Saleem Bukari is a social entrepreneur. But this wasn't always the case. She lives in an isolated and conservative village in Pakistan with her husband and five daughters. For years she made a small income embroidering fabric that her husband sold in the local market. In 2004 Saleem joined a MEDA training course, called Behind the Veil, to become a sales agent. She began bringing the embroidery of her neighbours to the market, which required her to leave her home and travel to Karachi, the nearest large city market where higher value was placed on these products.
Initially her husband insisted on accompanying her. As he became familiar with the training in which Saleem was participating, he became more supportive. Now, years later, with her business doing well, she travels regularly to Karachi on her own to deliver products to her regular customers. Not only has she built her own business, she has supported other women as they start up their own enterprises, helping one woman set up an input supply shop in the village and assisting another in establishing a design tracing service. In her own home, her daughter has opened a school providing basic education to village children, an opportunity to which Saleem never had access.
For the past decade MEDA has worked with thousands of Pakistani women, focusing on developing sustainable links to markets. Saleem is one of these participants, demonstrating that increased income from labour leads to the ability of women to significantly shape their own future. With increased earnings, Pakistani women have gained greater control of their income, acquired assets and increased protection against economic shocks. They are increasing participation in key family decisions, sending their children to school more consistently and for more years, and expanding participation in their communities. The women describe how their status in their homes and communities has changed and how they have found new confidence in their own abilities. Increased income is a powerful force for change. Money in her hand allows a woman to take additional steps toward a new world of social and economic opportunity.