Bano joined Y Care International’s project that supported young rural women to create traditional produce that they sell in local and city markets in major urban areas. Business is thriving and they are now receiving regular order for goods.
Bano lives in rural Pakistan where women face significant discrimination. Over one-third of young women aged 15-24 have no education and are subject to gender-based violence and child marriage. A lack of education prevents women participating in family decisions, resulting in a cycle of fathers or husbands making decisions on young women’s futures.
“My name is Bano. I am 24 years old and live with my husband, 6 children, my mother and father in-law. I have 3 boys and 3 girls, the eldest being 12 years old. My husband is a mason. I did not attend school because my parents were not interested and did not think it was necessary, though I always wanted to attend. Before the project, I spent time doing household tasks such as caring for the children, cooking, cleaning and looking after the animals.
During training we were put into Women’s Enterprise Groups. My favourite training was in communication. I like games such that taught us unity and how to work together. I never had the opportunity of spending time with the other women in my community or from other communities. Some of the parents and husbands weren’t happy to begin with though as the group bring together people from different communities but this has improved.
I was selected as a sales and marketing agent (SMA’s) because I had good communication skills and was confident and able to move around and access the market. SMA’s also had to be skilled in cutting, design and production to make sure products created are high quality and on time. Working in a group is good because it allows us to check each other’s work and make higher quality products. I was selected by the artisans and by our trainer.
My job as the SMA is to go to the market and share our work with potential buyers and designers. When I go, I will always take my catalogue of products and samples so the buyers can see what we can produce. Once I have a commission then I come back to the village and share it with the artisans. I then go back to the buyers with any finished products. I will take 10% of the income from the orders. It’s important that all the costs and expenses are clear for the artisans. I need to be accountable for them.
I have visited Karachi many times and worked in 4 different markets to gain new buyers. Going to the market has become easier for me. At first, I was quite shy. I used to cover my face when I met new buyers as in Umerkot all the buyers are male. They teased me and asked how I was going to sell if I cover my face, so I stopped covering my face when I met with them. I’m more confident now and glad to have the middle role between the artisans and the buyers. We have already had an order for quilts from the local markets and two designers have commissioned work from us.
I also used these visits to buy new material for the groups which aren’t available locally, these are then shared with the artisans. I have been saving a small part of my income 10R per month in our group saving scheme. I have used the money I have saved to reinvest in developing samples which I can take to the market and potential buyers. The savings is optional, but everyone is willing and wants to save and contribute and the material we have bought has been useful for us.
Through the project I attended activities that taught us gender education. I learnt about early marriage and education for girls. I think that if you educate the girls then they will have a good life and be happy because they understand more about life and their community. My eldest daughter is 12 and my family wanted her to be engaged and fix the marriage, but I refused. Through the project, there were people who had been trained in the community to help me say no.
Now I feel like a have a lot more freedom to move and I am more independent. Behaviors are changing so I am not as restricted anymore. Our household income has increased and my husband and I both tell each other how much we have earned and then decide together how to use the money. I use my new money to buy books for my children. Currently 3 of our 6 children are in school.
I am very happy with my skills and role. Over the next year I want to continue to visit the market and find new buyers. My role in the family has increased and I have lots of responsibilities, but I am happy because I am working and increasing my income. This will create change for my family.”
The project in Pakistan raised the average household income by 141% with the average income now at £114 per month. The project economically empowered 722 rural women.