal sarcastic notions and that shrill sound voicing the difficulties that a woman will face if she would dare to start a business such as that of a bus service or a hotel management in the local vicinity. And this would just be the beginning phase for a series of harassment even she tried to work alone.

But than at the same time another flashback came where it was relayed that how can you ignite the spirit of entrepreneurship within women when they are too afraid to face the real music? How will you find them the right people who will inspire them to be more than they are right now? How will you ensure that they have the right support that they need from an expert?


Later that day I got the answer on how to ensure the engagement of mentors for longer term. Here I would like to mention the model implemented by Bangladesh team where they carefully selected the mentors and connected them with the women/ youth who aspire to be an entrepreneur. It was also a smart strategy of putting up a contract between mentor and youth engaged to guarantee regular guidance as per need and demand by both parties.

There were many other learnings and many innovations like how we can amalgamate the digital currency (inspired from bitcoin or block chain) to ensure quick cash delivery to farmers ( in case of Pakistan) or setting up a guarantee fund along with involving the MFIs the model implemented by Ethiopia.

Linch pin

When I put on my gender lens and step in the shoes of a rural women (with a dream to initiate her own business) standing amid male dominated entrepreneurial society. I find it hard to explore innovative ways other than regular collaborations and support (already embedded deeply in EYW) to conglomerates for building in roads.

Which means we need to create a bricolage taking bits and pieces of successful strategies that worked in other countries, put them together to solve one maze at a time. However due to multi-layered nature of EYW all bits and pieces must come together to trigger that "Linch pin" which would be successful to create a dominoes effect in our case two steps nearer to our goal of gender inclusive entrepreneurial environment.

Read more on the Global Learning event here