Uplifting through microfinance—Naziran’s story
Amir Hussain and Savaila A Hunzai
Masmat Naziran is a 40 years old woman living in Darya Khan Sarki village of district Jacobabad. She was very young when her father passed away, leaving her mother and two young children behind. Her mother moved to her maternal home and since then Masmat and her family have lived with the maternal family. Masmat’s mother was a farm labourer but somehow managed to get her children educated in the local government primary school.
When Masmat was in grade five she was married off to a relative. The marriage was arranged by her maternal uncles.
Her husband was a tailor for the local landlords and did not earn enough money to cover the family’s expenses. Therefore, the family lived hand-to-mouth.
Masmat said, “During the early days of our marriage my husband was diagnosed with heart disease and he had to undergo a by-pass operation. We took a loan from a local landlord for the treatment of my ailing husband who was shifted to Karachi for treatment. Expenses for three-month treatment and a by-pass operation in Karachi devastated us economically and unfortunately we could not save his life. The family fragmented after his death and I was left to my own devices along with children.”
Masmat started to work as farm labourer on agricultural fields and received some grains to feed her children. She said that she had tough times when she had nothing other than water to survive.
Later, she got a job as a polio worker with the government and started earning Rs250 per day.
She said that every month for four days, she worked with the team and earned Rs1,000 a month. Her income was very low so she worked throughout the day on farms as well as private homes to feed her five children.
Masmat recalls that “In 2010 a team of SRSO visited my house and invited me to create a group called Community Organisation (CO). I had heard about the SRSO and its role in helping women improve their livelihoods. It was an opportunity for us to improve our livelihoods and we (the women of village) decided to form the CO which had 15 members. I was selected as president by the group members and had an opportunity to receive training from the SRSO to manage the CO.”
“Initially, many CO members faced resistance from men as women were never allowed to interact with strangers before. Even I was treated with scepticism as I was a widow. The village men and women looked down upon me for being actively involved in social activities. Nothing could shake my resolve and conviction to make the right choices for myself and other CO members.
Also, during SRSO’s training sessions I met with other Sindhi women. This inspired and emboldened me to sail through these turbulent times. In our CO meetings we usually discussed how to resolve our common problems. We learned about sanitation, time-management and importance of savings.” She says.
The CO members received vocational training arranged by the SRSO which helped them diversify income generation options. Masmat’s eldest son, who had left his schooling after his father’s death acquired auto-mechanic skills in the SRSO’s vocational training in Sukkur. After the training he began to work at an auto workshop.
As the SRSO programme expanded a number of COs were formed in the nearby settlements. These
COs were federated at village as Village Organisations (VO) allowing the poor women interact with a larger group of village women. In the VO meetings women were introduced to Community Investment Fund (CIF). Each household filled a Micro Investment Plan (MIP) to access these funds for productive activities. . In her MIP, Masmat expressed her interest to purchase mechanical tools for her son to start his own workshop in the village. In 2011, she received a CIF loan of Rs10,000 and bought necessary tools to open a small cabin-workshop by the roadside.
Masmat recalls, “My son had seen my struggle and he knew the importance of hard work for the family’s livelihood, therefore, he worked hard and started to earn. On daily basis, we saved a certain amount and returned the CIF loan within six months.” In 2012, Masmat received another CIF loan of Rs10,000. In addition to loan, the family had enough savings to expand the business and Masmat was able to return the CIF loan within a few months.
While Masmat’s son worked hard at his auto workshop, she continued working as polio worker as well as a tenant farmer. Masmat sent her younger four children to school and managed the household expenses by her own. Masmat recounts, “I could not sleep at nights because I was always worried about my children’s future. In 2014, I applied for the CIF loan again and received Rs10,000. We bought some more items to extend the shop. In the course of time, our workshop became the most frequented places by the customers. My younger son, who studies in grade 8 has started to support his elder brother at the workshop after school. I saved as much as I could from various sources to fulfil the dream of constructing a house for my children. In 2015, I purchased an 800 square yard plot of land for Rs180,000 in the village. With the passage of time, we constructed our concrete house as we started to save more”, Masmat said. After shifting her family to the newly constructed house, Masmat recently arranged the marriage of her eldest son. She said that her son is able to earn enough for the family now. The family has now enough disposable income to educate the younger children. Her two daughters are studying in grade 9 and two sons are in grade 8.
Masmat concludes her story, “After joining CO, I began to understand the values of self-help, money and time management. Through careful investment of CIF in utilising my son’s skills, we are now able to save money for future use. I have also learned how to prepare a vegetable garden in my front yard. I grow onion, lady finger, tomatoes and green chilies in my kitchen garden. “Becoming a CO member opened up windows of opportunities for me and my family. Where I stand today was unimaginable before the CO formation”, Masmat concluded.
About the authors:
Amir Hussain is a senior development professional and one of the leading columnists of English language newspapers in Pakistan. Savaila A Hunzai is a researcher with RSPN.