The number of women entrepreneurs in Pakistan is very low. Only a small percentage of the country’s entrepreneurial community comprises of females. Unless more women embrace business ventures, their economic participation and emancipation will remain very low.
One of the biggest reasons for women to not pursue entrepreneurship is the lack of access to finance. But despite of such challenges, there are some women in Pakistan that want to pursue their dream of entrepreneurship. Among those few women that have attained their goal of becoming a highly successful entrepreneur is Irshad Bibi.
Irshad Bibi hails from Manga Mandi, a very small area of Lahore you may not have probably heard about. She is a woman that has only known sacrifice and survival. The lady is an inspiration for not only her family members but for women all across Pakistan.
We recently visited Irshad Bibi in her home situated in the Manga Mandi area of Lahore, where she lives with her husband and children. The main motive of our visit was to hear the story of how she started her own livestock business, the struggles that she had to face and how, despite of all the hurdles, she improved the financial situation of her family.
Early life and entrepreneurship journey
Tell us about your early life?
I come from quite a humble and financially struggling family background. My childhood was spent in the small town of Nathay Khalsa. My father had a small livestock business that barely helped us to run our household expenses. It was very difficult for my father to support our family due to his meager income but he never complained and fulfilled all our needs.
How did you break the glass ceiling while living in a conservative society and starting your entrepreneurial journey?
It is a fact that Pakistan comprises of a patriarchal society. Here it is very difficult for women to start their own business or to pursue self-employment. I also had to face a lot of hurdles after starting my livestock business. The financial capital available was limited and at times I even thought of giving up. However, I was always supported by my husband and children to continue my entrepreneurial journey.
Support by FINCA Microfinance
How did FINCA microfinance support your entrepreneurship journey?
I was just fortunate enough to know about FINCA Microfinance Bank. Initially, I was struggling to get the required capital for my business. I was looking around for loans to start my livestock venture but nobody believed in me. Then someone in my area told me to go to FINCA Microfinance Bank.
Through FINCA, I initially got a loan of Rs 50,000. This was then gradually increased to Rs 1 lakh. I have recently received the eight loan installment from FINCA and its worth Rs 3 lakh.
What was the response of your family when you started entrepreneurship?
My family has been very supportive from the very beginning. Even my distant relatives have been highly supportive throughout my entrepreneurial journey. They have consistently motivated me and never bogged me down.
Impact of entrepreneurship on family life
Did your entrepreneurial journey affect your family life? If yes, in what ways?
The entrepreneurship journey has affected my family in a very positive manner. I would specifically like to thank FINCA. It has been through their support that I have been able to pursue and grow my livestock business.
Apart from that, the growth of my business has allowed me to transform my family’s financial situation. We have been able to move from a small home in Nathay Khalsa to a spacious house in Manga Mandi. It has also allowed me to educate my son. He is currently in the fourth year of his undergraduate studies.
What message would you like to give to current and future female entrepreneurs in Pakistan?
I would like to convey my message to all potential female entrepreneurs in Pakistan that if you want to start your own business, don’t hesitate. Just have faith on yourself and take an initiative. Don’t be afraid of failures and remain positive about achieving your goals.