Women’s Mentorship Accelerator

03/12/16: Jinnah Institute held its first Women’s Mentorship Accelerator, geared towards creating spaces for young women entrepreneurs, building leadership capabilities and encouraging them to engage in Pakistan’s democracy, economy and society. The workshop was held in collaboration with Iqra University, Karachi, on Saturday, and featured a panel of mentors comprising of Ammara Durrani, Anis Haroon and Sadaf Mahmood. 

Ammara Durrani indicated how difficult it is for women to engage in Pakistani society. Although the term regularly attributed to societal obstacles is ‘breaking glass ceilings’, young women usually have to break ‘stone walls’ instead. She advised the attendees to be vigilant of equal pay issues, harassment, and similar concerns which could undermine their confidence in the workplace. Ms. Durrani further elaborated on the validity of relevant laws in Pakistan which can protect women from threats in the public and private spheres.  

Sadaf Mahmood from SEED Ventures shared her experience with social enterprise development, saying that entrepreneurship is the best route to a robust economy as it addresses gaps in socioeconomic landscapes and is beneficial for one’s self as well as for the community. 

Even though society sometimes associates a woman’s ambition with aggression, Ms. Mahmood encouraged the audience to tackle such negative ideas by continuing to work hard, maintaining composure and defending their integrity. 

By mapping the feminist movement through the 1960s, Anis Haroon shed light on social change that has benefited women in recent years. However, she noted that women are still facing many challenges in Pakistan, including child marriages, honour killings and harassment. Ms. Haroon proceeded to state that as it is difficult for households to run on one income, society may have accepted the idea of women working, but it has not yet accepted the idea of men sharing housework. The culture therefore continues to limit women from pursuing careers.

The session was attended by a large number of undergraduate and graduate female students who questioned the gender divide in employment settings, how to isolate societal and familial pressures, and explored legal rights and procedures available to them. The workshop concluded with mentors holding one-on-one sessions with students to address specific questions and discuss individual concerns.

This is Jinnah Institute’s first Women’s Mentorship Accelerator under the Open Democracy Initiative. The Mentorship series will bring leading women in Pakistan to public and private universities, to provide personalized career training to young girls in their field of expertise.