The Pathways and Pursestrings project focused on increasing the income women earn from the work they were already doing within their homes. The project was based on the premise that with greater economic resources, women would gain more value within the family and community, improving their status and expanding their control over the income they earned and increasing their participation in family decisions. These results have been achieved. The project's independent evaluation team concluded, "The assumption that improved economic well-being leads to relatively stronger social and even political capital (defined as the power to influence decisions) seems to hold true on this project." Critical to pushing beyond the initial gains experienced by these women will be their ability to build on these successes. Money in their hands provides women the opportunity to take additional steps in creating the social, legal, and cultural changes they want to see.
"Earlier I was too scared to talk with people. When I went to the markets I didn't know how to ask the shopkeepers for work," recalls Shazia Afzal, an embellished fabrics sales agent. "Then I went on market exposure visits with the project team and slowly I learned." The external evaluation team also collected stories of increased confidence, showing real evidence that increased income levels have given women more say in family decision making and more freedom outside their homes. Shazia Afzal's husband says he is glad to have her work and even pitches in to help with cooking and feeding the children.
Many women reflect on their changing perceptions of societal norms for men and women through the economic opportunities brought by project trainings and resulting successes. Shaista Jameel, a seedlings producer recalls, "When I started, my husband thought it was useless, my mother-in-law thought it was just rubbish. When people talk like that women lose interest. But now we are working with confidence."
Razia was one of the first village milk collection agents. Her neighbors were derisive, criticizing her husband for allowing her to take on this work. But as she began earning, opinions shifted and her neighbours came to see her as a model of success. Razia's story illustrates another family impact of the project. Like many women of her generation Razia had very limited opportunities for education and is, therefore, functionally illiterate. Her teenage daughter is able to help her with her business recordkeeping, and like many women who started their business through participating in Pathways and Pursestrings, the enterprise is now a family business.