More than just money in their pockets
For years, Ghulam Rasool earned his livelihood by looking after the farm animals of a wealthy landowner. In return, he received 1,500 rupees (US$ 25) a month and the use of a two room mud hut for himself, his wife and his six children. Also housed in the hut were the landlord’s two cows. Ghulam barely earned enough to feed his family and could not afford to send any of his children to school. The only item his family could call their own was a bicycle.
Without regular income (his pay was often late) and assets, Ghulam found he was unable to access credit — even from the local shopkeeper. With a wife, six children and two elderly and ailing parents he shared responsibility for looking after, Ghulam knew he had to improve his family’s financial situation.
Creating opportunities for the poorestWith the financial hurdles faced by Ghulam being more common than not in the communities where Plan works, we knew a more conscious effort was needed to reach out to the poorest and most disadvantaged.
Therefore, when Plan and a partner started the Enterprise Activist Program in Pakistan several years ago, we immediately focused on providing families, like Ghulam’s, with much-needed access to business enhancement skills, resources and opportunities.
Working with local communities, we helped design a system to provide small start-up grants to the poorest of the poor to help them start small business ventures. Some six, or so, villages, including the one in which Ghulam and his family live, have now started or enhanced their income generating capacity.
. . . And Ghulam?Ghulam quickly took advantage of the small business support center formed by the local group of enterprise activists. Eligible for support according to the criteria established (no land, none or minimum possessions and skills), he was encouraged and supported to start work as a milk seller.
After receiving a start-up grant of 10,000 rupees (US$ 160) from the support center, Ghulam began collecting 176 pounds of milk daily from farming households in his village. The center then helped him link up with an established milk collection center as well as with local shops and hotels to sell the milk. Ghulam soon earned enough to make a down payment for a motorcycle that would aid his collection and sales of milk.
More than just money in their pocketGhulam’s family now owns a motorcycle and their children are in school. The family’s income has jumped from 1,500 rupees (US$ 25) a month to almost 10,000 rupees (US$ 170) a month.
Ghulam comments: “I used to get my clothes dirty but now you see me wearing clean white clothes. I worked the whole day looking after other people’s livestock and I would get very tired. Now I have more free time for my family as I finish my round of collecting and selling milk within three to four hours on the motorbike. I also use the time in the afternoon by cutting crops on others’ farms which give us extra money.”
But the most important change, according to Ghulam?
“Our four oldest children are now in school. Before in times of crisis, no shopkeeper would trust me to pay back later, or no one would give me a loan. Now I am finally credit worthy and I walk with my head held high!”
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