Maybe you’ve heard this story before: a teenage girl is forced to drop out of school to earn money for her family. She becomes illiterate and because of her lack of education, she does not have the means to find better opportunities to support her family. For Saba Gul, it was the story of Azaada from her home country of Pakistan who was not allowed to go to school and as a result, masked herself as a boy for 12 years just to attend school. Eventually, Azaada believed she was a boy and was overwhelmed with stress and confusion when it came time for her to marry. The story prompted Saba to make sure that teenage girls in Pakistan go to school. What was her idea? By paying girls to attend school.
Saba founded social enterprise Business and Life Skills School (BLISS) which would pay girls 2,000 rupees (USD $22) per month to attend two hours of evening school and one hour of vocational class. This incentive is to compensate for the wages lost in selecting school over work. In effect, it represents a 60% increase in hourly income from girls missing school to weave carpets full-time. The money comes from the sale of handbags that the girls are trained to design and create during the day, and surplus is reinvested to enroll more girls in the school.
The focus of BLISS is to give the girls the skills they can use for life. They provide girls with an education, an opportunity to support their families, and a chance to pull themselves out of a cycle of poverty and illiteracy. There is also a curriculum that provides tools and training for the girls to launch their own handcraft micro-enterprises.
For Saba, it is the belief that sending girls to school is the first step for them to escape poverty and the reason why dedicating her life to such mission is a no-brainer decision.
Photo from BLISS.
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