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July 7, 2020

Entrepreneurship helps women in Tharparkar fight poverty

HYDERABAD: Korhi, wife of Pario is among 2,200 peasant women in Umerkot and Tharparkar districts, who have adopted entrepreneurship skills with little financial support to earn decent livelihood in order to ease their families’ earnings in their villages.

Korhi has started a small-scale clothes shop in village Bachal Memon, near Kunri town, Umerkot district, where she has displays a variety of readymade clothes and unstitched cloth to attract community women.

She claims to earn Rs5,000-Rs6,000/month as profit through the newly started business. She was happy that she warned a little even in the face of shrinking business activities after the lockdown was imposed to contain Coid-19.

“I am in no hurry. I know gradually this shop will attract more clients in the neighbourhood, as many community women do not know about this outlet yet,” she said.

Kunri is a major chilli-production centre with major market for agriculture products in Sindh. Traders from different parts of the country come to Kunri for buying agricultural products.

Traditionally, peasant women, being poor keep themselves engaged in chilli and cotton picking, besides wheat harvest to earn a living for their families. Kohri used to work in the fields too as a daily wager. Now she has pinned her hopes of a safe and better life on her new business.

She admitted that she never thought she could become an entrepreneur or get rid of her exploitative landlord. Working in the fields at low wages was a miserable time in her life, especially since she lived at the tail-end area of irrigation channels. “Sometimes we faced persistent water shortage for several months, while at other times we were vulnerable to floods,” she said.

Some farmer women still recall the haunting experiences after 2011 rain-flood, which devastated the area and caused displacement. Mai Sughara wife of Gulu has established a grocery shop that allows families in the same village to access essentials, for which otherwise they would have had to go to the town market. She has well-assessed the needs of the community and brings the necessary from the town market herself.

The area is rich in terms of agriculture products, but sharecroppers as well as daily wage earners live deplorable lives despite their hard work.

These farmer women received financial support from Thardeep Rural Support Programme (TRDP). The TRDP made this initiative to help vulnerable and marginalised families of Umerkot and Tharparkar, as people in these districts were often neglected in mainstream development projects.

Kanhai Asnani of TRDP, working with the farmer communities, giving details about the small-scale business ventures said they have provided enterprise grocery shop, clothes, crockery, shoes, livestock, (goats, buffalos, cows), bike cart, rickshaw, donkey cart, sewing machines, small-scale flour mill, qingqi rickshaw, loader motor, etc.

Mostly these beneficiaries worked as sharecropper and daily wage earners in the fields. “These women themselves can decide and choose the business and seek financial help for any work, mentioned above,” Asnani said.

Asnani said the initial criteria were to support women who possessed Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) cards. They were given financial support to start their small businesses.

This data was supported through a community validation process where target households were engaged by using participatory tools to validate well-being status of the beneficiary, he said. Later, the organisation adopted participatory approach, and asked people to verify the status of the family as deserving.

“The purpose was to assist the ultra-poor in graduating out of poverty on a sustainable basis; simultaneously improving their overall food security, nutritional status and resilience to climate change,” he added.

Asnani said beneficiary selection was carried out systematically using the available BISP data and in a participatory manner, involving village community to address inclusion and exclusion errors that exist in the BISP roster.

He said they wanted to enable the rural poor, especially women and youth to realise their potential and attain a higher level of social and economic wellbeing through a proven, flexible and responsive menu of assistance.

He said it depends on villagers, baseline report and poverty score card to provide valuable assets to these farmer women, which might help them safely face weather pattern changes and ups and downs in the labour market.

Bhagwanti, wife of Ramchand, residing in the other neighbouring village Haroon Memon also shared a similar story. She too worked in agriculture fields despite scorching heat and biting cold.

Now she has set up a small shop at a roadside to serve the community people. She was happy that the shop supports her family with an extra income. She employs her brother-in law, who was jobless because of being differently abled.

Tulsi, wife of Teekum is among a large number of farmer women beneficiaries, who preferred to keep goats for livelihood. These families have natural expertise to rear animals. They use milk to fulfil the nutritional needs of their children.

After this initiative, many poor farmer families have enrolled their children in local schools for the first time. This type of financial support could help households move out of extreme poverty and move towards sustainable livelihoods.