As per the UNDP DAP-Womenomics report 2021, women currently represent 38.8 percent of the global labour force but just 20 percent of Pakistan’s total labour force. Seven million women working in agriculture fall under the category of contributing family workers and remain unrecognised and unpaid. The gap between men’s and women’s earnings has also increased. In 2018-2019, women earned just 18 percent of what men earned.
Similarly, women perform phenomenal work in the livestock sector. But unfortunately, most of the time their work never has been paid because livestock rearing activities are performed within the household and considered as household chores. For not only their household-owned animals but also those given them on a sharing basis for raising, all activities – such as caring for the animals, cleaning sheds, feeding animals, collecting manure for fuel or fertiliser and processing the milk – are performed by women. On the other hand, men mostly perform financial transactions, such as buying and selling of animals. According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, Pakistani women only control the source of income received from goats, poultry and sheep, even though women carry out 60–80 percent of the cattle-raising work and they spend about 5.5 hours per day caring for livestock.
With the aim to empower rural women and reduce household poverty, the Sindh Union Council and Community Economic Strengthening Support (SUCCESS) programme was initiated through the funding of the European Union, supported by the Provincial Government of Sindh, and implemented by the Rural Support Programmes in eight districts of Sindh. Under this programme, rural women were provided with financial intervention in the form of grants to the ultra-poor and interest-free loans to the poor, for investment in income generating activities.
In eight programme districts, approximately 124,332 women members of the households have received the interest-free loans and 60,912 beneficiaries have received the one-time grant. As per the financial access intervention impact report conducted by the Centre for Development and Public Policy (CDPP), among women members who received these financial interventions under the SUCCESS programme, about 82.4 percent chose to invest in livestock, 7.9 in agriculture, and 9.7 in village-level micro-enterprises. Those who invested in livestock bought animals (loans 93%; grants 91%), while some also spent money on animal feed and the construction of animal sheds. Of the animals bought, goats were the most popular animal of choice at 76 percent, mainly because of their lower cost and greater ease of rearing the animal. The investment in livestock increased the household assets by PKR 39,000 per household and contributed to the monthly household income by 11%, and the average net profit came to about PKR 12,702 per annum, or PKR 1,059 per month, for livestock.
Mahar-ul-Nisa 42-year-old resident of village Godo Thaheem has received the interest-free loan twice under the SUCCESS programme. In the first phase, she received Rs 12,000 and purchased two small goats for Rs 16,000 by adding Rs 4,000 from her savings. She sold the goats for Rs 40, 000 after raising them for one year. She returned the loan and spent the profit on her elder daughter’s marriage. Later, she again received Rs 18,000 of CIF and bought two he-goats. On Eid-al-Adha, she sold these two goats, along with two other goats that she already had, for Rs 100,000.
Even though women do incredible work in the livestock sector, access to markets for livestock selling and purchasing is still a challenge for them. There is a need to establish livestock markets for women at the union council level
She says, “Last year our mud-house collapsed in heavy rains as from benefit of goats, we constructed one-room bricks house and a toilet. This year again we hope to get benefit from our livestock.”
Since in SUCCESS the financial services of loans or grants can only be accessed by the women and can only be used for income generating activities ensured through approval of a micro-investment plan prior to receiving the funding, the women are not only economically empowered but they are contributing to household asset generation. “We are living a contented life after being part of the SUCCESS programme,” say women members of LSO Masso Bozdar.
Aisha, a 35-year-old resident of settlement Ahmed Khan Loond, shares the following:
“I took a first-time loan of PKR 20,000 from the Local Support Organisation managed by our fellow women and returned it on time by selling her two goats to make herself eligible to take loan the second time. She further says, “Three months ago, I received a second loan of PKR 24,000. I have bought two baby goats from this amount. Now I own three goats which I am raising to increase their number and will sell at the time of Eid-al-Adha for returning the loan, and I will keep some money as saving for the household to utilise at some time of need. I am happy that these three goats are now the asset of my household.”
Another member Javi, a 45-year-old resident of village Khalid Loond Hari, shares, “I sold two goats in PKR 40,000 during Eid-al-Adha last year and returned the loan, and from the remaining amount I bought a solar panel and a battery. Before that, our household did not have electricity. Now our household has a fan, and the light always remains on, I am happy that our household has the facility of light now.”
Even though women do incredible work in the livestock sector, access to markets for livestock selling and purchasing is still a challenge for them. There is a need to establish livestock markets for women at the union council level, so that they can increase the business in livestock and their incomes. Also, rural women must be trained in modern livestock farming techniques such as breed selection, animal health care, maintaining clean feeding and environmental practices so that they can earn greater benefits.
Note: Original names have been changed to protect the privacy of research participants