Women of the World, Pakistan

WOW Karachi is a festival celebrating women and girls, and looking at the obstacles they face from achieving their potential. Around the world, individuals and communities are insisting on the simple proposition that women must have equal rights and asking ‘why is gender equality taking so long?

At a time when female voices have become immensely powerful as a force for positive change, WOW Karachi brings together women and girls, men and boys. We celebrate the moves forward in gender equality in Karachi and across Pakistan, and have constructive conversations about the complex realities faced by women and girls. WOW Karachi is part of a global network of WOW festivals which started in London but happen everywhere from Sydney to New York, Dhaka and Alexandria in Egypt.

With talks, debates, workshops, musical and art performance, mentorships sessions, a vibrant marketplace and much more, WOW Karachi has something for everyone.

Youth Mobilization in Sindh

Undertaken in association with Youth Affairs Department, Government of Sindh and UNFPA, this project worked with young men and women of Sindh province between the ages of 15-24 years. The programme sought to empower youth by equipping them with the skills they needed to bring change in their own communities. Energetic youth and teenagers across Sindh province were recruited for community mobilization and development programmes, which included seminars and workshops to enable them to undertake social action projects in their respective communities. During the course of the project ECDI undertook the following activities, which included:

  • Providing seminars and vocational training workshops,
  • Interacting with youth, encouraging them to speak up and express their opinions,
  • Recruiting motivated and interested youth across different regions of Sindh.
  The youth and teenagers targeted in the project included educational and professional classifications, namely,

  1. School going youth
  2. College going youth
  3. University going youth
  4. Professional youth
A series of 10 awareness seminars for 150-200 youth and 5 training workshops for 30 youth on the topic of “Community Development and Mobilization of Youth” was delivered in colleges, polytechnic institutes, and educational foundation across Khairpur, Larkana, Hyderabad, Thatta, Badin, Nagarparkar, Tando Adam, Sanghar, Sukkur and Karachi across the Sindh Province of Pakistan.

The Entrepreneurs Project

Undertaken from 2011 to 2014, this USAID and MEDA project aimed to raise the incomes of 6000 poor Women Embellishers (WEs) across Sindh by replicating and building on the learning of its Female Sales Agent (FSA) Model developed in the Behind the Veil Project (BtV).

Rural and urban poor entrepreneurs in Pakistan, especially women, generally remain trapped in a low value-add cycle, producing low quality products for local markets and earning meager amounts for subsistence. Typically, they possess limited knowledge and awareness of how markets work and are often exploited by more mobile, perceptive and monopolistic intermediaries. They also lack access to credit products and have little hope of reaching higher value markets. Given the significant contribution of the growing market for embellished fabrics in the Pakistani and global textile industry.

ECDI, created a network of 120 Female Sales Agents (FSAs) to reach out and engage around 6000 poor women embroiderers in this value chain. These FSAs purchased embellished fabrics from poor producers to sell to retailers, wholesalers, and other buyers in the middle to high-value urban markets. As part of these transactions, FSAs embedded product information, quality control and contemporary designs into their sales services to enhance quality and productivity, and strengthen the product offering. Additionally, the availability of contemporary designs was strengthened as FSAs purchased new designs from both formal designers and tracer designers to disseminate to producers. The resulted in a product that more appropriately matched the demands of middle-class consumers in Pakistan and resulted in increased incomes for poorer women entrepreneurs. ECDI’S primary role in the project included Community Mobilization, Training and Development, Networking, Monitoring and Evaluation, Creation of New Value Chain Actor, Market Development and Linkage Creation, and E-Marketing.


The Government of Sindh launched a major initiative, titled “Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Youth Development Program” to address the issues of poverty and unemployment through human resource development in the province. The project was undertaken by ECDI in association with PCU – BBSYDP, Government of Sindh, Women Technical Training Center, BufferZone, Women Technical Training Center, North Karachi and Women Technical Training Center, Korangi. The broad objectives of the project covered:

  1. To develop human resources in Sindh catering to the needs of public and private sector in local and international job markets.
  2. To provide stipend to various categories of unemployed educated young trainees during training as a measure to address poverty.
  3. To provide quality trainings and certification 330 unemployed semi-literate and educated youth (females) through the private sector to increase their employability.
  4. To provide trained manpower linkage to the local and international job market and encourage self-employment.
  5. ECDI joined hands with the three aforementioned training institutes under STEVTA, and trained 330 trainees in four months through in-house and customized courses. The trades chosen for training reflected market demand, and covered Dress Making, Stitching & Sewing and Fashion Designing.

