It has been proven time and time again, that when women have the power to make, spend, save, and control their own money, they make gains not only for themselves but also for their communities. One way in which we can help women unleash their power to control their own economic futures is to invest in financial inclusion. These are the key learnings of Nestlé Pakistan & Benazir Income Support Program collaboration (BISP) which has helped graduate 500 BISP Beneficiaries out-of-poverty and are now on the pathway of prosperity. These BISP Beneficiaries are involved in door-to-door selling of Nestlé products.
Nestlé Pakistan recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Akhuwat to provide micro-loan facility to its Rural Sales Agents affiliated with BISP. By scaling up this model to allow for its Rural Women Sales Agents to utilize a micro-loan facility which can help them: start off with their business or scale-up their already existing business. Nestlé has provided a grant of PKR 2 Million to Akhuwat to extend interest-free loans to Nestlé affiliated BISP Beneficiaries in expanding their businesses in districts of Renala, Okara, Sheikhupura, and Pindi Bhattian. This loan facility will allow these hardworking women to either start or expand her business. There is substantial evidence which suggests that by giving women financial independence empowers women. As the business grows, these women will gain confidence and have the power to make choices for themselves and their families.
Such models of graduation have proven to be effective in eliminating extreme poverty. The BISP beneficiaries are classified as “ultra-poor” or “poorest of the poor” receiving only PKR 5000 every quarter. However, as part of Nestlé -BISP Partnership, the beneficiaries are earning from PKR 5000- 10,000 per month.
Becoming a Nestlé Rural Sales Agent has helped me send my daughter to college”, says Sajida Parveen, a mother of 6 and beneficiary of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) residing in Renala Kurd, Punjab.
“My husband was a sole breadwinner of our family and was on daily wages. Our financial circumstances only allowed us to barely afford 2 meals a day. It was only when my husband fell sick and could not go to work, that our financial conditions took a turn for the worst. Despite coming from an extremely conservative background, I had to send my 18 year old daughter to another city (Lahore) for work.
I was invited to Nestlé’s Rural Sales training organized in our vicinity through Nestlé and BISP’s partnership and initially bought some stock. We now sell Nestlé products to neighboring villages and shops. This has significantly boosted our family income. I was able to call my daughter back from Lahore and have enrolled her back in college”.
Speaking at the occasion Waqar Ahmad, Head of Corporate Affairs, Nestlé Pakistan, said, “Our philosophy of creating shared value (CSV) is unique and a long term approach through collective action, partnerships and support of stakeholders can generate sustainable economic value, in line with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Nestlé -Akhuwat partnership is a transformative collaboration which will help us build rural women as social entrepreneurs with Akhuwat over the next three years and enhance Nestlé’s BISP beneficiary base,” he added.
This partnership with Akhuwat is something which the leadership at Nestlé feels is what distinguishes it from rest of the businesses. Nestlé believes that “doing good” or contributing positively towards the community makes business and economic sense. As highlighted by the CEO Nestlé Pakistan, Freda Duplan “By tapping into the resilience of the BISP Beneficiaries we have successfully created a sales force from the communities of Rural Pakistan. These are women who are self-reliant, setting up their own businesses and are now key decision makers in their families. With the help of Akhuwat, these beneficiaries can now start off their business or scale-up”.
Akhuwat is Pakistan largest interest free micro finance organization founded by Amjad Saqib. Dr Amjad Saqib, CEO Akhuwat, while sharing his views said, “We are glad to partner with Nestle and are confident that it will enable women under Nestlé’s BISP Rural Women Sales Program scale up their entrepreneurial ventures and eventually graduate out of poverty.” Dr Amjad Saquib is the visionary force behind Akhuwat’s success who has dedicated himself to being a social entrepreneur and make a positive change in society through Akhuwat.
Harnessing the power of collaboration is how Nestlé believes in creating shared value for all its stakeholders. By tapping into the resilience of the BISP (Benazir Income Support Program) beneficiaries, Nestlé Pakistan has successfully created a rural sales force from the communities in rural Pakistan. This model is an excellent example of how when the government and private sector come together they can effectively address some of the biggest challenges facing Pakistan today. By helping BISP Rural Sales Agents exercise their economic power, they can overcome barriers that are keeping these women from leading a full life. This a successful case study where working collectively together has helped graduate approx. 500 BISP Beneficiaries. Now, with access to micro-loans by Akhuwat these beneficiaries will be well on the pathway of progress and prosperity.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” African Proverb.