National Commission on the Status of Women

Government of Pakistan

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Consultation on First Women Bank Limited’s Future

A consultation was organized by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) in collaboration with First Women Bank Limited (FWBL) and supported by Open Society Foundation on Tuesday to brainstorm about the “Future of First Women Bank Limited”. The event was attended by officials of the Ministry of Finance, State Bank of Pakistan and regulatory authorities as well as women rights activists, bankers, representatives from civil society and development organizations.

The Government has recently put up the bank for privatization. The bank was first put up for privatization in 1996 which was challenged in the court by Women Action Forum (WAF). As a result, the privatization process was suspended.

Speaking on this occasion, Chairperson NCSW Khawar Mumtaz said that one of the major hurdles in the way of women’s empowerment in lack of access and control over financial resources. She said that the bank was created in 1989 to address this fundamental issue. At that time, the bank was given a dual mandate of providing development as well as commercial services like any other banks in the market.

The issues confronted by the bank in exploiting its full potential and offering products and services for the cross section of women particularly low income communities were discussed at length. Continuously low levels of capital diverse expectations of stakeholders have been identified as main reasons for its low performance. A bank with dual mandate to serve unbanked and unserved market requires bigger capital whereas as its capital level is set at 3 Billion which handicaps it to compete commercially with the commercial banks and also carry out research and develop innovative products for their target Market.

The need for injection of Capital and a sound time bound business plan and strategy was recommended with clearly defined targets. It was also strongly recommended to form a consultative group to follow up and work towards resolution of issues at various policy and decision making levels. It was also recommended that there must be series of such workshops to bring all stake holders on the same page.

Dr. Saba Gul Khattak, Executive Director of Open Society Foundation speaking to the participants of the consultation said, “14.3% of people in Pakistan have access to Banking services and out of which only 3% of them are women.” She stressed that financial inclusion of women is an important factor to achieve women empowerment in actual sense.

Shahnaz Kapadia Rahat a renowned trainer and facilitator offered her complementary services and designed and facilitated the workshop to express her commitment to the Cause.

Ms. Tahira Raza CEO of First Women Bank said that ever increasing regulatory requirements/ growing competition and squeezing margins have made it more difficult for FWBL to meet both ends with such small capital.

Overall the program was a big success and it was the first time that all stake holders sat together and developed a fair understanding

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