Active Citizens

In partnership with the British Council, this youth based program was designed to tap potential and enhance the knowledge base of youth to become useful members of society. It was based on the belief and premise that youth matter today and are also the future. Active Citizens Program (ACP) aims to develop leadership skills in young people around the globe by facilitating community and political participation amongst young people through interaction with local community, organizations and local and national governments. The program used national and local resources as well as UK expertise to build capacity of partners and facilitators. It also developed an understanding of global issues which affect young people and their communities. The Program aimed to develop the ability of young people to think for themselves and act for others. Realizing the crucial need to guide young people to achieve their full potential, ECDI continued to channelize their energy and build a cadre of young leaders and adults working together with a common purpose for the development of the country. Through the ECDIs involvement, the ACP aimed to:

  • Develop leadership and advocacy skills and empower young people to play a pivotal role to bring positive social change within their communities, and sensitize them to identity and conflict issues, understanding intercultural dialogue as a conflict resolution process and developing skills to set up successful dialogues for increased interaction between diverse groups of youth.
  • Build networks within their communities collaborating with local government, community influencers, policy makers, educational institutions, and media and civil society organizations to actively engage on community based issues through social action.
  • Develop an understanding of diversity and difference, ensuring inclusively in terms of gender, disability, ethnicity, faith, and vulnerability.
  • Facilitate young people to understand the links between local and global issues so that they can correlate the national and global resonance of local actions.

Pathways & Pursestrings

Pathways and Pursestrings was a market-led initiative undertaken by ECDI to promote women’s economic empowerment and facilitate their effective integration into profitable, mainstream markets. Implemented by the MEDA, ECDI as the Lead Partner had responsibility of building the capacity of four key partners, namely, the Pak Social Welfare Society, Kaarvan Crafts Foundation, Sarhad Rural Support Program and Haleeb Foods Limited, by working in the Glass Bangles, Embellished Garments, Seedlings and Dairy subsectors respectively. The initiative was undertaken with the financial support of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Pathways and Pursestrings (P&P) emulated the successes of Behind the Veil (BtV), a three-year project jointly implemented by ECDI and MEDA, which created sustainable micro-enterprises for over 6, 000 women through a network of mobile women intermediaries (known as Sales Agents). The P&P project aimed to provide 16,000-20,000 isolated rural women producers with sustainable linkages and support services that will enable them to access markets with products demanded by contemporary consumers in four subsectors, in marginalized and impoverished areas of Sindh, NWFP, Balochistan and Punjab. It hoped to achieve scale by developing the capacity of select Pakistani organizations to understand the principles and theories of value chain development and to apply it to a range of industrial, demographic and geographic contexts across Pakistan.

MEDA in conjunction with the project’s lead partner, ECDI, built the capacity in large scale market development and value chain promotion of the four Key Facilitating Partners (KFPs) as the project underwent the phases of design, development, implementation, and evaluation. This was done via the adoption of a three-pronged strategy, which included classroom-based academic training, field-based mentoring sessions and distance desk-based support to enable KFPs to undertake VCD work in their chosen subsectors.

Kaarvan Crafts Foundation (KCF), was the Key Facilitating Partner responsible for implementing the project in the hand embellishments subsector. They are responsible for the empowerment of 8,000-10,000 homebound women embellishers in different communities across the country.

Pak Social Welfare Society (PSWS), also a non-governmental organization based in Hyderabad, entered into partnership with an aim to enhance income and socio economic conditions of 4,000-5,000 women processors involved in making glass bangles.

Sarhad Rural Support Program (SRSP) is a non profit/non government organization working in NWFP. Its focus within the P&P project was on raising income of 1,500-2,000 Home Bound Women Seedlings Producers in district Haripur and adjacent areas.

