Working Women Leading a Social Revolution in Pakistan

While Fareed Zakaria, Nick Kristoff and other talking heads are still stuck on the old stereotypes of Muslim women, the status of women in Muslim societies is rapidly changing, and there is a silent social revolution taking place with rising number of women joining the workforce and moving up the corporate ladder in Pakistan.



"More of them(women) than ever are finding employment, doing everything from pumping gasoline and serving burgers at McDonald’s to running major corporations", says a report in the latest edition of Businessweek magazine.



Beyond company or government employment, there are a number of NGOs focused on encouraging self-employment and entrepreneurship among Pakistani women by offering skills training and microfinancing. Kashf Foundation led by a woman CEO and BRAC are among such NGOs. They all report that the success and repayment rate among female borrowers is significantly higher than among male borrowers.



In rural Sindh, the PPP-led government is empowering women by granting over 212,864 acres of government-owned agriculture land to landless peasants in the province. Over half of the farm land being given is prime nehri (land irrigated by canals) farm land, and the rest being barani or rain-dependent. About 70 percent of the 5,800 beneficiaries of this gift are women. Other provincial governments, especially the Punjab government have also announced land allotment for women, for which initial surveys are underway, according to ActionAid Pakistan.



Both the public and private sectors are recruiting women in Pakistan's workplaces ranging from Pakistani military, civil service, schools, hospitals, media, advertising, retail, fashion industry, publicly traded companies, banks, technology companies, multinational corporations and NGOs, etc.



Here are some statistics and data that confirm the growth and promotion of women in Pakistan's labor pool:

1. A number of women have moved up into the executive positions, among them Unilever Foods CEO Fariyha Subhani, Engro Fertilizer CFO Naz Khan, Maheen Rahman CEO of IGI Funds and Roshaneh Zafar Founder and CEO of Kashf Foundation.

2. Women now make up 4.6% of board members of Pakistani companies, a tad lower than the 4.7% average in emerging Asia, but higher than 1% in South Korea, 4.1% in India and Indonesia, and 4.2% in Malaysia, according to a February 2011 report on women in the boardrooms.

3. Female employment at KFC in Pakistan has risen 125 percent in the past five years, according to a report in the NY Times.

4. The number of women working at McDonald’s restaurants and the supermarket behemoth Makro has quadrupled since 2006.



5. There are now women taxi drivers in Pakistan. Best known among them is Zahida Kazmi described by the BBC as "clearly a respected presence on the streets of Islamabad".



6. Several women fly helicopters and fighter jets in the military and commercial airliners in the state-owned and private airlines in Pakistan.

Here are a few excerpts from the recent Businessweek story written by Naween Mangi:

About 22 percent of Pakistani females over the age of 10 now work, up from 14 percent a decade ago, government statistics show. Women now hold 78 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, and in July, Hina Rabbani Khar, 34, became Pakistan’s first female Foreign Minister. “The cultural norms regarding women in the workplace have changed,” says Maheen Rahman, 34, chief executive officer at IGI Funds, which manages some $400 million in assets. Rahman says she plans to keep recruiting more women for her company.

Much of the progress has come because women stay in school longer. More than 42 percent of Pakistan’s 2.6 million high school students last year were girls, up from 30 percent 18 years ago. Women made up about 22 percent of the 68,000 students in Pakistani universities in 1993; today, 47 percent of Pakistan’s 1.1 million university students are women, according to the Higher Education Commission. Half of all MBA graduates hired by Habib Bank, Pakistan’s largest lender, are now women. “Parents are realizing how much better a lifestyle a family can have if girls work,” says Sima Kamil, 54, who oversees 1,400 branches as head of retail banking at Habib. “Every branch I visit has one or two girls from conservative backgrounds,” she says.

Some companies believe hiring women gives them a competitive advantage. Habib Bank says adding female tellers has helped improve customer service at the formerly state-owned lender because the men on staff don’t want to appear rude in front of women. And makers of household products say female staffers help them better understand the needs of their customers. “The buyers for almost all our product ranges are women,” says Fariyha Subhani, 46, CEO of Unilever Pakistan Foods, where 106 of the 872 employees are women. “Having women selling those products makes sense because they themselves are the consumers,” she says.

