Authors Posts by Communications Office

Communications Office

More than 335,000 undocumented Afghans have returned home to Afghanistan since the beginning of January this year due to diverse push factors, including deteriorating protection space in Pakistan and Iran. Abdul Raziq is one among the thousands, who came back to his homeland from Pakistan in September 2015. Twenty-six years ago, the then five-year-old Abdul migrated from Marawara district of Kuner Province in Afghanistan to Pakistan with his family. In Pakistan, they settled in a Kacha Abadi1 in Rawalpindi where his father and brothers earned an income through general labor in nearby areas.  Soon after, young Abdul also joined them as a laborer in a brick factory and earned a daily wage of PKR 2,000 (approx. USD 17). The family was living in a mud house of five rooms in the kacha abadi and was making ends meet. At the age of twenty, Abdul got married in Pakistan and is now a father to five children; three daughters and two sons.

In August 2015, the police launched an unannounced operation against the Katcha Abadi and we were given very limited time to collect our belongings and were asked to return to our native lands. They had to clear the area immediately,

 added Raziq sadly,

We returned to Afghanistan. We were however unable to return to our native hometown, Marawara in Kuner Province as there were ongoing protests and political conflicts in the area. Instead, we settled in Haji Baqqi desert in Khiwa district in the Nangarhar province.

Living in seclusion, about eleven kilometers away from the centre of the Khiwa district and nearly twenty-one kilometers from Jalalabad city, Abdul’s family was deprived of many of life’s basic amenities and services. Haji Baqqi had no local markets, schools, clean drinking water sources, health centers, agriculture land or local transportation services. It was just a piece of barren and isolated land. Travelling to the nearest healthy facility would cost AFN 3000 (approx. USD 42). Abdul’s family was cut off from anything that resembled a normal life. And in such circumstances, they could not even afford to fall ill.

In April 2017, Community World Service Asia’s Mobile Health Team in Afghanistan visited Haji Baqqi. The team conducted a thorough check-up of Abdul’s family and two of his youngest sons were vaccinated as well. They were also checked for symptoms of malnutrition which was ruled out, but they were likely to be diagnosed for it if they did not adopt a healthier diet.  The family received health and hygiene sessions and a diet chart to follow for intake of healthier food to improve their health. Abdul’s wife, who conceived late in 2017, also received antenatal care during the mobile team’s visit.

The health team was very cooperative and efficient in providing health services. I realized the importance of the health of mother and child and took better care of myself. I ate clean vegetables, pulses and took my vitamins timely. Moreover, the health and hygiene session has guided our family on the importance of living in a clean and healthy environment. The hygiene kit provided by the health team, consisting of water containers with lids, soaps and cleaning cloths, has helped in developing a good practice of keeping ourselves and our home clean,

 shared Abdul’s wife happily.

Community World Service Asia has been providing health services through mobile health units to repatriated and temporarily displaced communities in Afghanistan. Through our humanitarian health projects, we try to ensure that health services reach the most vulnerable and inaccessible returnee families at their door stop or in their village. Our health facilities include health centers and mobile health trucks that provide free consultations, free medicines, ambulance facilities for critically ill patients, antenatal and postnatal care and vaccination for mothers and children. Our health program has assisted 178,140 returnees and uprooted communities since 2016 Five hundred families have received hygiene kits and 31,500 individuals have been sensitized through hygiene promotion sessions. More than five hundred families have also been provided tents and blankets through our humanitarian initiatives, supported by Japan Platform and PWS&D, for returning families in Afghanistan.

An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been uprooted from their homes, UNHCR reports. Nearly 25.4 million of these displaced communities are refugees, more than half whom are under the age of 18. First marked in 2001, World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20th. On this day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states,

tens of thousands of people around the world take time to recognize and applaud the contribution of forcibly displaced people throughout the world. The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.

According to UNHCR’s statistical yearbook published in 2018, there are 22.5 million refugees recognized globally, of whom 17.2million are under the UNHCR mandate. Turkey is on top of the hosting countries, hosting 2.9million people followed by Pakistan, which has hosted 1.4million people. Syria is the top most country where 5.5million of their people have taken refuge in other countries. More than 2.5 million Afghanis are living as refugees in other countries.

The sufferings and challenges faced by returnees are similar to or in some cases even worse than that of refugees. As a registered refugee, one is at least ensured basic rights such as food, shelter, health, water and sanitation by hosting countries. Whereas in the case of most returnees, the support provided to them is not enough to cover the needs of a complete family. Community World Service Asia is committed to helping refugees and returnees and providing hope for a better life. Our projects provide health assistance in Laghman and Nangarhar Provinces of Afghanistan, with continuous support to returnees through the provision of food and non-food items.

