Sonal Dhanani Receives the 2023 March 8 Fund

11 July 2023
Sonal Dhanani Receives the 2023 March 8 Fund

It is our great pleasure to announce that a €9,700 grant from the 2023 GRÓ GEST March 8 Fund has been awarded to Sonal Dhanani, GEST alumna of 2022 for the project Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion Advocacy Hub. Ms. Dhanani is the founder of Parindey; a Karachi-based social enterprise working to build resilient communities through wellness, peace building and mental health programs in Pakistan.

The project officially begins this month and will run for seven months until January 2024.

According to a 2020 estimate by the World Bank, only 1% of entrepreneurs in Pakistan are women as compared to 21% male entrepreneurs. When it comes to female labour participation, the 2021 World Bank estimation showed that only 20% of women in Pakistan were part of the workforce. With a gender gap in access to digital technology, skills, and financial products, women face additional challenges in accessing financial services. Despite all of this, women and their businesses are critical drivers of the economy, as service providers, employers, and household CFOs.

Ms. Dhanali‘s project will work directly with 60 women workers and women-owned businesses in the District Thar of Sindh, mobilising them, forming them into functioning groups, and connecting them with a range of services and resources (access to finance, markets, skills development, and enterprise development etc). Capacity building along with technological tools will be provided to maintain a financial mobility that can establish links with relevant service providers and the private sector. Importantly, linkages with government led social protection initiatives, as well as micro-finance institutions, will be developed during the implementation. This project will incorporate Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG) as a cross cutting theme. All direct women beneficiaries, multiple indirect beneficiaries, and stakeholders will be exposed to training, sensitisation, and orientation sessions on EVAWG.

Parindey considers violence against women and girls (VAWG) as an economic issue, as it has cost implications on individuals, households, businesses and society. The close linkage between women economic empowerment and ending violence against women is therefore of strategic importance in all Parindey programming; Parindey has learnt through experience that addressing violence has a positive impact on women both socially and economically. Women’s economic independence and increased decision-making ability reduces the risk of violence as their financial status improves and they are empowered to directly address violence inflicted on them, particularly domestic violence.

In selecting this project for the GRÓ GEST March 8 Fund, reviewers made note of a well-organized application and timeline, as well as very clear goals and activities that are fully in line with GRÓ GEST priorities. In addition, the attached budget was both frugal and realistic, and accounted for all necessary items. The application left no doubt that this project will be cost-effective, implemented according to plan, and have a positive impact on its target population.

The March 8 Fund was awarded for the first time in 2020/21 under the name 'GEST Alumni Fund' to Ms. Chinenye Anekwe (alumna of 2018), who received a grant for the project Business Booster Programme for 100 Rural Women Energy Entrepreneurs, a project which far exceeded expectations.

We hereby offer our heart-felt congratulations to Ms. Dhanali and team.