The story of self-made sustenance

Published: June 24, 2012

Surrounded by her children even as she works, one can tell the single most important factor that keeps her going through daily life– her children. PHOTO: LEENAH NASIR

Zeba voices her reservations with being photographed at first, rather shy and wary, but at the same time amused by the idea of it. All reservations subside once she starts talking in her native tongue, Saraiki. The narratives are interspersed with bouts of laughter, the sincerity in her words is evident through her smile.

Lodhran is a far off town, but Zeba seems like someone from very close by. Maybe it’s her innocent laughter that just touches my heart. I keep looking at her face, enjoying that gleam of accomplishment. From time to time I bend over my diary so as to not miss any facts she quotes.

Surrounded by her children even as she works, one can tell, before Zeba spells it out that the single most important factor that keeps her going through the humdrum of daily chores is her children. She proudly mentions that her eldest son is in the fifth grade. She has decided to shoulder the responsibility of providing for her kids and educating them along with her husband, who sells dahi baray.

It was upon her husband’s advice, to support his business, that she started to make the phulkian which serve as an ingredient in dahi baray, increasing the profits he makes off his sales. This suggestion made sense to Zeba and she started making phulkian for her husband’s cart about six months ago, giving up her usual source of income of embroidery and stitching.

Both husband and wife soon realised that they did not have to limit their production of phulkian to their cart of dahi baray. They realised that they could sell the excess to surrounding shops and retailers who sold them to other vendors of dahi baray – various carts of this famous roadside snack can be seen in a typical city, with each getting its fair share of customers.

Zeba now produces phulkian mostly for retailers, with her husband’s cart doing good business as well, and the pride in her voice is evident as she mentions that she is now able to earn Rs250 to 300 a day on her own through her sales. There were some hiccups on the road to this success though– foremost was the lack of capital she needed to get the materials required for cooking phulkian.

Zeba is cooking for an order of three kilograms from a local retailer right now, who will come to pick up the stock from her shortly, and this is her second order for the day. She has already delivered ten kilograms earlier in the morning.

She puts it simply,

The only reason I am able to cater these orders is because I have the money, otherwise how would I buy the material? Before, the most I could produce was two to three kilos per day, but with cash in hand I can produce as much as I want.

This change has been recent however, and was made possible through a loan of ten thousand rupees from Akhuwat. Zeba emphasises on the interest free nature of the loan; she had abstained from taking any loans before this because she found the interest rates and interest calculations intimidating. Ten thousand rupees might not sound too much, but for Zeba the amount meant the difference between being constrained and having financial liberty in business. Being able to earn more and grow further, they bring with them the hope to dream of a better future for herself and her children.

As I get up to leave, she comes to see me off.

“Will you come again to meet me?,” she asks me hopefully.

I nod, smiling at the confidence and courage self-sufficiency can give a woman.

Follow Leenah on Twitter @Ell_Enn

Leenah Nasir

Leenah Nasir

An engineer turned communicationist, working in digital media who Tweets at @Ell_Enn

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://thedabbabrigade.wordpress.com RiffyR

    I nod, smiling at the confidence and courage self-sufficiency can give a woman.
    Enough said.Recommend

  • Parvez

    What a fantastic piece of writing on a subject that is gets covered, but not sufficiently.Recommend

  • maliha

    The idea that microfinance is a fairytale that leads families out of poverty is a huge myth and if anything over the years, research has proved that despite microfinance families continues to remain in debt and the interest of even the small loans can go upto the 30 percent and tend to be higher than those offered by traditional lenders. It’s nice to fall for the glossy NGO ads and token stories but if anything microfinance is debt trap cycle in disguise: http://www.forbes.com/2010/12/09/microfinance-myths-muhummad-yunus-entrepreneurs-finance-jude-fernando.html
    Are you aware about the research that links suicide of the farmers in Andhra Pradesh to the introduction of microfinance in the area? http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2010/dec/22/microfinance-india-sector-regulated
    Even the once mighty Grameen Bank has been exposed to be a corrupt and malfunctioning institution and even serious publications and nwespapers in the West are questioning its efficacy. Please read this article in Guardian which exposes the well known problems of Grameen Bank: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/feb/07/microfinance-grameen-bank-mohammed-yunus-bangladesh
    There is no substantive research that links microfinance to the alleviation of poverty, if anything the many leading NGOs linked with microfinance in third world countries have been linked to financial irregulations and mismanagement. This reknown documentary demostrates the dark problematic side of microfinance which by its very theoretical concept is flawed: http://tomheinemann.dk/the-micro-debt/
    What the third world needs is fair trade laws and equal access to markets not more Western and local NGO’s pushing loans and pushing people into further cycles of debt trap. Seriously with all the corruption and economical problems in the this country, this is one industry that should not take root in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Tehniat Ahsan

    I guess the last line of your article can be termed as a master piece itself! Nothing can give more power to a woman than self sufficiency indeed.Recommend

  • sidra ali

    excelllent ….self confidence is first and foremost key to successRecommend

  • zahra.mohammed

    beautiful article Leenah. Please keep writing

    Recommend

  • AMK

    ahhh Lodhran is near to Bahawalpur…people there have “zeal” as i am from Bahawalpur :-DRecommend

  • http://leenahnasir.blogspot.com Leenah

    @maliha:
    Yours is an enlightening post. Though, I’d have appreciated it more if you had posted it after reading the article.

    The article talks about the success of “INTEREST FREE” micro-finance lending.

    Cheers.Recommend

  • sigma

    Hyperlink “Akhuwat” ! is it rightly linked to appropriate read!?
    @Maliha, poverty can never be eliminated no matter what your bring as it is balance of nature.
    Akhuwat however is the first ever micro-finance firm that do not have any interest at all. Hardvard BS is having a research on its functionality. Recommend

  • faraz

    These are the majority Pakistanis who struggle continuously to make ends meet. While the elites are corrupt, and middle class and jealous of their wealth. Nobody really cares about the welfare of these millions of wretched massesRecommend

  • Sane

    Good piece of writing.
    We as individuals can find such people (men or women) and give a small loan with a business plan (small one) to make them to live at their own comfortably. If every individual who can afford to give a little amount (Rs. 10,000/- to Rs. 30,000/-) to have some stall, thela etc. can change the economic outlook of havenots..

    Please come up.Recommend

  • http://leenahnasir.blogspot.com Leenah

    @Sane:
    That is a wonderful suggestion Sane. I would add that a bit of organized effort in this regard can actually change the lives of individuals, and consequently, the entire face of the society. Akhuwat (https://www.facebook.com/AkhuwatOfficial) in this regard is doing some commendable work. Their microfinance model is the largest interest free model in Pakistan.

    It is a relief to come across all those hardworking, self sustain individuals/ families, who with little assistance have risen above their circumstances. They could have very easily added up to the begging segment of the society, otherwise. Recommend

  • Sane

    @maliha
    Do you know about Grameen Bank and Dr. Muhamad Younus? Please find to read as how micro finance changed the lives of poor in Bangladesh specially of women.
    Why AKHUWAT couldn’t be same example in Pakistan.

    Hats off to GRAMEEN BANK, AKHUWAT and many others who are not in limelight yet.Recommend