1 A kind of a shanty town where homeless and underprivileged people live in temporary huts made from wood such as branches of trees and roofs made of tin foil.

Group Photo of the training participants of "Leadership Development for Managers" in Sindh.

Most managers in local organizations are often not given many opportunities of professional training or grooming on enhancing leadership skills. These particular skills are crucial to achieving planned goals and to bring the best out of a team in any management role. To fill this gap and to further strengthen the role of managers, second-line leadership, and  staff in supervisory roles in local NGOs or CSOs, Community World Service Asia organized a four-day workshop on Leadership Development, under its Capacity Enhancement Program in Mirpurkhas, Sindh, Pakistan. The training, organized in early May, was participated by twenty-seven professionals from eleven local level organizations in Sindh.

The training, which was in a “workshop” format,  focused on introducing the various leadership styles recognized globally and strengthening management skills and professional competencies to lead and guide teams and individuals. Some of the key sessions of the training included “Difference between Leadership and Management Skills”, “Community types and style”, “Transactional Analysis and Coaching” and “Mentoring Skills”. Participants understood the difference between a good leader and a good manager and what characteristics stands them apart. An activity which aimed at identifying and mastering the five steps for team building helped the participants to reflect upon the critical stages of team building and how to facilitate the process. Referencing to real life challenges faced in work environments when attempting to conduct team building activities, this session was particularly relevant for most participants.

Transactional Analysis was a new approach introduced in the training. The session analyzed the social transformations of organizations. With the help of this session, the participants further built their knowledge on the various types of social transactions and how to avoid arguments or cross communication with colleagues in future.

Participants recognized the importance of mentoring and coaching towards developing second-line leadership and how vital it is for staff in managerial roles as it aids in limiting the risks of internal and external challenges faced by organizations.

Sohail Muhammad Ali, the lead trainer for the workshop applied interactive and participatory approaches throughout the training which allowed participants to be consistently engaged and active throughout the sessions. Participants voiced their concerns and opinions openly during the four-days workshop.

Participants’ Voices:

“This was a unique training experience. To me the difference between western and eastern communications style was a new thing. We are always engaged in communication without knowing our style of communication, its pro and cons, strengths and weaknesses and limitations. The discussion on different communication models really helped me understand the different backstopping I personally face in my work. Now I can analyze my style of communication and work for further improvement.

Asad Chachar, Jagarta Social Welfare Organization (JSWO)

“Training for Leadership Development for Managers was very informative. I learnt new approaches and tools including Transitional analysis, Emotional intelligence & trust building. These tools are indeed helpful in understanding the note of emotions, language style, communication type and understand what others want to communicate. Words alone do not give you the complete message. You have to understand the emotions and communication style of others to fully understand their message. Previously, we only focused on words which often created problems as there was no clarity or clear message. I am very hopeful this training will be helpful for me in my professional career and personal life”

Allah Dino Khoso, field office, Badin, Sindh, Community World Service Asia

“I am relatively new to this sector and this training really helped me to understand the dynamics of management and leadership skills.  The environment was very comfortable and it provided a culture of sharing and acquiring new skills together. The facilitator of the training was proactive in delivering the sessions. He possessed in-depth knowledge and shared good examples on the training subject. The workshop was very interactive and everyone was engaged throughout the training”

Beenish Mahak, Nishat Welfare Organization

“We do say that leaders are born with leadership skills, however through capacity building programs, these skills can be developed among second line management as well.  The culture of mentoring and coaching in the organizations builds a strong bond for staff within the organization. It increases their commitment and spirit to achieve higher targets and attain long term objectives of the organization. This is one of my key learnings from  this training.”

Fozia Kashif, Participatory Village Development Programme

Farmers' group photo with Agriculture Research Officer, Ubaid, at Ayub Agriculture Research Institute Faisalabad.

An exposure visit to Faisalabad of twenty-seven farmers and seven project staff from Badin, Sindh was conducted from the 10th to 12th of May this year. The group visited the University of Agriculture and the Ayub Agriculture Research Institute in Faisalabad. A field excursion to the Gatwala Forest Park in the city was also completed. This exposure visit provided the farmers of Badin an opportunity to observe, understand and learn the various and advanced activities carried out in these state of the art agricultural institutions. Most importantly this visit aimed at bridging the linkages between on-ground farmers and leading agriculture research institutes.