To attract more women, Unilever last year offered some employees the option to work from home, and the company has run an on-site day-care center since 2003. Engro, which has 100 women in management positions, last year introduced flexible working hours, a day-care center, and a support group where female employees can discuss challenges they encounter. “Today there is more of a focus at companies on diversity,” says Engro Fertilizer CFO Khan, 42. The next step, she says, is ensuring that “more women can reach senior management levels.”








The gender gap in South Asia remains wide, and women in Pakistan still face significant obstacles. But there is now a critical mass of working women at all levels showing the way to other Pakistani women.

I strongly believe that working women have a very positive and transformational impact on society by having fewer children, and by investing more time, money and energies for better nutrition, education and health care of their children. They spend 97 percent of their income and savings on their families, more than twice as much as men who spend only 40 percent on their families, according to Zainab Salbi, Founder, Women for Women International, who recently appeared on CNN's GPS with Fareed Zakaria.

Here's an interesting video titled "Redefining Identity" about Pakistan's young technologists, including women, posted by Lahore-based 5 Rivers Technologies:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Status of Women in Pakistan

Microfinancing in Pakistan

Gender Gap Worst in South Asia

Status of Women in India

Female Literacy Lags in South Asia

Land For Landless Women

Are Women Better Off in Pakistan Today?

Growing Insurgency in Swat

Religious Leaders Respond to Domestic Violence

Fighting Agents of Intolerance

A Woman Speaker: Another Token or Real Change

A Tale of Tribal Terror

Mukhtaran Mai-The Movie

World Economic Forum Survey of Gender Gap

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Comment by Riaz Haq on March 31, 2012 at 8:05am

Here's an excerpt of Summitpost story on Pakistani woman mountain climber Samina Baig:

The Pakistan Youth Outreach Second Climbing Expedition in winter to Mingligh sar 6050m was indeed amazing, Samina Baig being the first woman from Pakistan to go on a winter attempt in the Karakorum was a great mile stone in Pakistani women’s adventure history.Samina Baig who had topped Chashkin Sar Peak,which was uncllimbed, in August-Septermber 2010. The team along with Samina set High Camp at nearly 5525m which was new for any girl from Pakistan in winter and pushed for the summit the next day. Due to extreme cold and insufficient clothing for Samina (due to financial constraints) mainly down jacket and pants, the team decided to return approximately 150m short of the summit. Samina reached the height of approximately 5900m. Later the weather turned to hell and we called off the Expedition however the PYO first basic mountaineering training camp for young school boys and girls was very successful.This expedition was dedicated to all those who have been affected by the floods in Pakistan this year.
Since Karakorum has different weather conditions, the winter arrives late November in the high mountains of Karakorum, according to the calendar year it has been said that December climbing expeditions are not a full calendar year expedition. However a few years back the Alpine club of Pakistan organized a climbing expedition to Peer Peak in the Karakorum which was named “Winter Expedition”. Similarly there was another expedition in November by locals which was also named Winter Expedition. Looking at the extreme weather situation in the high mountains, December and January is normally considered winter in the Karakorum, Pamir area hence the expedition is also Winter Expedition.
The expedition kicked off on the 8th of December 2010 after three days acclimatization in Shimshal Valley. We hired 12 porters, two cooks and Mr Yausaf Khan, former army climber as our expedition advisor. The first day was spent at Korband. During the winter days are short and most streams at different summer camp sites get frozen therefore the first night spent at Korband was pretty chilly and there was a lot of frost in the tents. After a steep climb of Ghar Sar the next day the team managed to reach Uch Forzeen in 9 hours, the chill was great though the day was sunny. Uch Forzeen provided us with good shelter for cooking in the hut but sleeping in the tent was pretty hard, at midnight I found my sleeping bag frosty and frozen half due to my breathing but a great adventure all the same! Uch Forzeen to Arbon Purian was a nice journey, the frozen slopes of Arbon Purian were nice for practice and play adventure in the cold climate.

http://www.summitpost.org/samina-baig-account-of-first-pakistani-wo...

