Rashid Minhas, a 35-year-old father of four living in a remote village in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, sees prices rising while his income is static. He worries about educating his four daughters, and believes times will get harder.
Name: Rashid Minhas
Location: Banni Afghanan, Mianwali, Punjab, Pakistan
Does your spouse/partner live with you? Yes she lives with me.
What is your primary job? Driver on a pick-up truck.
What is your monthly salary? US$84
What is your household’s total income – including your partner’s salary, and any additional sources? $84 My brother and father help us with food and other items.
How many people are living in your household – what is their relationship to you? Myself, my wife and four daughters
How many are dependent on you/your partner's income – what is their relationship to you? Five - my wife and four daughters.
How much do you spend each month on food? $63-74.
What is your main staple - how much does it cost each month? Wheat $16 for 25kg; rice $10.5 for 15kg
How much do you spend on rent? I live in a dilapidated family house, so I do not pay rent.
How much on transport? Depending on how many times you have to leave the village, it varies between $8-16.
How much do you spend on educating your children each month? Nil as I don’t send my daughters to school. Just can’t afford it.
After you have paid all your bills each month, how much is left? The only utility is electricity; the average bill for a month is $5. So I’m left with about $79 after paying the bill.
Have you or any member of the household been forced to skip meals or reduce portion sizes in the last three months? Not really, but you have to manage as per your income and situation. We never had enough money to eat proper meals, and manage with just one lentil dish, a `roti’ [flat bread] or something similar.
Have you been forced to borrow money (or food) in the last three months to cover basic household needs? Yes it happens almost every month.
“My father owns about 18 acres of agricultural land but it is a rain-dependent land. We get a crop if it rains at the right time and if it doesn’t, we suffer losses. So we have stopped cultivating it after suffering heavy losses two years ago.
“After that I got a job as a driver. I drive a pick-up van to transport people and goods. I am paid Rs 8,000 [$84] by the owner of the vehicle. This is not a good amount but there is nothing else that I can do. I am not educated. Our father did not send us to school. Actually when we were of school-going age, the village school remained shut for many years due to a feud between our tribe and another one which lasted for many years and in which many people lost their lives.
“I have four daughters. The eldest is about 10 and the youngest is only four months. I have never sent them to school. I do want them to study but I simply cannot afford it. If they were boys, I could have managed because a boy can go to school even if he is not wearing a shirt. But a girl needs to be properly dressed. So there are additional expenses for girls and I cannot afford even the primary expenses in the form of school fees, books and uniform, etc. I don’t mind having girls. But sometimes I complain to God that if he had given me daughters then he should have also given me the resources to bring them up properly.
“Good news? I have heard no good news recently. I am lucky that I don’t have to pay any rent because I own the house I live in. But it is in such a dilapidated condition that often I just want to tear it down. It was built generations ago. But I know I can never build a new one in its place.
“I am not in a position to buy new clothes and shoes for my family even on occasions such as Eid. I and my wife have been wearing the same old clothes and shoes for years. But last Eid, I borrowed money to buy some clothes for my daughters. My heart aches when I cannot do anything for my family. My father and my brother always help us. Whenever they go out they would bring something for my family also. I don’t know what would happen if they stop helping us in this way.
“I am not a slacker. I am a very hard-working man, but the problem is there is no work available apart from the one I am doing. I don’t know what would happen if I die today or become incapacitated in an accident or something. I have no backup. My children are growing up, expenses are increasing but my resources remain stagnant. I can foresee only worse days ahead.”