Dr. Abdul Wakeel, Assistant Professor at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, welcomed the participants on the 10th of May and gave a brief introduction of the institute and its work to them. Farmers were taken to the university’s nurseries where they observed a variety of plantations and different experiments aimed at enhancing the productivity and yield of crops in process.  Dr. Asif Tanveer delivered a comprehensive and informative session on sustainable agriculture practices at the Agronomy Library at the institute which was followed by a questions and answers session with the farmers from Sindh. Many queries of the farmers were addressed and they were encouraged to implement the learnings to expect better outputs in their fields back home.

Similarly, the next day, Dr. Abid Mahmood, Director General Research at the Ayub Agriculture Research Institute (AARI) in Faisalabad oriented and briefed the farmers group on the on-going researches and latest breakthroughs the AARI and its sister institute and substations have achieved. The Agriculture Research Officer and member of monitoring and evaluation and Quarantine committee at AARI, gave a thorough explanation of the sister institutes and substation of AARI. The farmers were made aware of the many services they could avail from the AARI institutes; such as acquiring seeds of new varieties and plant saplings, seeking recommendations for better productivity and being provided with copies of relevant IEC material.

Dr. Dilber and Dr. Khalid, Scientific Officers at AARI, informed the participants about rearing of beneficial insects, including Tricograma and Phenacoccus aceris, which play a key role in pest management during their visit of the Integrated Pest Management Laboratory. They were also made aware of the advance production technology available for different vegetables at the field site where a variety of crops were produced.  At the field area where cereal crop is produced, the farmers were updated on the development of Hybrid seeds, advanced production technology of a range of cereal crops and the availability of newly developed seed varieties at economical prices. After the AARI and on their last day in Faisalabad, the team from Sindh visited the Gatwala forest nursery and park where they explored different species of fruit, forest and ornamental plants.

The exposure visit enabled farmers from different communities to interact with and learn from each other, allowing them to view practical examples of successful integration of sustainable practices in farming communities like their own. This platform provided progressive farmers to expand their knowledge and skill by visiting agricultural sites where new technologies and techniques are adopted. The farmers learnt and understood a variety of different available methods utilized to increase and sustain their income.

Farmers’ Learnings:

I have learnt about farming of spreading tomato varieties in tunnel. I will practice this farming technique at my own field by making tunnels with available wooden logs to generate maximum revenue in scarce water conditions. I appreciate the efforts of Community World Service Asia for providing this learning opportunity to explore innovative crop production technologies.

Ishtaq Ahmed from Muhammad Ali Patafi village in Khair Pur Gambo, Badin, Sindh

I was excited to see the different high yielding varieties of vegetables and more contented to learn that we can get quality seeds of these vegetable at our door step at very reasonable prices.I am thankful to the livelihoods team for linking us to these national level institutes. We can learn much more in future for better and updated agricultural practices for productive outcomes.

Khalique Zaman from Ghulam Hussian Lail village in UC Pangrio, Badin, Sindh

This project is co-funded by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D). Special thanks to the government of Canada for supporting this project.

The Government Girls High School(GGPS) of Abdul Wahid Colony is one of the few functional girls’ schools in Umerkot district of Sindh province in Pakistan. Established in 1991, the GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony branch has a total student enrollment of one hundred and twenty-one. With poor school facilities, a crumbling infrastructure and not enough classrooms, the learning outcomes of the school were justifiably low. Sami, Head Master at the GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony shared,

Due to a lack of interest in learning, students were mostly irregular in attendance and results were disappointing at the end of the academic year. In an attempt to upgrade education levels and improve and transform teaching methods, we have engaged with various organizations which has increased enrollment and students’ interest in learning here.

Three teachers, Naheed, Tania and Sakeena, from the GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony took part in a series of Teachers’ Trainings in 2017 and 2018 under Community World Service Asia and Act for Peace’s Girls Education Project. Naheed also participated in the Masters Teachers’ Training in February 2018. As an indicator of progress and as a result of the capacity building trainings, Sami shared an example of Tania’s two students of class five.

Students who were previously disengaged and irregular have been participating in class very actively since the teachers’ training and the new methods introduced in the classroom.

Ayesha, a nine-year-old student of class five, wants to grow up to be a doctor and provide medical treatment to people of all ages.