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 7, 2012 at 9:56am

Here's an ESPN report on Pakistani women cricketers receiving central contracts from PCB: The PCB has awarded central contracts to 17 women cricketers for the year 2012, reducing the number of signings from last year's pool of 19. Mariam Hassan Shah, Sania Iqbal Khan and Asmavia Iqbal are the new players to earn the 12-month contract for the first time while 2011 contract holders Kainat Imtiaz, Faryal Awan, Areeb Shamaim and Masooma Junaid have missed out this year. Seam bowler Qanita Jalil, who was in category B last year, has been promoted to category A, while Sania Iqbal, who missed out on a contract last year after sustaining an injury during the Asian Games, was included in category C. Elizebath Khan and Masooma Junaid, who have been
 selected for the upcoming tour of Ireland and England, are the two notable exclusions from the list. Pakistan's next assignment starts from August 18 in Ireland, where the women cricketers will participate in a tri-nation series involving the hosts and Bangladesh. The team, thereafter, will play 7 Twenty20 matches in England against various teams (including England women, England Under-19 women and West Indies women). "We have picked up the best possible 17 women cricketers for the contracts," Ayesha Ashar, PCB women wing's manager, told ESPNcricinfo. "Those who are left out shouldn't be discouraged and should try to win back the top contact by performing well. Contracts are meant to reward players who are consistent and contributing significantly at domestic and internationally." The PCB in 2011, initiated an unprecedented move to sign women cricketers, giving an opportunity to the women to play full-time cricket in a bid to boost the national team's performance at major tournaments. The list of players awarded contracts: Category A: Sana Mir, Javeria Wadood, Nain Abidi, Bismah Maroof, Qanita Jalil, Sadia Yousaf Category B: Nida Dar, Asmavia Iqbal, Marina Iqbal, Batool Fatima, Rabiya Shah Category C: Mariam Hassan Shah, Sana Gulzar, Sidra Ameen, Sania Iqbal Khan, Nahida Khan, Namra Imran http://www.espncricinfo.com/pakistan/content/current/story/576280.html

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 23, 2012 at 2:53pm

Here's a Nation story on women entrepreneurship in Pakistan:

Vital role of female entrepreneurs can help in improving the economic conditions of Pakistan. Therefore Khushhalibank joined hands with Dawood Global Foundation (DGF), Dawood Capital Management Limited (DCM) and Higher Education Commission (HEC) to promote women entrepreneurship by sponsoring the third LADIESFUND Entrepreneurship Conference, themed Cutting Edge Entrepreneurship (LEC 2012), recently held in Karachi.

Khushhalibank President Ghalib Nishtar said we are pleased to sponsor this dynamic event. The LADIESFUND Conference is a platform where women are supported and celebrated as the nucleus of change and betterment in the family unit, a vision that is a mainstay at Khushhalibank. This year, LEC 2012 hosted Pakistan’s first Student Entrepreneurship Exhibition which showcased the work of deaf student entrepreneurs as well as handicapable student entrepreneurs, an effort to celebrate the especially gifted disabled students of our community.”

Additionally the event served as a fundraising effort with partial proceeds directed towards ovarian cancer awareness as well as LADIESFUND(r) Fellowships and Scholarships, the awards for which are to be presented at the 5th LADIESFUND(r) Women’s Awards in March 2013.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-onli...

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 3, 2012 at 8:22am

Here's a Washington Post story on working women driving retail boom in Pakistan:

LAHORE, Pakistan — A perfectly coiffed model, draped in diamonds, shoots a sultry gaze from the cover of a glossy in-room magazine at a luxury hotel chain in downtown Lahore. The cover line on the ad-packed issue screams: “Wow! World of Women.”

And with good reason. Economists say that, in recent years, Pakistani women have fueled a retail boom in name-brand shopping as they move from a traditional homebound life into the working world.

“You can go into any shopping mall or any cafe, and you will see young girls sitting, having lunch, chatting away,” said Rashid Amjad, vice chancellor at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in Islamabad. “Despite all this conservatism that has been growing at the same time, you have a change.”

In many urban centers, the days when girls were forced to abandon education and eschew employment in favor of remaining within the walls of their homes seem to be mostly a memory.

Traditionally, men here bear the burden of sustaining the household, so for many middle-class women, their paychecks are entirely their own to spend — a boon for the newly booming retail industry.

“I can afford to spend whatever I like,” said Rabiya Bajwa, 37, a lawyer. “My income is roughly 20 percent more than what it was five years ago.” Bajwa does contribute to the household budget, but her two-income family enjoys a comfortable “cushion,” and she splurges on expensive designer clothes.

But this good fortune is not evenly distributed, said Hafiz Pasha, a noted economist at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore. Pakistan, he said, is still far behind other countries in terms of women’s economic contribution.

