Building inclusive livelihoods

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“In my village, after the father grows old, the eldest brother is responsible for providing financial support to the family,” says Samiullah Khan, a young man aged 23 living in Haibak Sherza Khan village, Bannu district, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “I felt helpless because I have four unmarried sisters and my younger brothers were hardly making ends meet.”

Despite being the oldest son, Sami was unable to fulfil what he saw as his duty to his family. Born with a medical condition that restricted his physical growth and mobility, Sami could not work as a day labourer, the usual occupation of uneducated men in his village. Over the years, his anger and frustration grew, aggravated by the social and psychological pressures of being unable to support his younger siblings financially.

Disability, whether physical or mental, magnifies the vulnerability of the poor, undermining the ability to earn a livelihood and increasing dependence on others. This situation is compounded by the absence of institutional provisions for disabled people. In Bannu district, where much of the population is deprived even of basic facilities, disabled people face almost insurmountable problems in accessing opportunities for economic growth and personal development.

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Thanks to the Youth and Social Cohesion Project supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), however, Sami’s future no longer seems bleak to him. A major component of this project is to enhance the skills of young people to earn livelihoods and thus provide them with opportunities for economic empowerment, steering them away from possible involvement in the violence and conflict that has wracked this part of Pakistan in recent years.

Recognizing that physical disability should not be allowed to stand in the way of building a better life for himself, Sami was identified as a promising candidate for a tailoring course organized by the project.  After completing the training, he was hired by a tailor in his village to work on daily wages. Today, Sami is earning a regular income which has provided much needed financial support to his family.

The small opening that UNDP’s initiative provided to Sami has opened broader avenues. Now, he is planning to set up his own tailoring business. 

“I always thought that physical disability would keep me dependent on others for support,” he says. “I am thankful to UNDP for providing me with an opportunity to earn my own money – now I am also a pillar of financial support for my family.”

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