My favorite subject is Mathematics as I enjoy the way Miss Tania teaches the students through different activities and practical exercises. Initially we only solved sums on the board and learnt our lessons according to the chapters given in the textbook. Mathematics became more interesting when Miss Tania introduced diverse activities. I understand Mathematics well and now I am really good at solving equations. We use low cost material in learning addition and subtraction, multiplication and division. Miss Tania uses matchsticks, buttons, beans, balls and many other small things to solve equations which make learning fun and easy to understand,

shared Ayesha. Ayesha was a quiet student in class, but confidently participated in extracurricular activities. According to Sami, as Tania introduced new teaching methods involving role play, story-telling and group activities, Ayesha became more interactive and vocal in classroom sessions as well.

The teachers have become friendly in classrooms. They involve students in different activities making learning simple and enjoyable. Our classrooms are more child-centered now; focused on learning through activity and being friendly towards students,

narrated Sami.

Kashi, another grade 5 student, wishes to become a Police Officer when she is old enough and defend her country from criminals hurting the people of Pakistan.

Education is important if I want to become a police officer in future. As an educated professional, I will be able to serve my country in a better way,

 confidently added Kashi. Kashi’s favorite subject is Science.

Miss Tania conducts group activities which makes it easier to understand. In a recent classroom session, while learning about States of Matter, Miss Tania drew a circle on the floor. All the students were called inside the circle. Since the circle was not very big, we were standing very close to each other. Miss Tania explained that we are in a solid state where molecules are close together. She then told us to move a little away from each other, to demonstrate the liquid state of matter.

Likewise, she explained the gas state by spreading us all around the classroom, far away from each other. She teaches us through story-telling as well. For many students, science is a difficult subject, but through interactive activities, science has become easy and interesting to learn.

Kashi and Ayesha were excited to talk about the concept of “Morning Meetings” recently introduced by the trained teachers in GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony.

These meetings are conducted every morning. As a result, the school has become a fun place as all students know each other better. In the morning meetings, we share and learn something new about other students’ nature or daily routine. We share our likes and dislikes, our stories of previous days and what new we will learn in school that day. Through this interactive daily exercise, we have made more friends than before. Now we have friends from other classes as well,

 happily expressed Kashi and Ayesha, smiling at each other,

Moreover, our classmate Vaijanti, attended the summer camp. She shared her experience and learning with us. We also keep our classroom clean. Students have responsibility to keep their tables and chairs organized and the monitor supervises to maintain cleanliness in classroom. It is motivating to come to a clean classroom everyday

Kashi was not a regular student. Her parents switched her schools often.

I did not enjoy school a lot that is why I did not attend school regularly,

 expressed Kashi. Kashi initially was enrolled in GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony in class one with her elder sister, who was then in class four. She left and joined a boys’ school after a year.

Kashi was encouraged to join GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony when she saw her cousin, who studied in the school, engaged in artwork at home. She further shared her study routine inclusive of role plays, story-telling and morning meetings. Kashi came back to us in 2017 in class four and since then has been regularly attending school.  Her performance in class is outstanding and the teachers commend her work and participation in class. It is therefore important to engage students in practical exercises. It’s a child’s nature to pick fast when they enjoy studying,

 mentioned Sami. 

Keeping schools clean can help prevent students from falling ill and reduce absenteeism, giving students a better opportunity to stay on track with the curriculum. According to researches, people are generally happier and more productive in a clean work environment.

The students of Miss Tania are very enthusiastic about studying and learning new lessons every day. They proactively encourage other students to keep their classrooms and the school area clean. It is a pleasure seeing how responsible the students have become after the teachers’ training. This positive change shows how important it is to have trained and well-equipped teachers in schools,

 said Sami.

A Creative Art Competition was organized in Umerkot on May 12th this year under the Girls’ Education project. The activity aimed at strengthening creative skills of students by providing them a competitive platform to present their artistic abilities. A total of forty-three students and fourteen teachers from eleven different schools participated in the competition. The competition activities were categorized in three segments; Oratory skills (Speech, Poem recitals and skit performance), Creative Visual Arts (such as Drawing & painting) and Innovation, in which any new teaching methodology was introduced through a demonstration.

Students practiced very hard for the competition. It was the first of its kind and all teachers and students were excited to be participating in the event. Four students participated from our school participated in the event. Kashi and Ayesha were among the four students,

 narrated Sami.

I drew a beautiful scenery and Ayesha drew a Jug and a glass of drink. There were many students from different schools at the event and everyone was creating exquisite artwork. We did not know that our art piece will win a price. To our surprise, we won the third price in the art competition. We were full of joy to hear our names called out on stage,

expressed Kashi with great excitement.

