Veterinary skills help empower women in rural Pakistan
By Shumaila Tariq
Photo: UNDP Pakistan
Muhammad Bibi’s life in the Punjab province of Tehsil Mian Channu, northeastern Pakistan, took a sudden turn when her husband had a heart attack and was unable to work again. She became the sole provider for her six children and her spouse. Having to depend on the few goats that the family owned, she learned through a neighbour about the Community Empowerment through Livestock Development & Credit project, a partnership between UNDP and Nestle Pakistan that teaches veterinary skills to women, who then receive the title of ‘Lady Livestock Workers’.
Faiza Effendi, Chief of the Poverty Reduction Unit in UNDP Pakistan, explained that the initiative is crucial to empower the female population because “in rural Pakistan, traditionally women are the primary livestock caretakers. Such programmes help bring women into the official labour force.”
After a month-long training at University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences – one of the project’s key partners – Bibi and thousands of other rural women became qualified ‘Lady Livestock Workers’. The partnership trains women on veterinary skills, farm management, entrepreneurship, milk collection and commercial milk marketing. After the training, Bibi was able to provide medical treatment to her goats and became more knowledgeable on handling techniques. Today, she also offers her services to villagers. She oversees up to 15 cases a week, receiving an average of 1500-3,000 Rupees (US$19-37), which is considered a good income in the Punjabi rural settings.
“Now I have my own identity and it makes me confident,” Bibi said. ”I have a better place in my community and my husband acknowledges my contribution to the family income.”
Since the project began in 2006, more than 2500 Lady Livestock Workers in more than 1200 villages of Punjab have been trained. More than half of them are working as independent entrepreneurs, such as livestock health caretakers, animal feed suppliers and village milk collectors for various companies.
Access to markets
In addition to the training sessions, partnerships with the Government’s livestock department and with the dairy industry are ensuring continued technical support and greater access to markets. With the Project’s support, the Lady Livestock Workers have also established linkages with pharmaceutical companies to ensure prompt and sustainable supply of medicine at competitive prices. As a result, the entire community benefits with good quality, timely and cost-effective veterinary services at their doorsteps.
“Engaging and training women as livestock managers not only empowers women but enables the Government to extend livestock services to the most remote areas,” Effendi added. “This is a key lynchpin to the livestock development policy in Pakistan.”