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Mastercard and CARE launch Strive Women to support women-led businesses in Pakistan

Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth and CARE, an international humanitarian organization, announced the inception of Mastercard Strive Women, a program that aims to strengthen the financial health and resilience of women-led small businesses in Pakistan, as well as in Peru and Vietnam.

Strive Women recognizes that women-led small businesses are critical contributors to economies, communities and households worldwide. The program will collaborate with local partners to deliver tailored financial products and support services while addressing unique gender barriers that women face while doing business. Across all three countries, the program aims to reach 6 million entrepreneurs through campaigns, while directly supporting over 300,000 entrepreneurs — the majority being women — to grow their businesses and increase their economic potential.

This new phase of partnership between Mastercard and CARE follows the success of the Ignite program in Pakistan, which provided direct support to almost 51,000 entrepreneurs by unlocking loans valuing USD 49.6 million. The initiative also reached 1.38 million small business owners through large-scale campaigns. Following the program, 90% of the participants reported increased sales, and 50% expanded their business.

“Building on our 20-year legacy of empowering people in Pakistan, we continue to join forces with our partners to create a conducive environment for business owners to fulfil their potential. We are delighted to enter the new phase in this partnership with CARE and look forward to providing further support to women-led small businesses in the market,” said Arslan Khan, Vice President and Country Business Manager, Pakistan, Mastercard.

Kausar Parveen, an entrepreneur from Pakistan who participated in Ignite commented: “In Pakistan, it is hard for a woman to start a business on her own, as a male guarantor is usually needed to get a start-up loan. As soon as the man is involved then financial control falls to him, stealing hope from women. I was fortunate to get a [growth] loan. I was also connected to other women entrepreneurs, helping me build new connections and develop ideas. The Ignite training has given me the confidence to grow as a woman. People who used to tell me that business is not something that a woman can do now respect me for who I am.”

Among other collaborations, Ignite worked with U Bank to ease guarantor and collateral requirements for women borrowers for all its loan products. The program also partnered with Mobilink Microfinance Bank to educate female business owners about the benefits of digital loans.

Strive Women will extend the scale and impact of previous programs, going deeper by building a broader ecosystem of stakeholders committed to long-term support for women-led small businesses. The program will also address the unique gender barriers women-led businesses face by testing innovations related to the climate crisis and childcare, which both disproportionately impact women. By taking a women-centered approach, Strive Women will seek to develop methods that can help female small business owners balance household and business cashflow, prepare for and manage financial shocks, and increase their decision-making power.

“CARE International in Pakistan remains dedicated to breaking down the barriers that hinder women’s financial empowerment, and we are proud to see the tangible outcomes of our efforts reflected in the growing numbers of women acquiring loans to build their businesses. Our financial service provider partners tell us that women are excellent customers, as such they can contribute significantly to the economic landscape” said Adil Sheraz, Country Director, CARE International in Pakistan.

Strive Women joins Mastercard’s portfolio of philanthropic small business support programs, called Mastercard Strive, which helps small businesses thrive in the digital economy.

The program will focus on four core pillars of work. These include supporting women-led small businesses to grow through increasing access and usage of financial products, partnering with financial service providers to co-design tailored products that best serve women-led small businesses, innovating to overcome gender barriers for women-led small businesses, such as childcare, and building ecosystems of support for female entrepreneurs by activating networks and sharing learning tools.

More broadly, Mastercard is committed connecting 1 billion people and 50 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) worldwide to the digital economy by 2025. Part of this objective was reaching 25 million women entrepreneurs with solutions that can help them grow their businesses. Thanks in part to the Ignite program, the company achieved this global milestone in June 2023 .

Women’s Entrepreneurship at CARE aims to improve financial security and economic empowerment for 3 million entrepreneurs and employees, reach 30 million people, and mobilize more than $500 million USD in private capital by 2030.



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