Ayesha also took part in the Recitation competition. According to Sami, Ayesha delivered her recital with complete confidence and motivation.

I enjoyed reciting Naatii in front of an audience on the stage. I saw some girls go before me who were nervous. I was surely not nervous at all,

 concluded Ayesha excitedly.

A theater group, Barbhat theater, performed a play on sustainable agriculture, kitchen gardening and tree plantation.

Agricultural farmers produce a variety of nutritious substances for human and animal consumption. Farmers all over the world generously contribute to the sustenance of all kinds of life and growth. Under its Food security and livelihood project[1] (FSL), Community World Service Asia organized a farmers’ festival to encourage local targeted communities in the district of Badin in Sindh, Pakistan towards adopting sustainable agriculture practices. The festival also aimed at identifying ways to bridge linkages between farming communities and the civil society, NGOs and government departments working on agriculture in the area.

As one of the key components of the FSL project, this Farmers’ Festival which was primarily for men only, was attended by more than six hundred community members in Badin, promoted the adoption of sustainable agriculture through a variety of informational yet fun activities; interactive theater performances, tableaus and open discussions on experience sharing were all part of it. Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Farmer Field School[2] members, local women trained in kitchen gardening and nutrition actively participated in the festival.

Relevant Government officials representing the district’s Social Welfare and Agriculture departments took part in the event and recognized the improvements in on-farm activities noted since the initiation of the project. They affirmed that this sort of progress will surely ensure sustainable development and food security in the area.

Other non-profit organizations working in the region were also given an opportunity to set up stalls, displaying local handicrafts and pictorial presentations reflecting their own project activities, at the festival. Models on Key Hole Kitchen Gardening and Biological Pests Control were also exhibited. Women from the local communities had also set up their own stalls to sell vegetables freshly harvested from their kitchen gardens.

Perbhat, a local theatre group, performed an interactive theater play to highlight the benefits of kitchen gardening, sustainable agriculture practices and how to maintain a balanced diet. The audience was also sensitized on increased tree plantations and how that would reduce the adverse impacts of climate change. In addition, students of Ram Kolhi Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) performed two tableaus under the direction of their teachers, in an attempt to amplify the importance of education in strengthening and improving agricultural practices for long-term food security.

Key speakers, representing government bodies, CSOs, NGOs and local farmers also addressed the visitors and attendees of the festival, highlighting the valuable role that the communities themselves play and need to continue playing for social, economic and agricultural development. Moreover, the government officials assured the communities about addressing issues of mismanagement and negligence and recommended to work towards resolving these issues together. Local farmers also invited the Government and local officials to visit their lands to be able to better understand how they work and identify ways of increased collaboration. The festival was seen as a bridge that addressed the existing gaps between community members, local farmers and government officials and a big leap towards enhancing agricultural development in Sindh.

[1] Promoting Sustainable Agriculture Practices to Improve Food Security and Livelihoods of Vulnerable and Marginalized Farmers of Badin Project

[2] A group-based adult learning approach that teaches farmers to shift towards more sustainable production practices.

This project is co-funded by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D). Special thanks to the government of Canada for supporting this project.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) has initiated Go Green Efforts to encourage employees to get more involved in environmental initiatives and ultimately contributing to Goals 7, 13, 14 & 15 of the #SustainableDevelopmentGoals (#SDGs). As an organization, we are working towards effectively limiting the consumption of natural resources and reducing our carbon footprints to assist strengthening a recycling-oriented society.

Today on #WorldEnvironmentDay, we have an awareness message for all our followers, partners and friends! #BeatPlasticPollution #ProtectyourPlanet #SaveWater #GoGreen #SDG14 #SDG15 #SDG14

Group photo of Community World Service Asia and International Medical Corps staff.

Humanitarian organizations in Pakistan are demonstrating increased commitment towards enhancing the capacities of their staff and partners on accountability standards to ensure quality assistance to the communities served. In April 2018, Community World Service Asia provided technical support through two trainings, one for HelpAge International (HAI) and the other for International Medical Corps (IMC), to introduce the Sphere Minimum Standards and Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) into their organizational operations and implementation.

The two-day trainings catered to thirty-four staff members, 32% women and 68% men, of HAI and IMC, who were all facilitated with practical support in applying the Sphere Minimum Standards as a tool to improve quality and accountability (Q&A) of their humanitarian action.

