Women's Economic Empowerment Programme

The Halcrow Foundation is part of the multi-million pound Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme, which is run by the British Asian Trust. By 2022, this far reaching project aims to give 60,000 marginalised women from urban and rural areas in India and Pakistan the skills, materials and opportunities to find work or grow their own business.

The programme is funded by a number of donors, including the UK Government’s Department for International Development. Funds from the Halcrow Foundation are supporting an extension of some of the work the Trust is already doing in Pakistan and India.

Barriers to work

In Pakistan, an estimated 25 per cent of women work for economic gain compared to 85 per cent of men. Men also hold a lot of influence over the lives of their female relatives and almost always have exclusive control over household income.

A recent study by the World Bank asked a group of men from across Pakistan what they thought about women working outside the home. Most didn’t want the women in their families going out to work because they believe in traditional gender roles, and worry that men and women mixing freely in the workplace would cause social problems.

However some of the men interviewed by the World Bank did support their female family members working outside the home. These men said they would like to increase their family income or take advantage of women’s education or skills.

This study highlights some of the reasons why women in countries like Pakistan often have limited access to the resources, services, knowledge and markets needed to build a business or find employment. It also shows the support that exists for their economic empowerment, which organisations like the British Asian Trust are building on.

Irshad’s story

Irshad managed her household and six children while her husband went out to work selling fruit and vegetables. After a chance meeting with Kaarvan Crafts Foundation, which partners with the British Asian Trust to run the Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme in Pakistan, she was able to train in sewing and business skills.

“My kids knew,” says Irshad, “But my husband didn’t know. He used to leave in the morning and come back in the night, and between that time I used to complete my training and be back home. I kept the training a secret throughout the years.”

Irshad’s husband eventually found out and realised her training and work were important to her. As Irshad’s support system grew, she was able to work and earn enough money to add half as much again to the household income.

Today, Irshad believes it is important for a woman to have a job. She says, “There is no feeling in the world like that of spending one’s own hard-earned money.” She believes self reliance and independence is important in shaping a woman’s identity, and uses this to inspire and motivate the women around her to stand up for their rights too.

Steps out of poverty

The British Asian Trust’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme gives women like Irshad in India and Pakistan the tools and confidence to make money and manage their income in a fast-changing economy. It empowers them to lift their families out of poverty, which in turn brings greater opportunity to invest in the education and health of their children.

Since the Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme started, thousands of women in India and Pakistan have begun their journey out of poverty. In the past two years in Pakistan alone, more than 5,600 women have gained access to financial services through training and support and 5,300 women have increased their income. Around 4,500 women are training in business management or a vocation, and more than 1,300 have paid internships, apprenticeships, jobs and self-employment.

Changing the future

With funding from the Halcrow Foundation, 240 women in India and Pakistan will receive skills training and support to access the formal job market or set up their own enterprise. Support from the Halcrow Foundation is also helping the British Asian Trust to build their Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme to benefit thousands more women and girls in the future.

About the British Asian Trust

The British Asian Trust is a diaspora-led international development organisation, founded in 2017 by HRH the Prince of Wales and a group of visionary British Asian business leaders. It delivers high-quality programmes in South Asia, specialising in and championing the use of social finance products to drive positive change across the region.