The role that the financial empowerment of women plays in improving the socio-economic conditions and gender-equality index cannot be disputed. Pakistan has, in the past, not been ranked as a country which utilises the potential of its female citizens despite our founding fathers repeatedly emphasising that women must be empowered and stand side by side with men.

The Women Economic Empowerment Group (WEEG) is one such initiative that the government is embarking upon to increase the participation of women in the economy. The WEEG focuses on a relatively new but a burgeoning field – e-commerce. The WEEG will have dedicated incentives for women entrepreneurs, providing them with e-commerce platforms and promoting digital businesses in the country.

The government has identified a good sector to invest in. E-commerce platforms are suitable for women since they are easier to adjust from a work-from-home environment, a factor which will allow greater participation of women. Secondly, COVID-19 and the lockdown has provided an environment that is ideal for the growth of the e-commerce platforms. The government’s reduction of taxes for online platforms in the budget also makes conditions ripe for growth for this particular industry. Businesses can also adopt scalable models, with the potential to generate massive revenues and create plenty of opportunities for employment.

The WEEG initiative must go further. Women ought to be included in any digital policy, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly in the digital sphere, should be prioritised. While e-commerce is a rising business in Pakistan, studies show that customers still exhibit some level of distrust when dealing with Pakistani online platforms. This can be addressed if businesses operate ethically and as customers become accustomed to new ways of accessing the market. Such shortcomings must be improved upon, and women should be encouraged to participate in it. The WEEG program should set up dedicated training and workshops for women in the IT sector to achieve Pakistan’s enormous potential.