Out of great disasters come great opportunities. This notion has fascinated and revived the humanity out of hardships since the earliest days. As Pakistan shifts from relief to recovery phase in the post-flood scenario, the focus was the rebuilding livelihoods. During these hard times, Pakistani women have emerged as the strength of the economy and the communities as they are helping the families get back on their feet and start their lives all over again.
A conference in Islamabad, organized by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Entrepreneurs Program, gathered women, particularly from the flood and conflict affected areas, who shared their stories of livelihoods improved, and incomes boosted. The women group from Swat, with their faces well covered in their long hand-embroidered dupattas, is one of the beneficiaries of the Entrepreneurs project. “Earlier these skilled women won’t get due credit or compensation for their art as the major chunk of profits was seized by the middlemen (between the skilled worker and the consumer),” said Farzana Akram, Project Officer at Lasoona, one of the implementing partners of the Project that is providing women micro-entrepreneurs from Swat access to bigger markets and buyers.
With skilled workers, and access to better markets, the product quality has improved and there has been a huge increase in the incomes of micro-entrepreneurs. “Some 964 women have been trained. And we have just successfully delivered 476 pieces of hand embellished fabrics to Generation, Pakistan’s leading retain chain. The order was worth Rs. 485,000” told Ms. Farzana gladly.
The project has adopted an integrated value chain approach to support women embellishers by improving access to the premium markets such as national retail stores chain, boutiques and formal exporters. Alternatively, the initiative is agreeably satisfying the growing popularity for ready-to-wear hand embroidered fabrics among urban Pakistani consumers.
“The project is enabling skilled people, particularly women, from rural areas to tap into the huge, unseen potential of domestic markets and forge linkages that might expand to eventually access international markets” informed Ms. Catherine Moore, Deputy Mission Director of USAID Pakistan. “41,500 flood-affected families across Pakistan have recovered their livelihoods through the assistance and in many cases, the families are now earning incomes higher than what they used to earn before the flood” added Ms. Moore.
Women micro entrepreneurs, working in fields as diverse as textile, livestock sector, farming, are now able to generate an income, successfully improving their home conditions with the help of financial innovation known as micro-credit.
“The Entrepreneurs project has so far helped in restoring livelihoods of some 7,200 conflict-affected people in 233 villages of Malakand region through in kind micro-grants (agriculture inputs, livestock inputs and enterprise/trade skill tools),” as per the report of MEDA ‘Malakand Livelihood Recovery Project’. The Entrepreneurs Project is working in value chains with high potential for market expansion and provides the platform for increasing incomes of the targeted number of entrepreneurs in these areas: Dairy in North Sindh and South Punjab, Medicinal plants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Embellished fabrics across Pakistan and Honey in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.