While three partners were not for profit organizations, Haleeb Foods Limited, is a private company, working for the implementation of the value chain project in the dairy subsector in two districts of Punjab namely, Bahi Pheru and Rahim Yar Khan.


(Ultra Urban Pro Poor Project)

Implemented in squatter and low-income settlements, in three adjacent areas of Golimar, in the city of Karachi, namely, Sultanabad, Sindhipara, and Aliabad, Tabeer was a one year pro-poor, market-led pilot to address poverty in 200 ultra-poor households in urban areas of Pakistan through capacity development in production of marketable products and creation of sustainable market linkages. The project aimed to test an approach to reduce the vulnerability of ultra-poor households by increasing their asset ownership and productivity as well as creating incomes to counteract income insecurity. The Tabeer model was an aspiration-inclusive approach for the economic strengthening of the urban poor in Karachi. The initiative sought to develop economic activities for individuals and households ranging from intervention and support services for strengthening livelihood assets, to bringing social and economic change that could impact the socio-economic capital of the poor households selected. The project operated at different socio-economic layers, working with both ultra-poor and very poor households, although individuals within those households which the project targeted were often unemployed and had no access to means of earning incomes. Tabeer built on the existing skill training efforts of the Social Welfare Board to both strengthen skill training and add entrepreneurship training for sustainable linkages to mainstream markets. A key strategy of the pilot phase was to seek out leaders from within the more entrepreneurial and mobile women who could become role models for the community and act as intermediaries and organizers for ultra-poor women producers.

The project was undertaken by ECDI with support from the Aga Khan Development Network, the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board and the National Council. As part of the project, six trades were identified for inclusion in the project and 211 beneficiaries were trained in ladies dress making, baby wear, straw products, fabric painting, tie and dye, and hand embroidery. In each trade, Production Group Lead (PGLs) were identified who managed a group of women producers within the respective trades. These leaders were made mobile and began acting as market intermediaries – receiving orders from buyers and distributing them amongst their women producers, while keeping a small commission. To ensure smooth functioning of the project, the group leaders were guided by ECDI to carry out three cycles of cooperative production under the supervision of technical trainers and were assisted in costing and pricing, negotiations with buyers, and also in bringing about creativity and innovation in their products.

Through the Asset Grant Scheme (Qarz-e-Hasna Plan), all 211 beneficiaries who attended technical training sessions received tools and equipment to start and continue production in their respective trades. 15 individuals have been developed as street vendors and are earning on a regular basis. After the adoption of a group production strategy, 43 group leaders were introduced to the First Microfinance Agency and First Micro-Insurance Agency. Moreover, 7 beneficiaries have opened their own training centers and 1 beneficiary has set up her own supplies shop in Sindhi Para. However, perhaps the most important achievement of the project is the replication of its model at Gulshan-e-Noor, where 25 beneficiaries have already trained in two trades. This bodes well for future expansion and/or replication of the model and indicates its lending itself to a relatively easy upscale.

ECDI’S tasks in the project included reaching the ultra-poor and targeting bottom billion, project design, community mobilization, market research, linkage and development, and training and capacity enhancement.



Pakistan, despite the enormous potential of its energy resources, remains energy deficient and has to rely heavily on imports to satisfy its energy needs. However, solar energy has excellent potential in Pakistan, which receives high levels of solar radiation through the year, receiving a daily average of about 19 mega joules per square meter of solar energy.

ECDI and MEDA began jointly working on the Behind the Veil (BtV) project from October 2004 in 4 regions of Pakistan, namely, Thatta, Multan, Quetta and Karachi, with a network of 6000 women. With the beneficiaries of the BtV, ECDI initiated the Bottom of the Pyramid Project, as a pilot project with two specific objectives:

  • Improving access of  Solar Energy to IGP (Implementation grants program) REs’
  • Testing a distribution system through existing system of SAs (Sales Agents) ’ ‘Network.


