People often have a nervous reaction to big business and government collaborating. But what if the private sector could reach into areas where they may be no jobs?
In the rural areas in Pakistan families often grow poorer because there aren’t enough ways to earn a living.
Take Sajida from Renala, Punjab. Her husband was the only earner and he was a daily wager. “Our financial circumstances only allowed us to barely afford two meals a day,” she said.
When he fell sick, they starved. “Despite coming from an extremely conservative background, I had to send my 18-year-old daughter to another city (Lahore) for work,” she said.
This is where the BISP made a difference as it gives cash transfers to the poorest of women in society with no strings attached. But in the long run, of course, this was not a solution.
The BISP recognized this and cast around for ways to help these women earn a living themselves.
The solution came in the shape of collaboration with Nestlé Pakistan. It has started a rural livelihood programme with the BISP that is tailored to training women as sales agents.
So far, 250 BISP beneficiaries have been enrolled across 12 districts in Punjab and Sindh. Sajida is one of them and the Rs10,000 that she now earns helped her put her daughter back into school.
Rani Begum is a BISP beneficiary from a village near Sukkur who is part of the programme. She has seven children and used to rely on the BISP every quarter to run her household.
But Rani wanted to put her five daughters and two sons into school and still couldn’t afford it.
She began training as a sales agent in January 2018 and now is able to work in villages around Sukkur so her income has gone up to approximately Rs14,000 every quarter.
She was also trained in how to start a small business from home and was helped to open a small shop.
“Being able to send my kids to school means everything to me in this world,” she said. “My husband who works on daily wages, and this made our household income very unpredictable.”
The company and BISP started work in May 2017. “BISP beneficiaries receive Rs4,834 every quarter; those who are part of this program are now earning up to Rs10,000 per month on average!” said the BISP chairperson. “I hope other corporates follow.”
The BISP was started in 2008 and grew to become the largest social safety net program launched by the Government of Pakistan.
Approximately 5.3 million people benefit from it. The program is also taking advantage of the fact that it can reach these women to educate them on other fronts.
For example, they are trained in nutrition and how to make good meal choices within a budget for their families. The goal is to reach at least 10,000 women by 2021.
By 2021, more than 5,000 BISP beneficiaries will graduate as rural sales agents for the company.