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March 8, 2019

Robina Bibi: a rural woman’s journey to becoming a micro-entrepreneur

Islamabad

March 8, 2019

Pakistan is a country full of inspirational women who have made the nation proud through their achievements. From Muniba Mazari to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, there is no dearth of women breaking barriers in various spheres of life. However, apart from these household names, there are countless unsung female heroes who are making a mark in the society with the work they are doing. Whether they are homemakers, careerists, entrepreneurs, or mothers, the role of women in society cannot be undermined. In light of that, it is important to acknowledge and praise the unsung heroes to celebrate the International Women’s Day. One such unsung hero is Robina Bibi - her amazing story is an example of a woman rising through personal hardships and tragedies to build a life for herself and her family. A simple rural woman, Robina’s story of small business struggles is that of a courageous mother and a true micro-entrepreneur.

Robina Bibi, belonging to a small village near Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir, would help her husband earn livelihood by selling milk from two goats her family owned. However, she had a bigger dream to start a proper dairy business. To materialize that dream, she decided to avail a livestock loan from Khushhali Microfinance Bank in 2015 to purchase a cow. Following her husband’s sudden death, Robina was left to earn bread and butter for their six children. Instead of losing hope, Robina stayed strong and poured her energy into her livestock business to pay back her first loan. She then availed a second loan to purchase a buffalo, which is more profitable than a cow.

Next year, she took another entrepreneurial plunge and borrowed from the same microfinance bank to purchase another buffalo. Thanks to her business sense and courage to take initiative, Robina’s leaps proved worthwhile. Her earnings increased and she was able to send her children to school. Unfortunately, the same year, a fire broke out in her house because of which one of her daughters sustained severe burn injuries. Despite the life-changing incident, Robina remained invested in her business and rebuilt her damaged house while also affording her daughter’s medical treatment.

Despite all the hardships she has faced, Robina bibi remains optimistic about her future. Here’s an illiterate woman from poverty-stricken background who overcame the worst challenges life threw at her to become financially self-sufficient and provide a comfortable life for her kids. In retrospect, her loans were the stepping stones to her little business that changed her life. With a few resources provided to her, Robina utilized her personal qualities of resilience and business acumen to get a hold on her life. What’s commendable, besides everything, is that Robina repaid all her loans on time. Today, her monthly revenue exceeds PKR 70,000, and Robina eventually wants to set up a dairy farm.

With initiative comes greater rewards; Robina’s story is a testament to that. However, her story is not one in isolation. There are numerous examples of women from rural areas like her, who carry remarkable accounts of true economic empowerment. However, there is one aspect of these narratives which can’t be overlooked - with little support through access to financial resources, an individual with initiative can become agent of change in their community. In Robina’s case, the loans she took from Khushhali Microfinance Bank helped her overcome her financial obstacles.

As Women’s Day approaches, there is a lot of noise on part of big firms about the importance of empowering women. There is a need to channel effective efforts to empower women by providing them the means to become economically secure.

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