“This growth is witnessed in urban centers where middle-class working women are found,” Pasha said. “In rural areas, although the participation of women in the economy is more than the urban centers, they are not well-paid, and their share in the economy is much less.”

Although women have long been underpaid and subject to discrimination in the Pakistani workforce, they are coming into their own at a surprising rate. Since about 2002, Amjad said, participation by women, traditionally low, has been rising.

Many men left agriculture jobs, so work was being generated and women readily moved in, Amjad noted. Now, somewhere between 28 percent and 36 percent of women work in Pakistan, he said, but many work in home-based businesses, so their numbers are not easily ascertained.

In schools and colleges, young women study side by side with their male counterparts. “They seem to be very easy together, they talk very easily, and they discuss issues quite comfortably,”Amjad said, “so in a way higher education has increased female confidence to work with men, and that has helped.”

Three retail store owners surveyed in Lahore said most of their customers are working women, and they credited them with increasing their business.

“We started from a small store, but now we have five outlets in various parts of the city,” said Hasan Ali, manager of Bareeze, a leading brand of women’s clothing. “We have been in the market for the last 10 years, and roughly the business has expanded 40 percent in that period. . . . There are those out there who don’t even ask the price, and pay.”

Rukhsana Anjum, 47, a senior instructor at the Government College of Technology in Lahore, said she earns about 100,000 rupees, or $1,054, a month. “Gradually in the last five years I have become brand-conscious,” she said. “Today, definitely I spend more on my clothes and jewelry.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/pakistani-women-dr...

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 10, 2012 at 10:35am

Here's NY Times on female Muslim Imams in China:

BEIJING — Could an old religious tradition from China help solve one of the world’s most pressing problems — violence committed in the name of Islam?

The irony of an officially atheist country possibly offering a way out of an international religious problem is intense. Yet that is what some Islamic scholars in China and elsewhere hope may happen as they point to a quietly liberal tradition among China’s 10 million Hui Muslims, where female imams and mosques for women are flourishing in a globally unique phenomenon.

Female imams and women’s mosques are important because their endurance in China offers a vision of an older form of Islam that has inclusiveness and tolerance, not marginalization and extremism, at its core, the scholars say.
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Female imams and women’s mosques are not “a new thing here. It’s just a cultural tradition that was never interfered with,” Ms. Shui, an author and researcher at the Henan Academy of Social Sciences in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, said in an interview.

That is what makes it so important, said Khaled Abou El Fadl, a prominent Islamic legal scholar.

“The Chinese tradition of women’s mosques is rooted in Islamic history. It is not novel, a corruption or innovation or some type of heretical practice,” Mr. Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a recorded interview.

China’s liberal Hui tradition therefore challenges the power of Wahhabism, a puritanical, patriarchal sect dominant in Saudi Arabia today that is behind much Islamic extremism, he said.

“The Chinese example preserves and reminds Muslims of an important jurisprudential and historical phenomenon that Wahhabism tried to wipe out,” he said.

“Contemporary fundamentalist movements use the space provided by the mosque to affirm all types of patriarchy and male power over women,” he said. “When you have something like the Chinese example, which ultimately empowers women to work within their own space and lead prayer and manage that space on their own, it’s a significant form of women asserting themselves in the Islamic tradition, helping in constructing it and perpetuating it.”

“I always see Islam in places in China as reminding Muslims of their authentic tradition before it was impacted by petrol dollars and this very gruff and dry form of Bedouin Islam that came out of Saudi Arabia,” said Mr. Abou El Fadl. “So the point is there’s an old, historically rooted tradition, and the Chinese, if they tap into this tradition, they can effectively provide resistance or examples of resistance to puritanical Islam.”

Muslims arrived in China during the Tang dynasty, more than 1,000 years ago, and their numbers swelled during the Yuan dynasty in the 13th century. Mostly from Persia and Central Asia, though some were Arabs, they brought with them traditions that had always emphasized women’s education, said Ms. Shui. But women’s status really took off in the early Qing dynasty, more than 300 years ago, when the numbers of Hui declined as they were absorbed into the majority Han Chinese culture, she said.

By then, she said, “most Muslims couldn’t read or speak Arabic. So they relied on women to spread the word, to educate. It wasn’t possible to rely just on the men. There weren’t enough of them.”

Far away, in the Arab world, Wahhabism began spreading....