(Women’s Economic Network)

Regional Women’s Economic Network (RWEN) is a network of women’s associations from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan (PAT) working together for sustainable, and socio-economic advancement of member entrepreneurs. The initial membership of the Network includes:

  • Pakistan: Association of Women Entrepreneurs in Small or Medium Enterprises (AWESOME).
  • Afghanistan: Afghanistan Women’s Business Council (AWBC),
  • Tajikistan : The National Association of Business Women of Tajikistan (NABWT)
RWEN aimed to promote and facilitate business relationships and opportunities among and within member organizations, who are micro-entrepreneurs facing challenging environments, so that shared learning, growth and scale-up of their businesses can be realized through direct access to high value markets. This was undertaken by promoting cross-learning and mutual support among participating associations at country and regional levels, through exchange of experiences and new ideas; integrating women into private sector by participating in regional and international conferences, meetings and events e.g. (ILO BDS seminar, SEEP AGM, etc); and understanding and applying value chain and market development approaches.



AWESOME is an association of women entrepreneurs, created in the year 2006, out of ECDI and MEDA’s previous project – Behind the Veil. AWESOME functions as an independent body; where overall secretarial and advisory support services are being provided by ECDI. It has five chapters across Pakistan. These chapters are located in Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta (Sindh), Multan (Punjab), Quetta (Balochistan) and Peshawar (KPK).  Each of the provincial chapters of AWESOME maintains a separate secretariat/office. The General Body conducts semi-annual provincial meetings to share ideas, discuss issues and take decisions.

Its goal is to promote an integrated approach that recognizes the specific needs of women entrepreneurs in various regions and brings them together for learning and seeking solutions to business issues faced by them. These include   information on high quality input supplies, design, technology and markets, financial management, conflict resolution, business development services for network members, participation in national and international exhibitions and trade fairs, and cooperation for  display of products at buying houses owned by some of the members.

Primary benefit from acquiring membership of the Association includes facility of bulk purchasing of input supply and production marketing, access to buying houses for display of products to get bulk orders and access to local and international exhibitions.

AWESOME is also part of Regional Women’s Economic Network (RWEN) which provides it with an opportunity for experience sharing and access to the regional markets among many other things.

Feasibility Studies & Research

MEDA-ECDI focused on the supply side of BDS markets developing a framework for evaluating BDS providers in three sub-sectors in Pakistan. The evaluation included a survey of providers in targeted regions and an in-depth assessment of selected providers across those sub-sectors and regions. The BDS market and providers were measured in terms of their contribution to the marketability, sales and long-term sustainability of constituent MSEs (micro to small enterprises) and the MSE products or services. This focus on MSE sales and marketing was based on an earlier MEDA-ECDI study in which MSEs identified increased sales as their first priority.

BDS services assessed, based on MEDA-ECDI experience were: input supply, market access, technology development (application of ICTs), and product design and development. Methodologies and tools developed by MEDA-ECDI assisted sub-sector specific and cross-cutting service providers undertake appropriate target-market research and to incorporate target-market findings into the development of results-oriented programs.

Services undertaken covered: Literature review to identify and assess BDS market survey methods and tools; development of survey methodology to catalog BDS providers in a given sub-sector and region; development of an MSE questionnaire to elicit information about BDS services including embedded, informal, piggy-back and commercial services, key informant interviews and focus groups, application of MSE questionnaire amongst women owned and operated MSEs; preparation of concept paper for local funding agencies (e.g., USAID and CIDA in Pakistan) to expand scope of work, identify and catalogue a total of at least 90 BDS providers that serve women owned and operated MSEs through the application of the survey methodology including the MSE questionnaire; information on 90 BDS providers catalogued in user- friendly database format; analysis of BDS provider database to determine which providers participate in an in-depth assessment; development of assessment tool, primarily to determine the effectiveness of BDS providers in accessing and applying target market research to services, and application of assessment tool (key informant interviews).

