“Women were working individually and were busy on honey production and beekeeping. They were working hard, but the gain from individual production was not good and they were unable to generate enough income to sustain their work,” says Sabira.
In 2016, Sabira and a small group of women honey producers formed the Panjab District Beekeeping and Honey Production Association, with support from ActionAid’s REALISE (Resilient Agriculture and Livelihoods Initiative for Socio-Economic Empowerment) program.
The program trained association members in different areas of beekeeping and honey production to increase yields, as well as enterprise development and joint marketing to reduce costs. Sabira and the other members now bulk their honey together to sell at the provincial level market using the cooperative production and sales practises they learned, earning more revenue to support their families.
As other women come to see the benefits of honey production, more women have joined the association, and they are gaining more respect within their communities.
“Women’s capacity has improved now and it is getting better every single day,” says Masooma, the Deputy Director of the Panjab Honey Production and Beekeeping Association. “Their economic status has improved, their positions within household and communities have changed, women have new roles and responsibilities and they are exercising more self-belief and power compared to the past.
“The biggest change in our lives is our improved economic and social positions within the households and society, and the way these two factors has helped us to be recognised and accepted as an important part of our societies. The work produced by women is recognised and appreciated by our male family members and people in the society. Women in this area have made extraordinary progress,” says Masooma.
While social change can be slow, Masooma’s husband, Anwar, typifies this growing culture of respect for women. “I wish I could have understood the importance of my wife’s contribution in our family before,” he said. “She has changed our life. My wife is helping us a lot and I really appreciate her efforts and support to the family.”
Through the support of ActionAid, women in Panjab are creating successful honey production businesses, and generating respect from their communities. Approximately 150 new women receive training and support on beekeeping through the association each month. Sabira, Masooma and the women of the Panjab Honey Production and Beekeeping Association have become leaders in their province, paving the way for other women to gain new skills, become empowered and create successful businesses.