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/world/asia/10iht-letter10.html

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 17, 2012 at 5:10pm

Here's BR on Darawt dam to help Jamshoro farmers, including land for landless women farmers:

Divisional Commissioner Hyderabad Ahmed Bux Narejo has directed the executing authorities of Darawat Dam project to keep their ongoing works continue as per their schedule and assured that the matter for land acquisition pertaining to development works of project would be resolved very soon on priority basis.

He also directed the Deputy Commissioner Jamshoro and Deputy Commissioner Thatta to conduct the survey of the land coming in the utilisation of Dam, ascertain its status, whether it was private or government land and also identified that it has been processed for section 4 or not. This he said while presiding over a meeting regarding allotment of land to the management of Darawat Dam held at his main office today. Deputy Commissioner Jamshoro Agha Sohail, Deputy Commissioner Thatta Mohammad Nawaz Sohu, Project Director of the project Gul Mohammad Junejo, Iqbal Shaikh from Wapda attended the meeting.

Addressing the meeting, Ahmed Bux Narejo said that President Asif Ali Zardari was taking keen interest in the early implementation of the project. He said that this project to conserve 1,21,000 acre ft of flood water from its catchments area Nai Baran scattered over 3150 square KM and to irrigate 25,000 acre of district Thatta. He said that this Dam to bring Socio-Economic upliftment of remoted areas of Sindh and to pave the way for irrigation, fisheries development, women emancipation, provision of water for domestic and drinking purpose, providing employment and recreational facilities as well. He said that during the first phase, 100 women landless Haries have been identified by Revenue Department and National Rural Support Programme jointly and added that each to be allotted up to 25 acres of land after completing all formalities as per revised land grant policy of the PPP government.

The Project Director Gul Mohammad Junejo while briefing to the meeting said that the reservoir area of the project falls in Jamshoro district, where as its command area falls in Thatta district. He said that this Dam located across Nai Baran near Jhangri Village in Jamshoro District, 70 KM west of Hyderabad. He said that the Dam has source of water from Hill torrential scattered over the area of 3150 square Kilo meters in lower Kherthar range. He said that now the executing works by the Chinese company Sinohydro-MAJ (JV) involve in this task heading toward reservoir and its command areas where some problems of land acquisition have been arisen. He said that the work on this project was going at full swing.

http://www.brecorder.com/agriculture-a-allied/183/1248563/

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 11, 2012 at 7:05pm

Here's an excerpt from an Express Tribune story on rise in Pakistani women in workplace:

according to the 2011 Pakistan Employment Trends Report, compiled by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, female labour force participation has jumped from 16.3% in 2000 to 24.4% in 2011. That jump represents an extra seven million women in the work force.

So who are these women? There is very little specific research on the profiles of women who have entered the workforce, but the 2012 Economic Survey of Pakistan, issued by the federal finance ministry, states that a major proportion of the rise appears to be taking place in urban areas. The government does not break down employment data by specific sectors or levels, but it appears – at least from anecdotal evidence – that women are entering the workforce, to varying degrees, at most levels and virtually all sectors.

Their reasons for joining the workforce have also not been documented in detail, but there are at least a few statistics that provide hints about their motivations. Education levels appear to be rising across the board, and fertility rates are hitting an all-time low virtually every year. Pakistani women are better educated and are less burdened with child-care than at any time in history (much more than men, but less than their predecessors a generation ago.)

Another factor appears to be need: according to The Express Tribune’s analysis of data provided by the Household Integrated Economic Survey, the bottom 20% of households in Pakistan have not seen their incomes keep pace with inflation. Many patriarchal households have had to abandon their traditionalist strictures against women working outside the home and let their female relatives work to bring in more income.

Seven million women is not a number to be trifled with: while women have yet to crack the glass ceiling in Pakistan (representation at senior levels of management remains shamefully low), they are beginning to gain increasing economic clout. And this increased clout is changing the way business is done in Pakistan, largely by making it more inclusive than it used to be.

Many companies, for instance, have caught on to the idea that female customers have money to spend, but may not necessarily be comfortable speaking to male salespersons, regardless of how friendly or courteous they may be. That, in turn, has led to the rise in hiring of female staff members, creating stable corporate-style employment opportunities for blue-collar women. The rising spending power of upper-middle class women is helping their lower-middle and working class sisters get jobs.