Innovative Capacity Building/ Training Programs

These initiatives were undertaken to enhance the skills of the poor through needs based training to achieve self sufficiency using their existing resources. It also helped people in generating incomes and gaining self employment. These programs included:

Micro-Enterprise Development (MED) Training:

  • 9 Programs of MED Training for  Technical skill up gradation of women,
  • 6 Programs of Non-formal Education and Technical Skills Training for child labor children,
  • Initiation of a micro credit line (Pakeen Bank).
The locations of these programs included:
  • Shah Nawaz Bhutto Colony
  • North Karachi, Sector 5B- 3
  • Muhajir Camp Sector 9
  • Sher Pao Basti
  • Sachal Goth
  • Malir
  • Seminar on Child Labor/ Children in Street Trade
Most of these programs were undertaken in collaboration with the Aga Khan Women Activities Committee and the Water, Environment and Sanitation (WESS) to develop personal, social and community development skills of Community Based Organizations. The concept was to enable these organizations to design programs with a modular participatory approach that could in turn enable communities to take action for their social and economic benefit. Eight Motivation and Community Mobilization Trainings entitled Working Together for Community Development were undertaken in four areas of Karachi and one area of Baluchistan, namely, Metroville, Evershine Colony, Sultanabad, Neelam Colony and Awaran.


Seventy Four self-employment and entrepreneurship development workshops and courses for women were conducted to identify and tap potential rural/ urban men and women to augment their entrepreneurial, managerial and technical skills for initiating sustainable and growth oriented enterprises, thus generating employment for others. Many of the participants are now owners of small businesses in the garment and handicrafts subsector, while others are in the service industry and own small businesses such as beauty parlors, bakeries and computer training institutes. Over 2000 women entrepreneurs were trained, and 180 trainers developed who are working with banks and other organizations in micro-enterprise development efforts. These trainings included:

  • 27 Urban and 8 Rural Small Enterprise Initiation and Management Trainings,
  • 27 Performance Improvement Trainings for Existing Entrepreneurs,
  • 12 entrepreneur meetings and national and local exhibitions of products made by women entrepreneurs.

ECDI identified and selected feasible micro technologies for skill development and up-gradation in order to generate new employment opportunities, and arranged Training of Trainers in various technical skills. Furthermore, ECDI also successfully imported a technical skill transfer program from Bangladesh in vegetable dying and handmade paper making. Many national and international experts who were trainers/ entrepreneurs in micro technologies were identified to help further this initiative. This included 20 Micro Technology Transfer Trainings, Trainer of Trainings, and a Product Design Development Workshops in Karachi, rural parts of Sindh, and Punjab.


Throughout the years ECDI has conducted marketing research to provide BDS suppliers with market information and training and used the research to identify opportunities to serve SMEs and develop and sell appropriate products to other suppliers. The researches have helped to pinpoint MSE problems, and  facilitated linkages to financial institutions, to acquire loans and to technical experts for gaining technical and marketing skills and access markets. The Market Assessments / Program Design conducted by ECDI in the past have included:

  • Market Assessment of BDS market in Pakistan,
  • Feasibility of a marketing initiative for women entrepreneurs in multiple sub-sectors across Pakistan,
  • In-depth research on the Garment Industry in Pakistan,
  • Embroidered garment sub-sector development project entitled “Access to Contemporary Markets for Homebound Women Embroiderers in Pakistan”.
  • 7 sessions on Assessing the BDS needs of Micro Entrepreneurs
  • 5 Focus Group Discussions with BDS Providers
  • 3 Marketing Workshops for BDS Providers
  These trainings and workshops covered Karachi, Quetta, Multan, Thatta, Sukkur, Lahore, and Islamabad.

E.MANAGEMENT AND CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT ECDI has rendered continuous pro bono consulting support and advisory services to the Women Technical Training Centre being run in Buffer Zone, Karachi, under the Directorate of Manpower & Training, Labour Department Sindh, for the past fifteen years.


Since 1994, ECDI has been offering gender sensitization/advocacy programs and more vigorously so in the post- Beijing process. Numerous workshops/ seminars for government officials, NGOs, CBOs and police officers were conducted for generating awareness and promoting the rights of women in the light of NPS and Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In this regard, Gender sensitization Workshops undertaken by ECDI in all 20 districts of Karachi, included:

  • 14 Gender Sensitization Workshops for Divisional and District Core Groups (NGOs and Govt. functionaries),
  • 5 Gender Sensitization  Workshops for Sindh Police Official, and
  • 5 Seminars / Focus Group Meetings on various themes related to women in Beijing Plus (12 areas of concern).