First Women Bank Ltd., both a commercial bank and DFI designed, managed and run by women, for women, was set up in 1989 by the Islamic world’s first woman Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (Shaheed) who envisioned a bank that would meet the special needs of women entrepreneurs. Recently, the Finance Division, Government of Pakistan has given the additional charge of President of the Bank to Ms. Charmaine Hidayatullah, the senior most EVP of the Bank.
The FWBL model caters to women at all levels of economic activity – micro, small, medium and corporate. Most importantly, the Bank provides women with the support services required to navigate the obstacles to the development of business. By doing so, FWBL is helping them emerge as key players in the national and global economy.
The Bank has always looked at its micro-finance borrowers as potential SME and Corporate clients. The Bank’s unique credit policies promote asset ownership for women, by providing financing to business entities:
However, the Bank seeks deposits from and provides services to both genders.
In 1992, an ILO Geneva Study recognized First Women Bank Ltd. as a major innovation in Pakistan, along with Edhi Trust and Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). In 1994, Euromoney awarded FWBL the Best Bank in Pakistan for its low administrative cost.
FWBL was the first Commercial Bank to launch Micro-Credit in Pakistan. In 2001, Women’s World Banking in its Global Directory profiled FWBL for Banking Innovation in Micro-Finance, and acknowledged that FWBL features among the world’s micro-finance leaders.
To combat child labor in the carpet weaving industry, FWBL collaborated with ILO and directly financed women micro-borrowers in rural areas. The Bank disbursed micro-credit to 2921 women living below the poverty line in 162 villages, with 100% recovery rate. Under this project, 5842 children were weaned out from child labor and educated through non-formal educational centers.
The Asian Banking Award 2005 awarded First Women Bank Limited, FWBL / ILO – IPEC Micro-Credit Program as Runners-Up in its Micro-Finance Program category. Under this project, one of the borrowers received the Global Micro-Entrepreneurship Award (Runners-up) organized by the UN Capital Development Fund in collaboration with CITI Group Foundation, Harvard Business School and Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund.
FWBL initiatives for the empowerment of women were recognized at all levels and the Bank received the “Brands of the Year Award (2010 & 2011) for the second consecutive year.
Recently the Bank was conferred with the 8th Consumers Choice Award. This was in acknowledgement of FWBL’s contribution towards the promotion of women banking in the country.
In Pakistan, when compared with other countries of the world, female entrepreneurship is amongst the lowest in the world. With very low female participation in the economy of the country, the percentage of female employers is even less than one percent.
FWBL is committed to the goal of realizing the potential of women who require assistance in enhancing their access to entrepreneurial activities and forward employment. Realizing the importance of women’s entrepreneurial activity and its linkage to loan facilities, Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Division has been created with the objective of Capacity Building and Skill Development of existing and potential women entrepreneurs and their facilitation to Business Development and Financial Services provision. Three Business Development & Training Centres are functioning in Karachi, Lahore & Islamabad under this Division.
To enhance women’s entrepreneurial capability, FWBL has partnered with SMEDA, Department of Youth Affairs, Government of Sindh, UNIDO, Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad, Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry and AF USAID. Under the FWBL-Gender Equity Program (GEP), supported by AF USAID, more than 400 women have successfully participated in the trainings offered at BD & TC Karachi and Lahore Centres.
FWBL ATM card with Multiple Benefits
In order to provide multiple benefits to customers, the Bank has collaborated with top brands including Oxford University Press, KFC, Stile, Singer and Depilex. Now FWBL ATM card holders can get discounts on their purchases.
FWBL & SLIC Partnership for Bancassurance
First Women Bank Limited (FWBL) and State Life Insurance Corporation (SLIC) have entered into a strategic partnership to sell insurance products under Bancassurance. This will include a unique gender specific product focusing on women.
FWBL in Public Sector
FWBL was formed with shareholdings from all the large public sector banks. Over time, these banks were privatized; however, their shares in FWBL were not transferred to the public sector. In 2009, the Government of Pakistan decided to keep First Women Bank Ltd. (FWBL) in the public sector by purchasing the shares of private shareholder banks i.e. MCB, HBL, ABL and UBL through State Bank of Pakistan. Now the majority of shares are owned by the Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan.
The Government of Pakistan vides its letter No. F. 4(1) –DS (BR-II)/ 2000-556 dated November 4, 2011, has exempted FWBL from the application of the Office Memorandum No. F.4. (1)/2000-BR-II, dated 12 November, 2002. Under the said Office Memo, the Government laid down certain requirements to be complied with by public sector enterprises and local/autonomous bodies while depositing their working balances for their operations with any public or private bank.
Corporate Social Responsibility
FWBL has always looked out for the best interest of the women of Pakistan. From economic empowerment to financial assistance, FWBL has always put women at the forefront of their efforts. Taking another step towards the wellbeing of the women of Pakistan, FWBL has joined hands with Pink Ribbon Pakistan to promote the noble objective of Pink Ribbon Pakistan in providing cancer awareness among women.
“The Bank is also live on SWIFT to transfer funds internationally. At present, the Bank has a network of 41 branches in 24 cities of Pakistan.”
Today, FWBL’s mission for empowering women remains unmatched.
“To transform the status of women from passive beneficiaries of social services to dynamic agents of change.”
Site last updated December 5, 2013 @ 11:50 am