To empower women from marginalised communities to reach their true potential, the British Asian Trust, in partnership with Akhuwat Foundation and funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), started its Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme in June 2017. Sehat Khatoon’s journey and eventual triumph over her situation demonstrates the transformative power of investing in women’s livelihoods.
Sehat Khatoon is a 49 year old single mother who lives in Khairpur, Pakistan with her ten children. Her happily married life fell apart when her husband passed away. Finding herself alone, she gave in to family pressures and got married for the second time with the hope of finding comfort and companionship with her second husband.
Her dreams were soon shattered when her husband not only revoked his promise of helping support her children, but also became violent towards her. The violence in her life reached a climax when one day in a fit of rage her husband cruelly amputated her left hand. Fearing for her life, Sehat asked for a divorce and custody of her children from her previous marriage and current marriage. He agreed to her request under the condition of Sehat not filing charges of domestic violence against him.
Her teenage son started working as a labourer to support the family with his wages of PKR 9,000 per month (approximately £49). Using that money, the family struggled each month to have at least one meal every day.
Sehat then found out about the British Asian Trust’s Women’s Economic Empowerment programme, where she applied for and received a loan of PKR 20,000 (approximately £109). Using that money, she started sewing Rally quilts. She also identified a group of women in her community who also make Rally quilts and started a business partnership with them.
She now visits the market place frequently where she sells her own quilts at a profit as well as the quilts of the women in her community, earning a small commission for her work. The additional PKR 12,000 (approximately £65) that she earns monthly has made a huge difference for her family. She can now afford two meals a day for herself and her children.
Sehat displayed bravery and resilience in the face of extreme hardships, and has become someone that other women and survivors of domestic violence can look up to.