It is also perhaps not a coincidence that the first Pakistani law against sexual harassment in the workplace was passed in 2011. Perhaps politicians now feel that urban women are an increasingly important electoral constituency.

And the rise in female consumers has also given birth to a new breed of female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. This is a game being played not just by the daughters of rich businessmen, but also by more working class women, aided by government efforts like the incubation centres set up by the Punjab government in Lahore, and the state-owned First Women’s Bank providing lending facilities.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/464126/social-revolution-rising-economi...

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 11, 2012 at 10:55pm

Here's an ET report on women entrepreneurs in Pakistan:

The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (Smeda) organised the Women Business Incubation Centre (WBIC) in Pakistan to promote women’s participation in the consumer sector. The major goal of the project is to provide a protected and hassle-free business environment to women entrepreneurs and to help them develop business skills that will enable them to compete successfully in the modern marketplace.

“Pakistani women entrepreneurs need to start inventing their own business concepts,” said Asma Maryam, project director of WBIC while talking to The Express Tribune.

Majority of women entrepreneurs fall within the 20 to 40 years age group. Women entrepreneurial ventures can create jobs, in which women are either the owner or the sales staff, Maryam added.

All the facilities provided by Smeda in WBIC like, electricity, gas, telephone bills, security are at a nominal rent of Rs7,260 per month, she added.

There are two operational WBICs in Pakistan; one is in Lahore and the other in Peshawar. Centres in Quetta, Swat and Karachi are under construction. The Karachi project will be operational very soon. The Sindh government approved two more WBICs in Karachi, said Alamgeer Chaudhry, general manager of Smeda, Lahore while talking to The Express Tribune.

The funds are provided by the government but these projects may face financial constraints as Smeda’s funding will be suspended by the next fiscal year. Smeda is approaching international donors to fund the project. For this purpose, the University of Southern Queensland Australia and Lahore College for Women University have expressed their interest, he added.

Women are likely to buy products if they are sold by women, which has increased revenues of the women’s business centre by 60%, said Shahida Tahir, shopkeeper in WBIC in Lahore, while talking to The Express Tribune. She added that women were earning handsome profits because of this project and hoped that if granted increased funding, the project will open doors to more upcoming female entrepreneurs.

Huma Kiran, a designer in WBIC, said that previously, she was earning Rs15,000 per month by designing dresses at her home. But now her income has jumped three-fold to Rs50,000 after she managed to find a shop in the Smeda centre.

Mehwish Zahid, a customer at WBIC, said that she was feeling more comfortable while purchasing goods from women.

She said that lack of motivation coupled with limited capital and skilled workers are the main causes of economic backwardness of females.

There is a need to setup both general and specialist support organisations in the country at various levels to encourage this sector. This can be done by financial institutions, business organisations and concerned governmental departments.

Mena bazaar of Karachi is the best bazaar where women are doing business; the government of Punjab should also organise such bazaars in Punjab to promote the culture of women entrepreneurs.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/464107/bosses-at-home-but-denied-leader...

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 11, 2012 at 11:39pm

David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy and Mather, used to say "The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife." Here's an ET story on marketing FMCG to women:

KARACHI:

With more women participating in the country’s work force, fast moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs) seem to have found a new market for products that they once considered ‘a small category’.

Take for example feminine hygiene products – referred to as ‘quiet products’ in the advertising world. According to industry sources, it used to be a very small category – however, this does not seem to be the case anymore especially when one looks at ongoing ad campaigns marketing such products.

These products are portrayed more openly in television ads today than a few years ago – one can also notice gigantic billboards on main thoroughfares of city displaying these products.

The increase in ad campaigns of ‘quiet products’ has helped FMCGs increase their revenues manifold in the respective category; according to Saad Hashmi, Senior Accounts Manager, Client Services and Business Development at Orient Advertising.

Some ten years ago, Hashmi said, women from elite and upper-income classes were the main customers of feminine hygiene products but now, even urban middle class women are buying it.

Explaining, Hashmi said, over the past few years the participation of the middle-class women in education and labour rose significantly thus increasing their awareness and income respectively. They are more adaptive to such products for they have that additional income to do so; he said.

Hashmi, who has worked with FMCGs on advertising such products, further said that heavy marketing of these products created awareness about brands, which increased demand of branded products. Some ten years ago, he said, there was no concept of branded products due to lack of awareness; women mostly used standard napkins or plain old cotton for personal hygiene. Giving an example of a famous brand that is currently advertising its product on TV, he said, the company carried out an awareness campaign on the sidelines of their ad campaign.
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The source, however, acknowledged that their sales for feminine hygiene products have increased, linking it to various factors.

