Anayat: for the love of plants (Pakistan)

Anayat Jan seedlings client web sizedOne woman's story of inspiration as she plants seeds of joy, prosperity and love in Haripur

By Rida Naqvi, Communications Officer, MEDA Pakistan

While Pakistan remains a rigidly patriarchal society, the rural woman confined to her four walls remains a dominant feature of the landscape. But over the years, exceptional women have emerged from their seclusion and taken the initiative to change their circumstances.

One such woman riding these winds of change is 55-year-old Anayat Jan, fondly known as Anayat Jan Khala (aunt) around her village in the Haripur district.

Anayat hails from a background marred by poverty and adversity: Her face looks worn and haggard; the toils of everyday life have taken their toll on her as she battles to pay off a mountain of debt that currently burdens the family. Her youngest daughter, Somana, sews to keep herself going, while her husband tends cattle.

Considering how passionate Anayat is about her plants today, it is almost impossible to imagine her being hostile to MEDA’s Pathways & Pursestrings project when she was first approached by MEDA partner SRSP – Sarhad Rural Support Program. But after several visits, Anayat was convinced – with her husband's support playing an important role.

Her younger son eagerly participates in the venture, contributing his share to make her work fruitful. Anayat leads the Iqra Nursery Group, and recently celebrated the sale of her seedlings, earning Rs. 4,334 (about $50) as she sold to a mainstream wholesale national nursery in Peshawar and retail customers in her village.

Anayat is thrilled by her accomplishments, and at how far she has come in such a short span of time. It is inspiring to see her confidently negotiating with nursery owners and mobilizing her neighbours to arrange a seedling exhibition. Jan now advocates how women at home can easily juggle the demands of the business, and watching her operate, other women have been encouraged to follow her example. Today, because of Anayat's efforts, every second house in Kaag has a nursery!

But she also has had her share of losses. In spite of being in this business for almost two years, Anayat lost four batches of seedlings, but was relentless in her efforts. She reinvests 70% of her revenue, mostly buying input supplies; the remainder is split between paying off debt and helping those needier than her.

One cannot help but admire Anayat, seeing her address a crowd of 116 people, as she recounts her journey from being a shy, hesitant woman, to an assured entrepreneur. “Even if SRSP and MEDA go away, even if they all pack up, we will continue to strive.”

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