Empowering Domestic Workers: Women in Pursuit of Dreams- A project of FACES and Missio Austria

Asia Bibi was working as a domestic helper for 20 years ever since she was a six-year-old girl. In 2019, when COVID 19 hit the world, she lost her job and had no other skill to earn her livelihood. FACES Pakistan, with the technical support of MISSIO, initiated a project to train and empower the domestic helpers by helping them initiate Small Scale Businesses (SMBs) to manufacture market compatible products. Under this project, the domestic helpers were trained in product development and were facilitated in setting up small scale businesses at their homes. Currently, a group of 15 domestic women are making jam to earn their livelihood as an additional stream of income. All these products are approved and authorized by a quality assurance team. Aside from jams, we have an array of products that we train our domestic workers for their economic emancipation and empowerment. Before that, let us discuss a bit more about the project.

Project Summary

This project also provides opportunity to get exposure of open market for the beneficiaries. Special visits were arranged to the whole sale markets for the beneficiaries to understand the price differences from the retail market and the variety available in the market. The development of these links with the market for orders of the products and product display centers provided the opportunity to help the beneficiaries to develop their own start-ups. The business incubation center was developed to provide guidelines to the beneficiaries to understand the costing and business plans. On one hand, the project helped in increasing the income of the whole group by empowering the beneficiaries in establishing their own micro-businesses, while on the other hand, it helped in raising awareness about the labor laws, women friendly laws and human rights though a series of sessions.

The community sessions were effective to create awareness among the community members about the project initiatives.

Project Activities:

1. Community Meetings:

The community meetings were held with the identified beneficiaries for the upcoming training sessions. Each session comprised of an introduction of the program along with the briefing on the underpinnings of business and trade. During each of these sessions, the initiatives of the projects in previous sessions were shared. During the sessions the business development initiatives were also discussed. The sessions were attended by the team members of the project and the beneficiaries from the current and previous batches.

2. Product Development Trainings:

Product development trainings were continued in the last quarter of the project. Keeping in view the results of the previous trainings and the outcomes, these trainings were designed after the dialogue between the members of the project team and beneficiaries of the community. The already identified beneficiaries were selected for the training. The training was planned and the curriculum was also planned and finalized keeping in view the skill level and aptitude of the selected beneficiaries. The curriculum and the list of the consumable items were selected and finalized with the consultation of trainers and the project team. The trainers were briefed about the community dynamics and skill level of the participants. It was discussed to the product pricing and demands in the community. The trainings were planned at the training venues managed by the FACES Pakistan.

3. Exposure Visits:

Like previous sessions, at the end of every training, the exposure visits were planned and implemented. The exposure visits were planned and discussed with the trainers and the members of the project to get more results from the activity. Keeping in view the nature of the trainings and the products, it was decided to visit the related areas where the products are displayed and the wholesale market for the raw materials. It has been experienced from the past exposure visits that visit to wholesale market benefited women in getting a clear idea about the budgeting and costing of their product and then make business plans.

i) Wholesale Market Visit:

A visit was arranged to the Urdu Bazar which is a wholesale market for the stationary goods. Urdu Bazaar is among the oldest book markets in the entire subcontinent, and its roots can be traced back to the Mughal Empire. It has variety of the products related to stationary. The beneficiaries from the art and craft project visited the market.

ii) All Pakistan Women’s Association:

The second visit was planned to APWA Product Display Centre. The objective was to show the product display and packaging. The visit was arranged at all Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA). The visit was arranged to show the product packaging and presentation at the product display area. Prior to the visit a briefing was arranged about the visit and shared the objectives of the visit. It was shared that the objective of the visit will be the learning experience about the product development and the display. The visit was arranged, and the products were shown to the participants, the packaging and presentation of the products were also discussed among the participants. Next day, post visit experience sharing was also held with the participants. It was also shared that we need to improve the quality and the packaging of the product.

4. Enterprise Development Training:

The enterprise development trainings were held with the community members. Like previous trainings, objectives and the training manual were understandable for the community members. Prior to the session, the meetings were held among the team as well as the targeted beneficiaries. Keeping in view the previous practices and the lessons learnt, the revised strategies were adopted for the better implementation of the project. The session was started with the introductions followed by a comprehensive documentary on the successful business models from the Asian countries for the better understanding of the whole concept of entrepreneurship in the local context. The difference between the minimum wage and the living wage was also discussed during the training session for the better understanding of the concepts. The International labour standards and the wage discrimination particularly within the marginalized section of society were also discussed.

Small scale business models and the success of these models were discussed individually.

a) Product quality:

The session focused on the product quality which is very much needed in the market. Markets today are changing fast and competition is becoming increasingly fierce. If enterprises want to stay in the market, they need to make sure that their products and services meet continuously changing market requirements and demand conditions. What counts, is the end product that the consumer receives, and the level of satisfaction that it creates. Value chains can compete against each other in terms of produce cost and/or product quality.

b) Assessment:

By the end of the session, trainer took the feedback against key contents of the session. The questions and comments were well taken and explained.

c) Linkages Development:

Linkages were developed for the business loans of the trade beneficiaries. The previous training batches were connected with the Microfinance institution. Prior to linkages with the Micro Finance Institute (MFI), the desk review about the mark-up and eligibility criteria was conducted. Keeping in view the field realities, the meetings with the representatives of the shortlisted organizations were conducted by the field team. After that, The Seed Out organization was shortlisted based on the zero-mark-up rate. Seed out is a nonprofit crowd funding platform working to alleviate poverty by establishing microentrepreneurs through interest free microfinancing. Another factor was the individuality that Seed Out organization provide products of the amount of loan, instead of handing over the cash to the beneficiary. It helped to minimize the risk of utilization of loan amount in personal needs, like wedding of a child, repair of home etc. The batches are linked along with their business plans and discernment activity is expected in the last week of February 2022.

5. Business Development Sessions:

Sessions are going on with the Punjab Women Resource and Incubation Centre. Our 02 beneficiaries who were literate and are able to understand the business management and product marketing are a part of their 5th batch of incubators. The project is facilitating them and hopefully they will be trained as Master Trainers and will be able to share their experiences in the community.

6. Wexnet Exhibition:

WEXNET is a formalized structure which provides women with the opportunities to not only exhibit their products, network with each other, learn from others’ experiences but also to form collaborations and partnerships for mutual benefits. The 10th edition of the exhibition that is arranged by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) for women entrepreneurs of Pakistan. Over 300 plus women entrepreneurs from across Pakistan are exhibiting their products from all provinces including Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.

Beneficiaries from the project also displayed their products in the Pakistan’s largest exhibition. The profiles and product details were shared before the preparation of the exhibition and registration of the business. It was first ever event where the beneficiaries were participating on a larger scale.

It was a challenge for the project team to prepare the beneficiaries on such a larger scale. Product development sessions and packaging and inventories were managed with the help of the project staff. The 3 days exhibition went well and provided opportunity to the beneficiaries to display their products as well as to increase their income and get orders from the visitors.

7. Leadership Development:

It is a process of directing and influencing another individual or group of individual to accomplish a goal. It is the art and ability of inspiring, guiding, and directing people so that they ardently desire to do what the leader wishes.

Therefore, Leadership involves three things the leader, the follower and the situation. The leader should be capable of influencing the behaviour of followers for attainment of desired objectives. The leaders should also take into account the situation of different events to come up with right leadership style and shift his/her strategy in accordance with the environment for gaining maximum impact.