No country can progress in any sphere of life without active participation of women in mainstream national development. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation- Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC-CCI) President Iftikhar Ali Malik stated this while talking to a delegation of presidents of various women’s chambers of commerce and Industry led by Ms Samina Afzal President Women Chamber Islamabad on Friday. Malik said women entrepreneurs have been designated as the new engine of economic growth and rising stars of the economies in developing countries to bring prosperity and welfare. He added that the women also contribute and support the economy extensively in different ways by being employed in several sectors. He said, many successful businesses were run by women and some of them are highly skilled in entrepreneurial activities. “It is a fact that many of the world’s largest enterprises are owned and run by women who are aware of the correct application of theory in business,” he observed. He said women constituted 48.54 percent of the total population in Pakistan but had little participation in the national development process, adding that there was a need to fully harness their potentials and properly utilize them in all sectors especially in SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) in the pattern of the European Union. SAARC Chamber President said Pakistan’s economy consisted of 3.3 million SMEs comprising services providers, manufacturing units and start-ups. SMEs make up over 30 percent of Pakistan GDP, account for approximately 25 percent of export generation and provide over 70 percent industrial employment. He cited that 25 million SMEs were the backbone of the EU economy and provided two out of three industrial jobs in the region. About rural women, Malik said they also played a catalytic role towards achievement of transformational economy, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. He said most of the rural women could be self-employed in food, livestock, agriculture, health, education sectors and SMEs?by offering them interest-free loans on easy installments payable after five to ten years. Iftikhar Ali Malik said that short technical courses must be launched across the country to impart basic knowledge to women in various trades to meet the ever-increasing demands of skilled workers in industry. On this occasion, the delegation head Samina Afzal thanked Iftikhar Ali Malik for setting up 11 women chambers in Pakistan and assured him that they would continue to contribute their share in national development.