How Nestlé BISP Rural Women Sales Program Is Changing Lives
Nestlé Pakistan, in partnership with the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), now part of the Ehsaas Program, is providing them with livelihood opportunities. The program is providing the rural women of Pakistan an opportunity to become registered distributors and sales representatives for Nestlé within their respective area thus, earning an average of Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 each month.
Shareefa, who is one of over 1,500 active beneficiaries of the Nestlé BISP Rural Women Sales Program, launched in 2017, recalls the start of her journey as being a difficult one due to the opposition she faced from her family and peers. However, now she says this program was one of the best decisions of her life.
When the pandemic struck and Shareefa Bibi’s region was put into lockdown, her small shop remained open, an essential provider to the local community. “I was able to facilitate my neighbours as well as help meet [my family’s] expenditures,” she explains, proudly.
The Importance of BISP and Ehsaas Program
BISP, now part of the Ehsaas Program, focuses on providing a cash transfer to the underprivileged in Pakistan. As the largest social safety net program in the country, BISP provides a helping hand, offering quarterly aid (approx. PKR 6,000 or USD 37) to ensure that no woman is left in a position where they cannot make ends meet. As Nestlé has already learnt from work with coffee farmers in East Africa, economic autonomy is essential to socio-economic empowerment. Financial freedom results in benefits, not just for the women themselves, but also their whole communities and their families for generations to come.
Life of Women in Rural Pakistan
In rural Pakistan, there is an estimated 65 million women, who are often unpaid workers engaged in family farming, livestock management or fisheries businesses, or on low wages as dictated by tradition and family pressure. Life for these women can often be very hard and unforgiving.
Video Courtesy: Javed Chaudhry
Journey to Change
The Nestlé BISP Rural Women Sales Program is a great example of how collaborations between the government and the private sector can help towards poverty alleviation. By enrolling into the Sales Program, women can just become an earning hand for their families and use this money to spend on their children’s health and education.
Banking on years of experience and expertise, Nestlé offers trainings to these women in areas such as sales, basic business management, cleanliness and hygiene, and proper food and nutrients. This extra support goes a long way for these women since they manage a lot of different aspects of their families.
Shanaz, a 36-year old participant of the program from Mustafabad explains, “I faced a lot of opposition from my husband and family when I revealed my idea of working as a shopkeeper around two years back. But I did not give up as I wanted to give my children a better living.” Female Nestlé representatives spent time building trust with women in their communities in the hopes that they could persuade some to take a brave leap where others would follow.
“Today, my children go to school and have decent meals and on top of that my husband is also happy with me,” Shanaz says, proudly.
New recruits undergo sales training and are offered interest-free loans to scale up their business. Each time they need to re-stock, rather than heading to the city to buy products, they simply call a company representative who delivers the stock to their door. Sales Agents are now operating in 23 districts of Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan.
Nestlé Pakistan’s Healthy Women Program also offers each new nutrition awareness sessions. Armed with invaluable information on the importance of good nutrition and ideas on how to cook healthy nutritious meals within a budget, the Agents can impart wisdom that spreads throughout communities.
“I have learned a lot about hygiene,” says 37-year-old Razia, a residence of Kot Bela village. “This has also enabled me to give my children fortified food and I also try to keep my house dirt free. I persuade other women to also keep their surroundings clean so that our children won’t get sick.”
So what’s next for the program? “In our village the concept of working women was alien,” says 35-year-old Shagufta, a shopkeeper in a small village near Pindi Bhattian. “But there were days when my family ate one meal only. I felt miserable when I saw my children wasting their precious time on streets instead of going to school. Now, all my children go to school and we also eat good food. I am proud of the fact that I am the first Rural Sales Agent from my village and it has encouraged other women to work in a bid to come out of poverty.”
Nestlé aims to scale this program further and include more and more beneficiaries as Sales Agents under this program. Over the next couple of years, it is estimated that around 5,000 women from rural areas would be a part of this program.
This program is aligned with attaining the SDGs agenda particularly focusing on SDGs 3, 5 and 17 – Good Health & Wellbeing, Gender Equality, and Partnerships for the Goals.