International Women’s Day is a celebration of women’s achievements and strengths, but more than that, it is a day to remind us of the inequalities that still exist between men and women and to inspire us to renew our commitment to continue working towards a more inclusive and equal world. In business conferences in Pakistan in 2016 (CIRCLE 2016), only 14% of speakers were women. Pakistan ranks second last in the Gender Gap Index (World Economic Forum, 2016). Labour force participation for women is only 25% (World Bank, 2015). In this context, it is essential that ‘women’s empowerment’ goes beyond one-off events and celebrations. CIRCLE believes that investing in women is the smartest economic venture of today and that progress requires sustained efforts across the year.

This is why for International Women’s Day 2017, CIRCLE inspired men, women and youth to commit to #BeBoldForChange and support gender equality throughout the year. CIRCLE held a workshop at Alliance Francaise Karachi where six women – a mixture of social entrepreneurs, activists and journalists – pitched their initiatives: Founder Sheops Nadia Patel Gangjee, Founder Goats For Water Fariel Salahuddin, Co-Founder Sehat Kahani Dr Sara Khurram, Amna Chaudhry part of the Girls at Dhaba collective, Misha Founder Misha Rizvi Productions.

These inspiring women shared the ideas behind their ventures, their passion for social justice, and a call to action to the audience. The event ended with the audience making individual pledges and committing to a concrete #BeBoldForChange action – from bringing more women in leadership roles in their companies to a lawyer pledging to support women going through the legal process!

Dr. Ayesha Khan, keynote speaker and Associate Director Portfolios at Acumen commented, ‘I was thoroughly inspired by the energy, drive and passion demonstrated by the participants in the workshop. Thank you CIRCLE, for creating a wonderful space where women are not just learning from each other, but where we can collectively work towards a stronger, brighter future for all of us.’

In the same spirit, CIRCLE also launched campus chapters in six university campuses across Pakistan to equip a generation of young people to #BeBoldForChange and support women’s empowerment. Campuses included NED, Habib University, LUMS, UET Faisalabad, Lahore School of Economics, Lyceum and COMSATS. These chapters will lead conversations, activities and workshops on campuses around women’s empowerment and gender equality, ensuring Pakistan’s next generation believes in equality and inclusion.