Empowering and Enabling Women

In a male dominant country, women often find themselves at the intersection of unique challenges and untapped opportunities. A 2023 report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks Pakistan 142 out of 146 countries in its Global Gender Gap Report, with a 57.5% gender parity.

When Pakistan’s population is almost half female, it needs more women representation for an equitable society. There needs to be a concerted effort to knock down the barriers to offer them a promising opportunity and help them advance in different fields.

The women in Pakistan faces different hurdles, these range from gender inequalities and restricted access to education and health to economic disparities and societal stigmatization. Progress has been made in recent years, however significant challenges still persist.

Islamic Relief Pakistan is empowering women through targeted development programmes as it is not just a matter of gender equality, it is a necessity. Women are among the most affected by social and cultural barriers and limited economic opportunities, however, they also possess and immense capacity to overcome adversities and become powerful individuals in their own right. We are helping them to shape their own destinies by providing them with trainings, skills, business grants, creating awareness about their rights alongside amplifying their voices. Many of them are now able to run their businesses including confectionaries, boutiques, grocery stores, beauty parlours and stitching centers.

From Struggles to Success

Shaheen Bibi along with her family lives in a rented house in a slum area in Rawalpindi. Her husband is unable to work due to an illness. In an attempt to make ends meet, her son takes up manual labour, but the income from this work falls short of covering their basic household expenses adding to significant financial challenges.

Shaheen, a strong-willed women took it upon herself to support her family. She opened a small grocery shop close to her home, hoping that the income generated from the business would ease the family’s financial burden.

Shaheen Bibi Sitting in her grocery store

I faced multiple challenges; my business was not doing well due to stock shortages amid an economic crisis. I wasn’t able to pay my debts to suppliers and eventually they stopped providing me further supplies.

Seeking to revive her grocery business, Shaheen reached out to an Islamic Relief representative to obtain Mudaraba financing. The financial assistance allowed her to restock her shop’s inventory and importantly, settle her outstanding debts with the suppliers.

With renewed stock and a clean slate, I successfully re-established my grocery business. My family and I now enjoy an improved quality of life, the financial stress that once weighed heavily on my shoulders has been lifted.

Women in rural areas are the backbone of Pakistan’s agriculture sector. Climate change has become the biggest issue of their lifetime. The changing weather patterns and natural disasters are leading to grave challenges such as climate migration, water scarcity, and reduced crop production.

Women often encounter heightened risks of gender-based violence and exploitation when they travel longer distances in search of resources during times of scarcity. Additionally, climate-induced disasters can exacerbate existing gender inequalities, leaving women even more vulnerable to gender-based violence.

To tackle these adversities, Islamic Relief Pakistan is continuously supporting women, in both rural and urban areas of Pakistan to face these challenges and grow in their lives.

Planting Seeds of a Better Life

Bibi Fatima lives in Panjpai. She heads a large household with four of her sons and their families. It was difficult for her family to meet their nutritional needs with the hike in prices.

Islamic Relief, under the banner of its ADAPT project, has been distributing vegetable seeds and gardening toolkits, and also been giving trainings to grow a kitchen garden. Bibi Fatima is also among the beneficiaries that have started a kitchen garden at her home.

Now, she is growing sufficient seasonal vegetables to meet her family’s needs.

We also offer vocational training programmes that equip women with the skills and knowledge needed to secure employment or start their own businesses. By providing training in areas such as tailoring, handicrafts, and entrepreneurship, we enable women to become self-sufficient.

Dreams Coming True

Alishba Butt’s life took a turn when her father sought better employment opportunity in Saudi Arabia, leaving them behind in their home in Muzzaffarabad, AJK behind.

As far as I can remember I had a wonderful childhood with my father, but then he moved to Saudi Arabia for better income opportunities.

Tragically, just a year after her father left, he passed away, leaving Alishba, her mother, and her brother facing uncertain times.

My mother started sewing clothes and opened a beauty parlour after my Baba’s death. She took on multiple responsibilities, tirelessly working day and night to provide for us.

Thanks to her mother’s dedication, both Alishba and her brother were able to receive an education. Deeply moved by her mother’s sacrifices, she wished to help ease her burden and contribute to household expenses. It was around this time that Islamic Relief began conducting awareness sessions and offering skill development courses in her area. Upon completing her course, Alishba applied for a grant.

I was fortunate enough to be selected for training as a beautician. Then I got cash grant and through that grant, I received everything I needed to start my beauty parlour. My mother also started to help me in parlour.

Their beauty parlour is located on the outskirts of the city, but Alishba aspires to fulfill her mother’s dream of opening a bigger parlour in the main city.

I want to empower vulnerable girls in my area by teaching them the same skills that Islamic Relief taught me. This way, not only can our business grow, but these girls can also benefit from the knowledge and opportunities.

Islamic Relief Pakistan is empowering women and girls to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to their communities. Through our various programmes and initiatives, we are creating an environment where women are supported, valued, and given the opportunities they deserve.

We believe that by fostering a culture of mutual respect and equal opportunities for both men and women, we can create sustainable communities where everyone thrives.

Our initiatives prioritize empowerment, sustainability, and gender equality, aiming to challenge and transform unjust gender norms. By addressing the needs of women and girls from marginalized backgrounds, we strive to ensure inclusivity and intersectionality in all our efforts.

Gender-based violence and gender blindness are challenges often faced by women. Our goal is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

By enabling women, involving them in decision-making processes, and supporting their leadership roles, we contribute to building stronger, more resilient Pakistan capable of facing the challenges of climate change and otherwise head-on.

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