From Homelessness to Entrepreneurship

Salma a 29 year old entrepreneur lives in Jhudo town, Mirpurkhas.  Salma’s life has been full of challenges and hardships. At the age of twelve she was married to a 46 year old man.

“That was a nightmare for me. I was separated from my mother and moved from my village to the city where my husband worked as a farmer. I also had to work with him in the fields to meet our expenses,” says Salma.

Her husband died at the age of 57, leaving behind Salma and her four children.

“Those were very hard days. I was unable to pay utilities and feed my children. Our landlord refused to let us live in the rented house. We used to sleep at the railway station and had nothing to eat. It was very hard to see my children crying of hunger. But one day, I ceased to think of all the hardships we suffered and made up my mind to struggle for a better life. I told myself: ‘Yes, everything is in me. If I am negative, then things won’t work out. If I am positive, then I can tell myself that I am capable of achieving anything I put my mind to.’ I was young, determined and had faith in God. I never thought of a second marriage. To shelter my children in a shed and provide them a good living standard was the aim of my life. I had around Rs. 1000, with which I bought raw material to make decorative items and sold them in the city from a basket I carried on my head.  I never allowed my children to beg.

Things started to change slowly. I was able to feed my children three times a day. Though having a shed was still a big problem, but I never got disheartened.  Gradually, after about a year and a half, I made enough money to buy a plot. We used to live there in a tent. It was far better than living on the railway station. I worked day and night to construct two rooms. That was the happiest moment of our lives.

One day a neighbour told me about Thardeep Microfinance small loans. I thought if I get some money to invest in my business I can make more profit. I went to Thardeep’s office and applied for a loan that changed our lives unbelievably. I took a loan of Rs.12,000 in the first cycle and invested it in my business and the good days started rolling in.”

Salma has set an example for her community. Many people from her community have learnt skills from her and are now standing on their own feet.

She often hires women from her neighbourhood when her workload increases and has plans to hire four women for her business on a permanent basis.      The most significant impact has been the increased financial strength of Salma’s family. Their health, living conditions and social status have improved. She was able to build a house with three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom and has met the expenses of four of her children’s weddings. Her two sons are also engaged in her business and are generating a good income. “I manage my own time, I have money, I don’t have to ask anybody for anything, and I can help my family,” says Salma proudly. Her commitment and determination for a better life for her family made her an exemplary entrepreneur.