Nestlé Pakistan in partnership with Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), as part of the Ehsaas program, launched the Nestlé BISP Rural Women Sales Program in 2017 to provide livelihood opportunities to BISP beneficiaries. Launched in 2008, BISP is Pakistan’s Unconditional Cash Transfer Program with a database of the poorest women belonging to the underprivileged, marginalised and vulnerable sections of society. BISP provides a quarterly stipend to its beneficiaries of approx. PKR 6000.
Pakistan has a population of 220 million, half of which lives in the rural areas amongst which 65 million are women. These women are engaged in farming, livestock management, and fisheries, mostly as unpaid contributing family workers or on low wages. Rural women have less access to technologies and public services. (health, education, training and transport).
The main premise of the Nestlé BISP Rural Women Sales Program was to work for the upliftment of the rural women of Pakistan and put them on the path of prosperity. There is no ‘magic bullet’ to women empowerment and central to this tenet, is the acknowledgment that long-term prosperity is only possible when women are provided a level playing field to achieve their potential. To date, this program has enrolled over 1500 BISP beneficiaries as Sales Agents. Also, Nestlé Pakistan has partnered with Akhuwat Pakistan (the largest interest-free microfinance program) whereby, improving access to finance, micro-loans worth PKR 2 million (USD 12,460) have been disbursed to these women.
This program has shown that economic empowerment may lead to wider social empowerment. Traditionally, women of rural Pakistan have been unable to participate in any structured economic activity. This intervention has helped these “poorest of the poor” women (who are BISP beneficiaries) get into the business of retail hence paving the way for economic empowerment. Furthermore, this project is allowing for greater “financial inclusion”, by improving financial access for these “poorest of the poor” women. We are also empowering these women by improving nutrition knowledge and practices through Nestlé Pakistan’s Healthy Women Program targeting rural women. By successfully running nutrition seminars to these beneficiaries, the program has successfully taught these women the basics of nutrition in an easy-to-understand manner. With the help of visual aids, Nestlé Healthy Women Program has reached out to more than 1700 BISP beneficiaries during these nutrition sessions.
In Commitment with