Today’s consumers, the source said, have developed more sophisticated shopping habits because they have got more money. Raw fabric or cotton, the alternate option, has little to no cost while branded products have a cost; the source said – an indication that these women are willing to spend on quality. These products, the source said, are a convenience for working women and even come in small sachets that are affordable by the low income sectors.

The source, however, did not rule out the media’s role as far as awareness is concerned. Media has helped increase awareness about feminine hygiene products, he said. It, therefore, amplified demand for such products.

Unlike both FMCGs and advertising agencies, the working women, The Express Tribune spoke to, disagreed if their choices were affected by ad campaigns. According to these women – one of whom does not even have a TV at home – they are not bothered about ads as long as their trusted brand does not compromise on quality. These women, however, agreed that it is their own or family’s income, which made it easy for them to choose between cheap raw fabric and costly feminine hygiene products.

“In the past, I would spend on necessities only,” said one woman, adding, “but now I have to maintain my personality because I work so I spend on luxuries as well. I have become more brand-conscious.”

http://tribune.com.pk/story/464105/the-holy-grail-fmcgs-have-discov...

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 3, 2012 at 7:47am

63% of students entering medical colleges in Punjab are female this year, reports Dawn:

LAHORE, Dec 2: Female students have again considerably outnumbered the male in the fresh admissions to the public sector medical colleges of Punjab for the session 2012-13, it is learnt.

According to the data available with Dawn, out of total 2,942 students who secured admissions on open merit seats for the session 2012-13 at the public sector medical institutions of the province, 63.3 per cent were female while 36.7 per cent male, showing a visible gender-wise difference.

The data was compiled by the admission section of the University of Health Sciences under ‘MBBS Admission Statistics 2012-13’.

The figures showed continuity of the trend being witnessed for the last many years that the medical profession had become preferred choice for females as compared to the male students.

A senior official of the varsity said the girls’ considerably larger share in the admissions to the state-run medical institutions was one of the factors behind shortage of doctors at the government hospitals.

Explaining the dynamics of this situation, he said, “Only 10 per cent of the female students admitted to various state-run medical institutions joined the medical profession after securing their MBBS degrees while the rest either left before or after completing the house job”.

This showed that in majority of the cases medical degree was considered just a means to secure a better groom for the girls having such qualification, he said, adding the practice had flourished to the extent that a coinage, ‘medical marriage’ was being used for it.

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According to the data, Lahore was at the top among the districts from where a majority of female students got admissions to the state-run medical institutions as out of total 627 admissions, 452 were of females while only 175 were male.

Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala were other major districts from where a majority of female students appeared and got admissions to various medical colleges of the province. According to the statistics, of 250 students admitted from Faisalabad, 158 were female and 92 male. Similarly, of 230 admitted medical students, 139 were female and 91 male from Multan and out of total 146 students, 102 female and 44 male belonged to Gujranwala.

Even in the backward districts like Bhakar, Layyah, Bahawalnagar where higher education was considered a low priority for girls, the number of female medical students was higher than that of the male.

Area-wise distribution of candidates admitted from central Punjab showed that out of total 1,839 students who got admissions to government medical institutions, 1,215 were female and only 624 were male.

Similarly, area-wise distribution of candidates admitted from southern Punjab showed that 506 female and 430 male students got admissions to various medical institutions out of the total 936.

The situation was not different in northern Punjab from where 167 students got admitted as 140 of them were female and only 27 were male.

According to college-wise gender distribution, Rawalpindi Medical College (RMC) is at the top among other institutions, admitting 202 girls out of 299 total admissions. The other prominent medical institutions which admitted majority of female students include the Punjab Medical College (Faisalabad) 184 female, 104 male, Allama Iqbal Medical College (Lahore)170 female, 132 male, Quaid-i-Azam Medical College (Bahawalpur)168 female, 106 male and King Edward Medical University admitted 167 female and 136 male students.

This difference could also be witnessed at the newly-established Gujranwala Medical College which admitted 81 girl students and only 19 boys out of total 100 admissions this year.

http://dawn.com/2012/12/03/medical-admissions-girls-again-leave-boy...

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