Group picture of women entrepreneurs and Ms. Hina Mansab, Vice Chairperson SCWEC (Pakistan Chapter) with the chief guest of the conference, Mr. Irfan Iqbal Shiekh, President, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Building a Gender-Inclusive Digital Economy in South Asia: A Path to Women’s Empowerment The Women’s Council of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized a conference


The Women’s Council of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized a conference focusing on “Building a Gender-Inclusive Digital Economy in South Asia: A Path to Women’s Empowerment” to celebrate International Women’s Day in Islamabad. The seminar title was aimed at discussing women’s empowerment through the digital economy.

Addressing the occasion, the chief guest Mr. Irfan Iqbal President, FPCCI, said that the government is formulating policies to tackle the socio-economic constraints hindering female digital entrepreneurship. He said that equitable digital infrastructure, emphasizing that “connectivity, accessibility, and affordability of the internet are prerequisites for gender inclusivity in the digital economy.

While delivering a welcome address, Ms. Afsana Rahimi, Chairperson SCWEC (Afghanistan Chapter) emphasized the current situation of women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, their participation in business, public presence, and the challenges they are facing after the pandemic.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Zulfiqar Butt, Acting Secretary General, SCCI acknowledged the role of SCWEC and how it has engaged the women of South Asia to promote e-commerce, women startups, digital media marketing tools and gender smart innovations.

The conference comprised three sessions “Examination of the role of e-commerce in supporting the development of women-led enterprises in the region”, “The barriers to women’s participation in the digital economy” and “Action Planning: Way forward to empower women through digitalization and e-commerce” chaired by renowned mentors, Ms. Aisha Humera Chaudhry, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom, Pakistan, Ms. Hira Zainab, Consultant & Former Secretary General, Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES, and Mrs. Neelofur Hafeez, Chief, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW).

The speakers included Ms. Maryam Iqbal, Chairperson, The Handicrafts Association of Pakistan, Ms. Padmaja Ruparel, Co-Founder, Indian Angel Network, India, Ms. Mahe Zera Husain, CEO of Five Rivers Technologies, founder of Pakistan Creates, Ms. Ambreen Zaman, Economic Empowerment Specialist and Member National Women Business Council, Ms. Sheema Saeed, Member, Women in Tech Maldives, Ms. Vishaka Nanayakkara, Board Director, Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka, Ms. Zubia Zubair, Former Vice Chairperson, SCWEC, Ms. Sinthia Sharmin, Co-founder & Chief Content Officer of Shajgoj Limited, Bangladesh, Ms. Dure Shawar, Secretary General, National Business Women Council Panelist, Ms. Nazli Abid, Founder President WCCI Karachi, Malir and Ms. Uzma Shahid Butt, Former President, Women Chamber Of Commerce & Industry.

The conference panelist highlighted the importance of digitization and the rapid spread of digital technologies is creating new economic opportunities for enterprises, especially in South Asian countries. The benefits of digitalization unfortunately are not in access to our women while they still face multiple obstacles to succeed in the digital economy.

While highlighting the barriers the speakers were of the view that factors that hold women back in South Asia are multi-dimensional and are related to gender bias, lower participation in decision-making processes, limited digital skills, lack of trust, and unequal access to funding.

The speakers concluded that to address the constraints women entrepreneurs face, it is necessary to support women entrepreneurs with business and entrepreneurial mindset training to build a more inclusive and gender-sensitive e-commerce ecosystem in South Asia.

The Women’s Conference was followed by a cultural evening and fashion show, highlighting the unique creativity of Pakistani women.