Almost a year ago, 22-year-old Hina had filled out the customary paperwork to receive a loan of Rs0.3 million from the Waseela-e-Haq scheme of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
The form identified her as an unemployed but educated young woman who was eager to start her own business.
But Hina had no such plans. Like most women who filled out the BISP forms, Hina too applied for income support so that the men in her family could have money to start their own business. She wanted money so that her father could set up a general store near their house.
In fact, most of the young women who received cash from the Waseela-e-Haq scheme have aided the men of their family instead of setting up their own businesses, which is what the scheme is intended for.
“My family won’t allow me to go outside and work, let alone start a business,” said Hina. Her father, Abdul Aziz, used to run a paan kiosk. Now he was looking for money to set up another shop. “A woman’s work is within the house only,” he said. “It is up to the man to feed his family.”
The Waseela-e-Haq programme began earlier this year in Sindh. It provides interest-free loans to young people, between the ages of 19 and 35 years, who know how to read or write or have at least passed their matric. Though the scheme is meant for both men and women, most of the participants are women and they indeed seem to make most use of it.
Another young woman, whom The Express Tribune talked to, was selected from thousands of candidates by the BISP to receive business training. She said that it was easy for women to get selected for such monetary schemes. “The government prefers women since it wants us to be independent,” she said. “But our families do not like us working outside.” She received training about managing an electronics shop by the BISP and now she will train her father who will soon own the shop.
To look for beneficiaries, the BISP distributes applications to people across the country. The eligible candidates are selected through a balloting process and a phone call informs them about their selection. After the applicants submitted their documents, which include a matric certificate and a copy of their identity card, they are invited to receive business training.
The seventh batch of the Waseela-e-Haq programme graduated on Monday at the office of the deputy commissioner east after a week of training. All of the 86 participants, who had applied a year ago, were informed of their selection in June.
Even though the host of the programme was announcing the unique business proposals made by women, it was the men who were sitting at the back of the crowded who couldn’t wipe the grins off their faces. Shahnawaz, whose sister had applied for running a mobile shop, kept smiling as he said he will be able to support his five children now. “I work as a security guard at a private firm but it isn’t enough,” he said. “Now with my own business I can earn more money.” However, he refused to share the profits with his sister.
Twenty-year-old Mehwish from Karimabad, received praises when she was called on the stage to receive her certificate on her plan of setting up an auto-rickshaw business. But, when the The Express Tribune talked to her after the ceremony, she said that she will use the money to buy a rickshaw for her father.
According to the BISP’s provincial media officer, Shafquat Ali, most the candidates of the batch were women. “We encourage young women to come forward and set up their work,” he said. “We will keep a tab on their businesses. They will get Rs0.15million in the first installment. The rest will be paid a month later.”
The chief guest, Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza, claimed that 0.8 million women had applied to the scheme and had identity cards made because of it.
But only a handful of women will fulfill the purpose of the scheme. Sana Ruqaiqa, who stitches clothes for a living and takes care of her sick father, said that she will use the money to set up a boutique.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.