The Road to Women’s Financial Independence

As March 08 approaches, debates surrounding International Women’s Day have become more intensified. Likewise, more discussions regarding what are the rights of women and the level of socio-economic and political freedoms that they are having, are also going on all around.

This year, the theme of Women’s Day (Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world) is also quite timely as it is shedding light on the significance of rights and financial freedom of women, especially during the time of the global pandemic.

Sadly and quite unfortunately so, in Pakistan, the female population has always been discriminated against and kept away from the public sphere despite being half the population of the country. While many others are forced to struggle to establish their born rights, many others are never able to take any step to move forward due to stringent social norms and barriers.

In this bleak scenario, the hope comes from the efforts under some programs that aim to improve the situation of women’s financial empowerment by creating better livelihood opportunities for women, especially from economically marginalized communities.

Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Programme (PPAF) is playing a vital role in setting a precedence by offering unique economic opportunities for women. Each of the interventions by PPAF is inclusive, showing approximately 50% of women beneficiaries. One such example is the Interest-Free Loan Programme (IFL) which indicates that to date 54% of women have been granted interest-free loans to further their businesses.

PPAF also has extensive experience in providing women from rural areas with skill-development and managerial training, which is quite useful for women. It also helps women to introduce their products to commercial markets for better sales and gaining better profits.

As inclusion has been one of the core values of PPAF, women, differently-abled and marginalized sections of the society are an essential part of PPAF’s flagship programs that are directed towards helping the poor.

Ehsaas Amdan as part of PPAF’s National Poverty Graduation Programme (NPGP) is co-funded by the Government of Pakistan and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) with an overarching objective to assist the ultra-poor and very poor including women in graduating out of poverty sustainably.

The program aims at transferring livelihood assets and providing training to 176,947 ultra-poor and vulnerable households in 23 districts of 4 provinces of Pakistan to achieve its objective. Since the inception of the program till December 31, 2020, overall, 31,986 livelihood productive assets were transferred to the ultra-poor and vulnerable households. Of the total asset transfers, over 95% have been made to women.

The assets transfer helps women to start and run their own businesses. Additionally, it proves to be helpful because programs like these promote entrepreneurship via practical approaches to counter women’s poverty and its escalation in the country.

Such initiatives not only redress the financial constraints of women in Pakistan but also help in bringing these issues into focus and create a positive narrative about women as part of the workforce.

In the year 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic caused a severe shift in the economic situation of the world and according to reports, women were one of those who were worst affected by the spread of the pandemic.

During such trying times, not only were women left defenseless on a financial level, but many went through domestic violence with no means to avert this situation because of financial dependency. Therefore, it becomes even more critical to extend our support and promote women in all dimensions of society so that women can be pushed out of their state of helplessness and be empowered to sustain themselves independently.

Hence, organizations such as PPAF are having a critical role towards establishing women as pivotal members of society and in helping to expand their roles in the employment landscape to propel diversity and inclusivity.