Sixteen-year-old Nadia makes the one-hour journey to and from her employer’s house on foot each day, stopping frequently along the congested streets of Lahore so her mother can rest her weary legs.
The teenager still had seven years of schooling left to complete, but was forced to drop out last year to help boost family finances by joining her mother as a maid.”She’s my daughter, but we had no other choice,” says Muhammad Amin, her father, who earns 18,000 rupees a month (around $65) working as a security guard.
“It’s up to God what happens next.”
The pair walk to work each day to save on transport costs — a familiar story in Pakistan, where millions of families are feeling the brutal effects of an economy on the brink of collapse.Pakistan’s finances have been wrecked by years of financial mismanagement and political instability — a situation exacerbated by a global energy crisis and devastating floods that left a third of the country under water last year.The South Asian country is deeply in debt, and needs to introduce tough tax and utility price increases to unlock another tranche of a $6.5 billion International Monetary Fund bailout and avoid defaulting.
This week the government raised taxes on luxury imports and services — saying only the rich elite would be affected. However, it also slashed fuel subsidies and increased a general sales tax, both of which will hit low-income families.”We aren’t able to make ends meet when we have to pay for gas, electricity and household expenses, so how can we put Nadia in school?” her mother Miraj explains.
– ‘Cannot make ends meet’ –
Pakistan consistently ranks near the bottom of global gender parity indexes, and girls are often viewed as a financial burden because of the bride-price parents pay when they are married.Amin wanted his six daughters to be educated, hoping they would lift the family out of generational poverty.The household began to struggle in 2015, when Amin was injured in a road accident, forcing him to give up a relatively good wage as a labourer and take up a more sedentary, low-paying job.