Program Graduates Pakistanis From PovertyBenzair Income Support Program’s (BISP) University Poverty Graduation Buddy Program graduates Pakistanis from poverty, improving their livelihoods and investing in their futures.

BISP has reached more than 5.4 million women beneficiaries across Pakistan and contributes to human capital development through primary education conditional cash transfers. Its goal is to increase households’ incomes, skills and capital, reducing poverty across Pakistani communities.

The issue BISP hopes to remedy is that beneficiaries often lack adequate information and opportunities to overcome poverty. Under BISP’s University Poverty Graduation Buddy Program, university students help poor Pakistani women find sustainable solutions to overcome poverty.

In a meeting at BISP headquarters in July, BISP chairperson Marvi Memon stated that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) enlisted universities to nominate 20 students each for the graduation program. Students are linked with a corresponding BISP beneficiary in the area near their participating university. BISP’s education program graduates Pakistanis from poverty by enhancing their skills and providing financial services.

BISP’s skills development and coaching enrich beneficiaries’ lives with training that transforms their present state and invests in their futures. Through the University Poverty Graduation Buddy Program, students help create opportunities for beneficiaries by preparing them with the tools to become entrepreneurs. Students market products made by beneficiaries through E-commerce and showcase the success to a panel of judges who choose the best graduation model. Graduation models are as follows: Training for Rural Economic Empowerment, Microfinance and Interest Free Loans, Employee Guarantees, Comprehensive Coaching for the Extreme Poor, Inclusive Business Cooperation and Households Overcoming Extreme Poverty.

BISP explores the best global practices, graduation models and sustainable solutions to develop poverty-reduction methods in a local context. University students are an asset to BISP’s graduation model development and poverty reduction by helping beneficiaries find inclusive information and access opportunities to overcome their poverty.

With university students’ partnership, BISP continues finding solutions to reduce poverty and improve local Pakistani communities.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Pakistan
In early April of this year, an important step was taken to reduce poverty in Pakistan. The Pakistani government made the decision to re-evaluate its poverty threshold or an individual’s estimated monthly income that would place them above or below the poverty line in that particular country.

The government ultimately decided to raise its poverty threshold, increasing the number of citizens eligible for government-sponsored aid and development policies.

Based on census data between 2013 and 2014, the Pakistani government raised the poverty threshold for working adults’ incomes to 3,030 rupees per month, or about $29.

The new criteria means that roughly 60 million total citizens are classified as falling below the poverty line as opposed to a much smaller number of citizens who fell under the old poverty line, which was based on 2001 data.

What consequences does this new, expanded recognition of impoverished citizens carry?

For starters, a higher poverty threshold typically means that there are fewer people living in poverty. The World Bank issued a report estimating that, if applied in 2001, the new data would qualify 64 percent of the population as impoverished, rather than the 34.5 percent of citizens classified as such under the old data.

Currently, the number of citizens living below the new poverty line rests at 29.5 percent, a sharp decrease from 2001. In simplified terms, this means that the overall rate of poverty in Pakistan has fallen by over one third in the past fifteen years.

It also shows that the government-sponsored aid programs and pro-poor development policies implemented over the past 15 years have worked and have the capacity to help even more citizens. The Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) in particular has been effective at providing economic assistance.

Provided with significant support by USAID, the World Bank, DFID, and the Asian Development Bank, BISP has taken the lead in establishing “cash transfer” programs, which provide the financial support families need to meet educational, health and livelihood requirements.

Tangible effects of this assistance can be found when examining such variables as the number of poor households with access to personal transportation (up to 18 percent compared to the two percent of 15 years ago) and the number of households with access to a toilet (up to 60 percent as compared to 30 percent in 2001).

The greater levels of income provided by BISP are improving the overall financial condition of Pakistan as well, allowing the country’s “formal banking sector to reach to the untapped market segment” of poverty in Pakistan.

The continued success that Pakistan has achieved by investing in its impoverished citizens has inspired programs similar to BISP in countries such as India, Ghana, Mongolia, Cambodia and Nepal.

Will Clifft

Photo: Flickr