Gender disparity in the tech and startup industry is a long and ongoing problem that does not appear to be coming to an end anytime soon. Right now, only 17% of startup founders in the US are women and the numbers are even dire if you talk about Pakistan alone. The current generation will probably not achieve gender equality in our lifetimes but what we can do is set a precedent to be followed.
While Pakistan’s startup industry remains heavily male-dominated, there are women out there who are making their mark. Saba Gul of Popinjay and Sidra Qasim of Markhor are some of the earliest female founders to come out of Pakistan’s startup sector. And just last year, BeautyHooked, led by Sahr Said, closed a seed-funding round of $280,000.
So, women are out there and they’re doing great work. There is a need for a strong support infrastructure that encourages more women to become entrepreneurs and solve problems that matter most to them. She Loves Tech, one such initiative, is a global startup competition for female-led startups or startups making an impact on the lives of women. Currently, startups are being shortlisted from countries all over the world. The local winners will then compete in the global finals in China where they will go through a week-long boot camp consisting of workshops, visits to leading tech companies, and networking opportunities. In the meanwhile, Teja Ventures will be actively looking to invest in the women impact startups.
CIRCLE, a social enterprise working toward women empowerment in Pakistan, is presenting She Loves Tech Pakistan 2017. The local event will be held on August 19th and will be held in the IBA Karachi City Campus.
Here are the startups that have been shortlisted for She Loves Tech’s Pakistan event.
Founded by Hira Batool Rizvi, SheKab is Pakistan’s first shared-taxi service targeted to women specifically. Women can sign up on their web portal for a monthly subscription fee and a driver is assigned to them. The female riders can share their ride with up to 3 women en route the same vicinity. The service is currently only functional in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Just last week the startup got accepted at Norway’s Katapult Accelerator.
Qayaam, as any Urdu-speaking person would understand, means to stay and rest at a place. And that is exactly what this startup ‘Qayaam‘ aims to do. By allowing people to book a residence or a guest house online Qayaam is trying to normalize they paying guest culture in Pakistan. The startup has notably helped young working women find affordable and safe accommodations.
doctHERs, led by Dr. Asher Hasan, aims to provide quality healthcare to women living in remote locations. It brings out-of-practice female doctors back into the line of work and connects them with patients via video consultation. doctHERs has a long-term goal to expand the nationwide network of female doctors in remote areas and make telemedicine mainstream in Pakistan.
The ‘committee’ system is very well-understood and practiced by Pakistani women. This has long been considered a way to save money. And now Kafayak aims to help people make financial savings by digitizing the ‘committee’ system. This female-led startup is building a secure peer-to-peer banking system for borrowing and lending via ROSCA (Rotating Saving & Credits Association).
TrashIt has Anusha Zaidi at its helm who serves as a co-founder and lead researcher on the startup. TrashIt’s main aim is to empower Pakistani housewives, homemakers, and gardeners. Their TrashIt Bin takes in kitchen waste and paper scraps and forms compost in two weeks time. The startup strongly believes that if all Pakistani households start converting their trash to compost it will make all the difference to our environment.
EDVON works towards revolutionizing the Pakistani education system by introducing, developing and teaching an easily accessible robotics curriculum for all K-12 schools. The startup is also the only local manufacturer of educational robots in Pakistan. Using these robots they are driving young children’s interest in STEM fields like robotics, electronics, and programming. EDVON has also taken a stand to promote women in STEM fields by organizing training camps and exposure seminars.
AuratRaaj is the first digital content platform that provides education, guidance, inspiration, and support to Pakistani women. Their chatbot called Raaji, who is an honor killing survivor offers women consultation on educational and social purposes.
8. Sehat Kahani
Sehat Kahani aims to provide a basic health unit to all underprivileged areas in Pakistan. The startup offers a wide range of ICT-enabled health services including telemedicine, health education and promotion, health market research and solutions for gender adversity in the health sector in rural and low-income urban communities.
9. Mera Paisa
Mera Paisa is a FinTech impact startup offering mobile wallets that facilitate low-income groups, especially women, to gain financial independence through digital payments.
E-Learning Network (ELN) is a UK-based center providing Pearson (BTEC) Accredited Teacher Training, Assessment, and Quality Assurance Training. Pakistan has a vast majority of educated professionals, particularly women, who are bound by social or family restraints which hinder them from further education or certifications. ELN targets such people who cannot bear travel costs or cannot commute to a different country and provides them valuable opportunities to achieve UK qualifications without the travel costs or taking time off from work.
Another startup called IoTA Pakistan was also shortlisted but dropped out before the She Loves Tech Pakistan 2017 winner could be announced.