Rural Women’s Resolve to Defeat Poverty

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According to the “Rural Women in Pakistan Status Report 2018”, some 67 per cent of women are engaged in the agriculture work and ironically 60 per cent of their work is unpaid and goes uncounted in our national accounting system. Despite their huge contribution to the country’s GDP the voices of rural women go unheard and they are trapped in the net of chronic poverty.

By Nadir Ali Shah and Fazal Ali Saadi

Rural women’s life is very stressful and demanding because they face more complex challenges in the face of poverty, lack of education, domestic violence, gender discrimination and injustice as compared to the challenges faced by urban women. Though all the sufferings and problems are of universal nature, the evidence indicates that rural women lead a very hard life as survival of the fittest.

Women residing in rural areas work 16 hours a day while contributing to the farm production and giving care to children and elders. Globally women provide 43 per cent of agriculture labor and produce 50 percent of food. In South Asia the contribution of rural women in the agriculture and livestock is even higher up to 80 percent given its specific family farming system where women play a crucial role in contributing to the family income by working as peasants in the farmlands.

According to the “Rural Women in Pakistan Status Report 2018”, some 67 per cent of women are engaged in the agriculture work and ironically 60 per cent of their work is unpaid and goes uncounted in our national accounting system. Despite their huge contribution to the country’s GDP the voices of rural women go unheard and they are trapped in the net of chronic poverty.

As a matter of fact, rural women are least empowered part of our society, and therefore empowering rural women is a need of hour so that their deprivation in the face of poverty may come to an end. Further, rural women empowerment can give decision making power to them to improve their limited access to livelihood trainings, health care, education and income generating activities. In this connection, EU-funded program namely Sindh Union Council and Community Economic Strengthening Support (SUCCESS) Program is one such example, which is empowering rural women by fostering their community organizations and giving them some program interventions such as Community Investment Fund (CIF), Income Generating Grants (IGG), Micro Health Insurance (MHI) and Technical and Vocational Skills Training (TVST). This program is supporting these rural women to widen their source of income from agriculture sector to other fields as well.

Despite facing all these challenges, rural women appear determined to defeat poverty and one such example is Bhagul bibi who resides in village Masoo Bozdar, district Tando Allahyar rural Sindh. Her household’s source of income is farming and all the family members work as sharecroppers on three acres of land. It was very hard for her to feed a large family (10 members) three times a day from the meagre income of farming yet she showed a resolve to get rid of poverty.

She said, “We work as farmer whole the year on vast farmlands but get nothing in return and live as hand to mouth to meet our basic human needs. We saw extreme poverty but we were confident that one day we would defeat it. I recall the day when the team of National Rural Support Program (NRSP) approached us three years ago to mobilize us to be member of community organization formed under the European-Union funded SUCCESS program in our village to empower rural women. My determination increased when I joined this program as I received an interest free loan Rs.15000 from Community Investment Fund (CIF) managed offered by the community organization. I bought a goat which delivered two baby goats. I repaid after one year and received Rs.30000 from the CIF second year, from which I purchased a buffalo at Rs.70000. I added the remaining amounts by selling goats in Rs.40000 on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha.”

At present, Bhagul sells four litters of milk per day and earns Rs.9600 per month and keeps one liter of milk for household consumption.

The 41-years old Kareema bibi from village Hashim, district Tando Allahyar shared that her household’s income came from daily wage farm labor on large tracks of farmlands in the village which was not sufficient to meet her household expenditures. She always remained worried about the weak economic conditions of her household and wanted to contribute to the household income. Her strong determination supported her vision which came true when she became part of EU-SUCCESS program and received Rs.15000 from the Community Investment Fund managed by the Women LSO formed under the SUCCESS program.

According to her, she, along with her husband opened a small tuck shop in the village with the CIF. “We returned all the money in monthly instalments to the LSO from the earnings of the tuck shop in 12 months. In the second cycle, I received Rs.24000 from the CIF to further extend the tuck shop. Alhamdulillah! Now our daily earning is about Rs.500 and monthly income is around Rs.15000 from this tuck shop.”

“First, we did not realize that we possessed great potential which was unleashed through the valuable support of this program but now we are confident enough to make positive and upward mobility in our community,” she told.

She also enrolled her two out-of-school children in government school as she did not want them to be daily wage farm laborers like her.

Nazira (36 years of age) is from village Sada Bahar, district Jamshoro. She worked on four acres of local landlord’s agricultural land alongside her husband as tenant farmers. She said, “Despite day-long labor, we received a low chunk of the amount in return which was not enough to support the family expenses. I was so dejected on the grim situation we were passing through. I did not see any headway to get rid of the worsening situation. However, I did not lose hope and stood firm that a day will come when we will come out of this situation.”

She received Rs.15000 of CIF form the EU-SUCCESS Thardeep Rural Development Program. She opened a small grocery shop in her house and informed all the households of her village to purchase grocery items from her shop as she needed their support. In the meantime, she was also selected as a Community Resource Person (CRP) by her Village Organization (VO) to conduct awareness sessions about education, health and basic human rights in different Community Organizations.

“My new role as CRP and small initiative of opening a grocery shop at home boosted my resolve to improve my living conditions. I am now passing very contented life and also supporting the other rural women to take such initiatives for earning their better living. Further, I manage to save enough money from the sale of these grocery items at home and spare quality time with my children that make me happier.” She is a role model for other rural women as she has proved her worth by bringing about a good change in her household income.

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(Names used in this article are changed to protect privacy)
Nadir Ali Shah is Anthropologist and working as Field Researcher at Rural Support Programs Network. He can be reached at [email protected]
Fazal Ali Saadi is development professional and working as Program Manager at Rural Support Programs Network. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

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