Seeking financial independence for rural women

(Shumaila Agha, Karachi)

The long standing issues of rural areas such as health, education, public infrastructure and poverty are widely discussed but the solution is yet to be discovered specially to the problem of poverty; a root cause of all the issues. A close observation on government policies reflects that government puts a key focus on the younger generation at least in policy making to secure better future. But what about the adult generation aged above 35years other than a stipend of merely eight dollars a month under BISP. This generation hasn't been introduced to technology and economic opportunities like younger lot. Due to this inability and being in-adaptive, what is the way out to empower them financially. The answer lies in combating poverty through entrepreneurial initiatives of micro financing targeting rural women for skill development, small business loans and networking development. Women in rural areas need to secure financial independence for themselves, which is hard to find under prevailing circumstances. They are either engaged in domestic activities or work in fields owned by the feudal families. In a culture, where women's education, employment or choice of marriage is linked to family honour, it is hard to make way for this change. It is tough to advocate women's rights which is rather perceived a western value having potential to threaten the local culture in regions like in rural areas of Sindh and Baluchistan. Financial independence is the method to transform the lives of women and their families. But how do we do that? What is the method to make them financial independent while not messing up with the norms and cultural values of these conservative communities?All I can foresee is a micro-financing model for rural women awarding set of skill development. During a visit to Tharparkar district of Sindh, I got in touch with the local women and inquired regarding their skills which they can offer in the labour markets. Most of them haven't been part of any formal training program but are domestically well trained in handicraft and pottery. Majority of household faces economic woes due to the constant shortage of water and migration. They want to come forward and make earning for their families and themselves. Women micro financing schemes currently running by some NGOs are not entirely women-centric. They provided loans for small projects like kitchen gardening mostly. As per the research conducted, no attempt had been made to create micro financing for women. Many girls in rural areas are passionate to continue their education and make a livelihood but are unable due to financial constraints of families. A support program should be offered to such girls who have willingness to seek education while working on small-scale projects through micro-financing as part time. The implementation plan includes three parties; the lender (bank), mediator (NGO) and the borrower (women). It may involves individuals who apparently have no ability to payback their loans. However, the financial viability of the project can be ensured through a bank in which the mediating NGO be the guarantor of the loans. The financing of project is entirely through a bank and its managed by an NGO which further distributes the loans to the deserving women in community. The other method involves the combined sum of loan from bank and donors money(arranged by the NGO). The loan should be given to the home-bound women to further their skills in the handicraft, pottery and other home-based means of income. This method is successfully adopted by an NGO working in African rural areas. Women Micro Financing Initiative (WMFI) has transformed many lives in rural areas through this model. This can prove as a vital stimulator for the socio-economic development of rural areas of Pakistan, which inhabits about sixty percent of the population and half of that is women.

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10 May, 2019 Views: 90

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