Feature: Pakistan’s New Plan to Eradicate Poverty: Use Embroidery

MIANWALI: Waziran Bibi has had it hard. Her mud house in a village on the western bank of the mighty Indus River has been an unwilling witness to that. The only door in the house has visibly degenerated from heat and now fails to perform even its basic function of keeping the mosquitos out. Though the blue coat of paint — applied annually after the floods — helps.

Like most girls in the village, Waziran Bibi too was married off at the peak of her adolescence. “After the birth of my children, things got much worse,” she laments. Now in her late 40s, she is a single mother to seven children, none of whom have ever seen an inside of a classroom. With no formal education, Waziran had to fend for herself. Her answer, becoming the village tailor.

For Waziran , not only is stitching the only marketable skill she has, but it also allows her to remain in the confines of her home while raising her kids. The only investment she has done is in a small manual stitching machine, which allows her to make about $50 in monthly profits from stitching clothes for other women in the village.

Her $50 monthly income is supplemented with $45 every quarter she receives from BISP, Pakistan’s flagship billion dollar unconditional cash transfer program. For now, this has helped her family not to fall into acute poverty, but what it hasn’t done is to provide a sustainable livelihood.

This is what BISP wants to change with its new project.

Instead of expensive and time-consuming poverty graduation strategies which are usually based on teaching the poor new skills or providing them with debt, the cash-strapped BISP is building upon the traditional skills which most of its 5 million-plus women beneficiaries already have as part of their upbringing.

“We want our beneficiaries to become economically independent from our stipends,” says Marvi Memon, the minister in-charge of BISP. “The biggest problem in this has been the lack of access to the market these women have.”

BISP has partnered with Pakistan’s largest logistics company to create an e-commerce platform to allow its beneficiaries to sell clothes with traditional embroidery. For starters, the cost of each embroidered shawl is between $30 to $50, all of the money will go directly to the beneficiary.

“The great part of the program is that these women can continue their responsibilities as mothers, as farmers, and make additional income on the side,” Marvi adds.

The program is conceivably one of the most simple poverty graduation strategies to be implemented in Pakistan, with the potential of helping its beneficiaries in saving money and even creating employment in their local communities if the demand for their products increases. BISP also plans to connect most successful of its beneficiaries with federal interest-free micro-loans.

Waziran is the first group of 120 women from 25 districts across Pakistan who have already signed up for the e-commerce platform, for her, the impact could be life changing. Working with her daughters, she expects to generate about $60 in additional monthly income from this summer onwards. More than what she receives from BISP. For questions email us at wani@cyap.org.pk or DM the writer

Originally Published Here

Published by Shahrukh Wani

Economist at International Growth Centre, University of Oxford.

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