USEFP is very proud to claim you as one of its Fulbright alumni. Can you tell us what led you to apply to the Fulbright program, and what your experience at Columbia University was like?
FS: My experience at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University was one of the most defining of my educational career. In addition to giving me a great education in policy design and economics, I met some wonderful people who to this day are my friends; and also got to experience living in New York which was an education in itself.
I heard about the Fulbright program while finishing my undergraduate program at LUMS. I was very keen to study further and Fulbright enabled me to do so by funding my master’s degree.
Tell us a little bit about UpTrade Goats for Water?
FS: UpTrade that began as Goats for Water is a social enterprise that enables rural communities and smallholders farmers to use livestock as currency instead of cash. The aim is to enhance affordability of the cash-strained communities so that they can purchase livelihood improving assets such as a solar water pumps, solar home lighting solutions etc.
In Pakistan, the burden of water scarcity weighs significantly more on women and girls. How important was it for you to address this issue, and how has UpTrade improved the situation for women in our rural areas?
UpTrade Goats for Water holds that women and girls are its direct beneficiaries. A research conducted by SPRING accelerator research, takes a look at the impact of water pumps installed in Pathan Goth by UpTrade Goats for Water. Before the GFW solar pump was installed, the women and girls of the community used to make two four-hour long trips a day, to fetch water from a natural stream. The young girls often accompanied their mothers and missed school.
The research finds that as a result of the water pumps installed by UpTrade Goats for Water, the research participants and their families have started living a healthier life, the women and girls have more leisure time, and increased opportunities to pursue economic opportunities. Not only that, the research shows that due to the water pumps, attendance of girls in schools has also improved.
One of the participants, shared, “Previously we used to go to rivers (dried one) for excretion now we have washrooms, yeah they are built in these two years, and our mind worked and said we should do so. We take a bucket full of water to washroom and wash our hands with soap there.”
What are your future aspirations?
FS: My furture aspirations are to take scale UpTrade within Pakistan and start the operations internationally. I also plan to dabble in writing and plan to write a book about my entrepreneurial journey and all that I have learnt from it. At some point I also want to write a fantasy novel!
Any advice for returning Fulbright candidates who want to become positive agents of change like yourself?
FS: The future Fulbright candidates are much more aware of the wide array of options that are available to them but for those who do not, my advice would to be to explore the non-traditional careers!