Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
• From Exploitative Labor to Empowerment - BLISS rescues young female laborers from exploitative wages and deplorable work conditions. It lifts them to the status of micro entrepreneurs, training them in design, marketing and sales, and increasing their mobility, self-esteem and household income. BLISS disrupts the intergenerational transfer of poverty and illiteracy via practical, income-boosting skills training that makes the girls self-sufficient and able to move away from exploitative labor forever.
• Retaining Girls in School - The profits from the micro-enterprises enable access to education for working girls who otherwise would not be able to attend school. With BLISS, an adolescent girl is able to attend and stay in school longer, remain healthy, and gain useful skills. She will marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and earn an income that she will invest back into her family and community.
• Pilot Implementation and Community Responses - Our pilot project kicked off in October 2009, with 40 Afghan refugee girls aged 15 to 24, in Attock, Pakistan. These girls were previously hand-weaving carpets at looms for 14 hours a day to earn between $1 and $1.50. They now attend school where they are taught the school's regular math and science curriculum, as well as embroidery and business acumen, with the goal of producing and marketing high-quality, embroidered handbags. Until the handbags go on sale and start generating revenue to compensate for lost wages, BLISS gives the girls monetary incentives via our seed funding - the incentives are $2 more than the wages they would earn if they were to skip school and work instead.
This pilot has been a tremendous validation of the success of our model. The community response has been overwhelmingly positive, and girls' attendance has been more regular than ever before. In the last 6 months, BLISS has gotten more than 100 requests for new enrollments from never-been-schooled girls - an average of 1 request every two days.
Fatima, 15, says: "I love to read and write, but it is very hard for my father to send me to school. BLISS has reduced the burden of my education on my family. I will spend the money I get from coming to school on books. I hope many people buy my work so I can stay in school."
BLISS has been strongly advocated by the families, as well as the village elder, Abdul Jabbar: "This is very good for our children", he told the rest of the men at our orientation meeting with the parents. "The carpet industry we work in is not doing well, and we are sick of the long hours. This is a way for our girls to learn a new skill, and also attend school."