‘Razia’ Needs a Startup: Her ‘Net Worth’s Rs60B’, She Doesn’t Know

** Ignoring them would tantamount to the ignorance I experienced with some here: that our real viewers and opinion-holders are actually our huge rural belt and not the non-English speaking motley crowd.

** How do Razia et al stack up on modern business and finance’s Cs: 1) Character; 2) Capability; 3) Courage; 4) Capacity: Fairly high on my over the white envelop calculation– they even beat the other players I’ve mentioned.

IRSHAD SALIM –‘Razia’ (I’ve named her)  is one of the estimated 1.5 million street children we have in our country, and the  number’s growing if our youth bulge is a benchmark.

According to a survey, ‘Razia’ (females) comprise 6% of the 1.5m crowd– and the rest (94 %) are boys.

Several reasons have been cited for these children living on  the streets. Of these, 56% run away due to domestic violence, 22% have left madrassas and schools, and 2 % work to support their families.

Bottom line: they helping hand. Some of  them say they were forced out on the streets to support their families due to household poverty. So they’re part of our ‘unaccounted’ workforce  and have skills– they’re earning daily no matter what– and undocumented.

 On traffic lights and on major intersections, these children like ‘Razia’ are often found selling various items while being vulnerable to all sorts of crimes, rebukes, pollution and diseases. One  thing differentiates them though, from the rest of the crowd that they belong  to: while rest ‘beg’, these children like Razia earn daily, put food on the table daily, living on the adrenaline called self-esteem, responsibility. That’s a humongous ‘sweat equity’.

When self-respect is in danger, most don’t budge. Stoicism, persistence work– character straits. And the fact that they’re selling some things while others aren’t  and asking (begging) makes the difference. They’re not disrupting the streets!

I wonder how many of these self-employed albeit entrepreneurial street children comprise as a percentage of our  youth bulge. Experts say the bulge is 56 to 65 percent of our 207m  population. So it would be fair to suggest that this motley group is a driver unwittingly competent but unconscious of their daily add to the system as compared to the conscious and competent subtracts daily by black economy (not cash economy) players. Shouldn’t these kids be institutionally crowdfunded– even angel investors would come forward if small steps are taken.

Some techie entrepreneur among us like Rabeel Warraich could launch a startup (to use digital age buzzword) and raise a venture capital fund for these  ‘self-esteemed’, self-employed youth entrepreneurs. Since they make a  living daily against all odds and hazards, they are already trained  ‘risk-takers’ who if enabled and empowered could possibly do wonders in next steps ahead. But wait, they are stigmatized by the society on daily basis, frowned upon and even yelled at– rather we should respect them for earning not begging. Just as the video (above) shows ‘Razia’ monetizing her time day in and day out with responsibility and precise alacrity.

How do Razia et al stack up on modern business and finance’s Cs: 1) Character; 2) Capability; 3) Courage; 4) Capacity: Fairly high on my over the white envelop calculation– they even beat the other players I’ve mentioned.

Ignoring them would tantamount to the ignorance I experienced with some here: that our real viewers and opinion-holders are actually our huge rural belt and not the non-English speaking motley crowd.

So how do we handle this? Any body listening? PM Khan has launched the social net idea to protect the homeless and the shelterless. If these ‘self-employed street children can be mentored, it would be like holding many hands at one go. Behind each is a household–fair to say that in more than 3 to 4 in a family one such kid partially or fully helps in putting food on the  table. They deliver daily.

We ought to give them vendor’s license (permit) to start with– and make them feel proud they’re earning so what if it’s on the streets. Secondly, social female workers (we already have such force I’m told) teach them how to file ZERO tax return even if they do not earn more than the threshold. We’ll be broadening the tax base, and at the same time bringing them into financial inclusiveness. Buzzwords no? Yes, and forget other ones like “protection”, “rights”, “laws for street children”, etc. –these keep advocacy groups busy!

All we may need is just a startup to begin with, and these kids could become examples for others to follow– and efforts to develop ‘rule of law’ compliant community on grassroot level could get shot in the arm.

Rest will happen.

As they grow up, they would be in my personal opinion akin to national asset if not nation builders– notwithstanding a first such in the emerging economy region.

When they look back they’ll have good reasons to love Ma (mother) and the state, the country.

(The writer is a business consultant, analyst, and presently based in Islamabad)

First published on Nov 26, 2018

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