To empower women from marginalised communities so that they can reach their true economic potential, the British Asian Trust, in partnership with Kaarvan Craft Foundation and funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), started its Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme in June 2017. Noor Elahi’s story is testament to the fact that every woman can transform her life given the opportunity.
Forty-two year old Noor Elahi lives in a small industrial area in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, with her husband and five children. The family survived on her husband’s meagre salary every month, until events took a turn for the worse. Her husband was diagnosed with Hepatitis, and coupled with old age, found himself unable to work any longer.
The responsibility of running the entire household fell entirely on Noor’s shoulders. Instead of crumbling under this new weight, Noor fell back on a skill that she was good at and started embroidering traditional dresses to sell. She then applied for and joined Kaarvan Craft Foundation’s training scheme as a part of the British Asian Trust’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme funded by DFID. She received training in production, distribution, packing, quality management and, most importantly, was introduced to buyers and vendors for her products.
These new business relationships that she forged allowed her to grow her enterprise. Now with a steady stream of orders, she buys fabric from the wholesale market, designs the embroidery patterns and works on them at home. She then sells each fabric at a profit of PKR 100 (approximately £0.65) and now earns a monthly income of PKR 6,000 (approximately £33) to run her household.
The training that Noor received also helped her expand her business’ horizons. On occasion, when Noor receives bulk orders, she outsources the work to other women in her area. She completely understands the principles of distributing work flow, maintaining her relationship with businesses and meeting deadlines.
Though the family still sometimes struggles when business is slow, Noor is proud of the fact that she has been able to shoulder the responsibility of her family without having to resort to asking for financial help from others. The income she earns provides for her family’s nutritional needs, her husband’s medical expenses, and her children’s school fees. The fact that her business also provides an income for other women in her community highlights the positive ripple effect that investing in one woman’s home-based business can have. The British Asian Trust is supporting hundreds of female entrepreneurs like Noor across Pakistan to reduce poverty and inequality, helping women build better futures for themselves and their families.
*Please note that article image does not depict Noor or her work