Participants of this learning exercise were introduced to the CHS and its nine commitments, which have now replaced the initial core standards in the Sphere Handbook. Each participant recieved a copy of the CHS Guidance Notes and Indicators booklet by the end of these in-house trainings. Terms that are key to applying Q&A standards in humanitarian response globally, such as Commitment, Quality Criterion, Key Actions & Organizational Responsibilities were explained to the participants using clear examples cited from the CHS booklet. The session on CHS concluded with a screening of an animated video on introduction to CHS. Participants recognized the clear link between Key Actions and Organizational Responsibilities in their work by the end of the session.

A detailed session on the Sphere Handbook was delivered as part of this technical support activity in which sections on Food Security and Health were particularly focused on. Practical exercises were conducted with the staff which ensured that each of them thoroughly reads and understands the standards well and can apply them in their contexts. Common issues identified in food security assistance were discussed with participants, which was followed by a thorough review of the standards on the very subject. Participants developed a common understanding on terms such as food security, livelihoods and malnutrition in the context of the standards.

In a group activity, the participants were asked to prepare a food basket that met the standard on ‘General Nutrition Requirements’ recommended under the Sphere standards. As part of the activity, participants discussed the assigned standards and presented the items in a food package, along with cost and kilocalories calculation.

To build knowledge on the Health Actions chapter of the Sphere handbook, the HAI and IMC staff were given specific scenarios to link common health issues with relevant minimum standards. They were also advised on linking it to key actions, key indicators, guidance notes as well as other relevant chapters of the handbook such as the humanitarian charter, cross-cutting themes and protection principles, all of which must be taken into consideration while planning and implementing humanitarian aid. This helped participants to understand the link between different sections of the Sphere handbook.

At the end of the training, participants prepared a three-month action plan, which would serve as a basis for follow-up. For most of the participants, the contents of the workshop were new, therefore, a more detailed workshop on Sphere and CHS was proposed. Participants recommended that field exercises can be included in future workshops to strengthen their understanding on linking theory with practice. Community World Service Asia offered participants to avail coaching sessions and recommended to refer to Sphere and CHS while reporting and monitoring of projects.

The staff at HAI and IMC are now able to differentiate between Sphere standards, CHS and their application and are well acquainted with the Sphere Handbook 2011 version.

Rashidan and her husband have always wanted to provide a quality life for their four children. A stay at home mother, looking after her children, feeding them and making the most of their menial income, Rashidan had always remained optimistic and full of life for her family. However, with Rashidan’s repeated pregnancies and subsequent miscarriages, her health started deteriorating, restricting her from being the happy and energetic mother that she had always been.

Thirty-five old Rashidan is married to Ramzan, together they live with their four children in village Ranta located in District Sujawal in the Sindh province of Pakistan.

My husband, sells biscuits in Bello city in Umerkot, 30km away from home, through which he earns an income of PKR 600, on a weekly basis. This is insufficient to feed a family of six. We hardly have any money saved for healthcare, when the need arises,

 shared Rashidan.

Whenever health needs would arise, Rashidan and Ramzan would travel to the city hospitals in Daro or Sujawal; both almost one and a half hour away from their village, Ranta. The round trip to the hospital, including the medical expenses, would typically cost them PKR 2000.

I suffered two miscarriages after I had my youngest daughter. My husband took me to the city hospitals. We could not afford the regular treatment there or buy medicines due to which my health worsened. In May 2017, I had another miscarriage (third), this time I visited the Maternal Neonatal Child Health Center (MNCH) set up here in Ranta. I was in severe pain and was bleeding all night. The lady doctor at the MNCH conducted a thorough check-up of me and diagnosed me with anemia.  After she conducted an ultrasound, she informed me that I had lost my third child, who was eight weeks old.

I realized then that I had experienced three consecutive miscarriages due to being anemic. The doctor prescribed medicines to me, including pain killers, intravenous fluid (IV) and vitamin B complex injections. She also advised me to take complete bed rest for three days. I went back to the MNCH after three days for a check-up. After an ultrasound, the doctor affirmed that the report was clear. She further prescribed iron and multivitamins tablets to overcome my weakness.

After a week of letting Rashidan rest, the lady doctor provided an awareness session on family planning to Rashidan.

I was not familiar with the concept of child spacing before. I have been taking tablets for child spacing for almost 10 months now. My hemoglobin (Hbg) has improved considerably. My health has become a priority after the tragic losses I have experience. I want to be healthy for my children and family. It is great to see that the MNCH is providing primary healthcare and the staff is very cooperative and responsive. The facility of ultrasound has brought ease in our life, especially for pregnant women here in Ranta. It is very expensive to avail good health services at city hospitals. Most of us here in the village live in poverty which is why many of us ignore the importance of good health. We have mostly relied on finding traditional remedies which is not enough in many cases. The affordable services at the MNCH are continuously providing effective treatment to many mothers and children in Ranta village.

