The Political Economy of Women's Entrepreneurship Initiatives in Pakistan: Reflections on Gender, Class and ‘Development’

Adrienne Roberts, Ghazal Zulfiqar

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Abstract

This article presents a critical feminist political economy of women’s entrepreneurship promotion in Pakistan. Women’s entrepreneurship is the new development mantra that has captured the imagination of global institutions, policymakers, business organizations, and academia alike. We argue in this article that this focus on entrepreneurship should be located, on one hand, within the gendered political economy of Pakistan, and on the other hand, as part of the broader project of transnational business feminism, which works to frame gender equality as “smart economics” and as compatible with the neoliberal agenda of privatization, deregulation, and financialization. Drawing on primary research conducted on a women’s entrepreneurship training program in Pakistan, this article goes on to evidence how one such program is designed and delivered and critically interrogates the impacts of this program on those it is supposed to empower. The findings of our research point to tensions between the global discourses that explicitly inform projects like the one we study and the implementation of programs in specific local contexts, troubling the assertion that there is a smooth equation between entrepreneurship, economic growth, and women’s empowerment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-435
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Volume26
Issue number3
Early online date7 Mar 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Pakistan
  • development
  • empowerment
  • feminist political economy
  • gender

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