Here’s a program that is turning rural women into entrepreneurs

Over 1,300 beneficiaries are actively working to earn a livelihood and support their families financially


By Buraq Shabbir

KARACHI: A woman leaving the house to earn a livelihood is still looked down upon in many parts of the country. Even if she is doing it to support her family, she is an easy target on a lot of levels. While women in the cities are still striving to normalize it, rural women have a harder time dealing with it. They are the ones who suffer for basic needs and yet face backlash when they step out of the house to earn money. One initiative that has opened doors for less privileged women is the Nestle BISP Rural Women Sales Program. The program works in collaboration with the government’s Ehsaas Kifalat initiative. Under this program, these women can work from the confines of their homes and fulfill their financial needs.

A virtual session, Seeing is Believing, took place earlier today to familiarize journalists and media personnel with the program. As of 2020, sales have gone up from 19 million to 50 million. There are over 1,300 beneficiaries from 23 districts and 500 villages actively working. The process starts with area mapping and identifying where to recruit beneficiaries from. The beneficiaries have to invest a bit of money in the beginning. They can then work through home stations or door-to-door deliveries. Some of them have actually expanded to retail shops as well where they sell other goods too.

The session arranged a virtual meet-up with these women associated with the program. Here is how it has helped them set up their own small businesses.

Naseem Bibi

Working since 2019, Naseem has a small shop. With a sale of about PKR 50,000-60,000, she makes profit worth PKR 6,000 every month. “It is easier for females to reach out to other females and sell the product,” she noted during the virtual event. “Initially, my family was reluctant but then they allowed me. My brother also assists me in the work.”

Sajida

In addition to being a beneficiary, Sajida is also a microdistributor. She has four kids while her husband is a heart patient. After enrolling in the program, she is able to take care of her children’s school fees. “Earlier, relatives had stopped meeting us since we were very poor but now their attitudes have changed. They respect us.”

These women also revealed that the money they got from Benazir Income Support was used to start their work. Akhuwat Foundation, in a joint effort with Nestle Pakistan, is also on board and offers interest-free loans to these rural women. It is a country-wide initiative that encourages women to come on board. The team trains these women who are now confident enough to come to the fore and speak about it. It has started to change the mindsets of their male counterparts who were not ready for the conversation initially.

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