My husband, Kewal, a gender activist here in Kharoro Charan makes me very proud and I am happy to be his wife. Kewal has brought a positive change in so many people’s lives here,

shares Patu, beaming with pride. Patu, 39 years old, has been married to Kewal for twelve years.

All was not well in their marriage of twelve years though. Kewal had been an alcoholic for many years of their marriage. In fact just uptil two years ago, he had been an irresponsible husband and father and often physically abused Patu in his drunken state. Kewal worked as a carpenter through which he earned a menial income of PKR 250 per day.

He spent most of his income buying alcohol. He eventually stopped working and spent his days drinking. It was difficult to make ends meet as we had to feed three children, run the house and meet other urgent expenses ,

 added Patu.

My wife praises me a lot now. She did not praise me like this before this project,

added Kewal laughing. Before this women economic empowerment, supported by YCARE and UKAID, came to Kharoro Charan of Umerkot in Sindh, forty-year-old Kewal acted imprudently and wasted many hours of the day doing nothing.

I used to drink in the morning, afternoon and at night. I never dreamt about a better life, education, health or of any other facilities for my children. I never thought about the future.

In May of 2016, Community World Service Asia, the implementing organization for the project, identified Kharoro Charan village as part of their livelihoods’ interventions in Sindh, Pakistan. To ensure community participation at every step of the project, a Steering Committee consisting of members of the village, was set up. In one of the committee’s initial meetings, as the members were identifying possible participants of the various components of the project, they unanimously nominated Kewal to participate in a training on gender activism. Kewal initially refused to attend the training but some of his neighbors and elderly community members convinced him to give it a try and join the training.

The training completely changed my life. The facilitator of the training was a professional and was very experienced. He explained the topics very effectively.

Kewal started feeling a passion and commitment to bring change. He felt like a changed man after the training.

I participated in all sessions actively. During the two days of the training, I was occupied for the entire day, meaning I was not able to drink for more than eight hours. The sessions in the training were so interesting that I did not even feel the need to drink alcohol. Topics including gender discrimination, domestic violence, early childhood marriage and education were all very important and shared with us in an interesting manner. I never knew how badly domestic violence affected families, especially the little minds that get tangled in the violent environment.

After taking the training, Kewal started practicing what he had learnt. Not only had he learnt to fight his alcoholism but also to fight for the rights of those whose voices were suppressed.  Patu found a different husband in Kewal after the training.

Patu and I attended the steering committee meetings together. We contributed to the decisions made on village matters. I took Patu with me in the gender sessions and meetings, as together we were stronger. Our shared efforts in bringing change in other’s lives were more effective and productive. I was given five households to work with as a gender activist.  Bhaga, my sister-in-law’s household was among them. I held meetings with the family and discouraged Bhaga’s husband, my brother, to drink excessively. He used to physically abuse Bhaga and also beat his four children. Today, he rarely drinks and Bhaga works and earns a good income as an artisan and tailor in the village. The feeling of bringing happiness and a better living to someone is the best feeling in life.

Koshaliya, a fifteen-year-old niece of Kewal, was getting married in the village. The preparations for her marriage were underway and the wedding invitations were sent as well. Kewal, now a transformed man, did not agree with the idea of marrying such a young girl.

I called off the wedding after learning the disadvantages of childhood marriage. Her in-laws to be were furious and spoke very badly of me. They came to our home, accompanied by some villagers and quarreled with us as well. I calmly explained to the family that Koshaliya was very young and putting the burden of marriage on her at such a young age would adversely affects her mental and physical health in many ways. We met with the in-laws to be a few times more before I could fully convince them on the decision being right. The wedding was postponed to take place after two years.

Kewal said that women in Kharoro Charan were never taken into consideration during decision-making processes.

We treated them like maids and ordered them to mend our clothes, polish our shoes, cook us food. I believed that it was only their duty; to take care of us. We never thought of taking care of them.  But things have changed now. Today, Patu cooks, while I cut the vegetables for her, she bathes the children, and I sweep the floor. I help my wife in home chores without any embarrassment. Many elders in the village, who have conventional mind-sets, make fun of me but that does not bother me anymore. My family matters to me the most,

 expressed Kewal.

My husband is very caring and that makes me feel exceptionally lucky. When I am not well, he cooks and takes care of children without any irritation. My husband loves me and takes care of his family very dearly. His value and importance has increased so much in village because of all the good things he does, that at one call, all the villagers gather for meetings without any hesitation or disbelief. All the women in the village say that I am the most respected wife. This makes me feel extremely blessed, 

shared Patu happily.

I aim at bringing change in the whole village. Kharoro Charan is a village consisting of a thousand households. There is a long way to go but it is not an impossible journey. Change has to come within ourselves first. If we can change our own negative ways of living, then only can we set examples for others, 

concluded Kewal confidently.

Fifteen teachers from Thatta visit East Education Publishers and Literate Pakistan Foundation last week.

We often avoid paying much attention to the weaker children in the class and overlook their hidden capacities. The Jugnu course books provided by EAST are especially designed to upgrade the knowledge and confidence of academically weak children. These books have made learning interesting through story-telling and pictorials. I will request the principal to include these books in our school’s curriculum.

Fiza Solangi

Primary School teacher, Fiza Solangi, from Makli Sindh, along with seventeen other teachers,  visited the EAST Education Publishers and Literate Pakistan Foundation as part of an exposure opportunity under the Community World Service Asia and Act for Peace supported Girls Education Project in Pakistan. All eighteen of these teachers, representing different government primary schools in Thatta, have been previously trained on various pedagogical and advanced teaching skills under the same project. The teachers from Sindh were introduced to the various new curriculum approaches that are available and are applied in urban educational systems at EAST. The were also briefed about how some “undereducated” parents of their students can be taught the basics of literacy through different models developed by various organizations.

The staff at EAST shared how teachers can apply various techniques of supporting and motivating academically weaker children through a teaching module developed by the organization. Humaira Farhan, Marketing Manager at EAST, shared their experience of providing tailor made courses for parents who have little or no education background, laborers and underprivileged community members across Pakistan. Komal Sunair, Marketing Manager at E Learn and Earn – ELE, a partnering organization of EAST, also offered kindergarten teaching courses to the visiting teachers.

Sadaf Faheem, a Teachers’ Trainer at EAST shared,

We provide teachers’ training and Montessori training courses focused on early childhood and primary education. We are a research and development organization engaged in the development of teaching and learning resources. The visit of the teachers’ from Thatta was very productive. They were more interested in early childhood education and had queries related to that. These teachers have been teaching primary education; hence, early childhood education was new to them. Education does not accept limitations and the teachers are eager to learn new techniques for making their classrooms more intellectual and fun at the same time. The teachers want to learn new ways to build the capacities of their students and involve them in practical exercises. I believe the books we provide will be very beneficial for the students in rural areas as storytelling and interactive activities will make learning fun for the students.


Learning at EAST

EAST Education Publishers shared their Jugnu series of books and explained how these books help students, especially the weak ones, to build their knowledge and confidence. The books are interactive and deliver lessons through storytelling. Moreover, there are online courses for teachers which will help build capacities and introduce new teaching methods to make classrooms more interactive. This online system of making courses and textbooks available is beneficial for us teachers in rural areas as we cannot travel often to cities.

Tayyaba Bano, Government Girls Primary Main Makli School, Thatta, Sindh 

The textbooks provided in the government schools are quite different from the ones provided by EAST Education Publishers. We learnt that there are different levels of books for the same standards, focusing on the capacity of different students. The series of books published by EAST was more focused on storytelling method. I was surprised to see that even the science textbook had stories which were delivering the lesson clearly.

The English language used in the books is a bit tough for the students in rural areas as their capacity lacks in efficient English. However, I plan to use the idea of storytelling and incorporate it in the subjects I teach in my school. The activities mentioned in these books can be practiced with the students which will be new and interesting for the students and will help them enjoy learning.

Saiba Khushk, Government Girls Primary School, Charan Memon, Thatta, Sindh 

Teachers in the rural areas do not have a lot of exposure to urban styles of teaching and academic curricula. These visits provide us with new learnings opportunity and a chance to upgrade our skills. Most of our students were previously mostly involved in extensive reading and rote-learning. After the teachers’ training and exposure visits, like this one, the classrooms have become colorful and friendly.

The textbooks taught in the government schools have long lessons with questions to be answered in the end of every chapter. The books published in EAST Education Publishers have interactive exercises and storytelling throughout which makes it interesting and fun to learn.

Rashida Bano, Government Girls Primary School, Darowan, Thatta, Sindh