Stories

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

Gul Khan relied on daily wages and lived with his wife and four children in Karshat village in District Shangla of Khyber Pakhtoonkhowa (KPK) province in Pakistan. The family of six lived in a small mudhouse[1] in the village. The house, being his only asset, and home to six members, had no latrine or washroom for the family to use. All its residents had to resort to rushing to the nearby forest or scanty bushes whenever nature would call.

In rural villages such as Karshat, most inhabitants survive without latrines inside their homes and mostly depend on their own livestock to meet their daily nutritional needs.  Amina Bibi and her children however did not own any livestock and solely depended on Gul Khan’s daily earning to buy food that they could survive on. Their daily meals consisted mostly of black tea and plain bread.

To add on, Gul Khan’s house had no direct water supply either. Since he had once been in a dispute with his neighbors over the construction of a water pipeline that would connect to his house. The neighbor disagreed and it was decided that no water supply line would connect to his house.

Amina Bibi and their children fetch water from a nearby spring located some three hundred yards away from their house. Amina would sometimes ask her neighbours for some water as well. Gul Khan and his family were living at the lowest poverty level and his children looked malnourished and underfed at first sight.

In August of 2015, Amina and her children received devastating news. They were told Gul Khan had been reported missing in Karachi. Gul Khan’s male relatives went down to Karachi to verify this news and to enquire about his disappearance or probable whereabouts. However, to no avail. They had to return back in vain and could not stay there longer to find him as they had to return to their own jobs and families.

Survival and meeting daily ends became a challenge for Amina Bibi and her children, specially the three going to school. One of Gul Khan’s brother, working in Saudi Arabia as a laborer, sends around PKR 2,500 to 3,000 (USD 17-25)  monthly to  support his brother’s family. The family also receives  charity money support from a local mosque on periodical basis.

In August 2016, Gul Khan’s family was identified and selected as participants under the WASH[2] project implemented by Community World Service Asia and supported by ECHO as part of a humanitarian response.. A latrine was constructed for the family in their house and they were also provided with hygiene kits and health hygiene sessions under the project. The hygiene kit included two plastic cans with a lid, one bodna[3], soaps and sanitation cloths. The cans helped the family carry and store drinking water safely as the containers were covered reducing the risks of water contamination. While the sessions helped the family learn how to use the  latrine and adopt a thorough hand washing technique to maintain and sustain a clean environment. Awareness was built on the use of washing hands with soaps before having meals and after attending latrines which minimized the transfer of diseases in the food and water.

As there was no male relative was available to assist the family during the construction of their latrine, Ibadullah, Chairman of Local Village Committee, stepped in to help. With Ibadullah’s support, the latrine was successfully established with the help of other village members and project team volunteers.

Amina Bibi and her children expressed their highest gratitude to the project staff for fulfilling their most basic needs. She also reaffirmed that the recurrence of diarrhea had reduced among her children.

Being chosen as a participant of this project has been a blessing for my children as I was aware of the danger my children were facing due to the unhygienic environment we lived in. After losing my husband, my children and their good health is very important to me. I will always continue to incorporate cleanliness and hygienic practices in our daily life.

[1] Houses made of mud walls supported with wooden beams and slanting roofs made of tiles.

[2] Integrated Emergency WASH and Shelter Support to EQ Affected Communities of District Shangla KP Project implemented by Community World Service Asia and supported by European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO)

[3] A lota or bodna is a small (usually spherical) water vessel of brass, copper or plastic used in parts of South Asia for personal hygiene.

Group Picture

The world is ever changing and with it is the role of women in every field of life. Women are there everyday, somehow or the other contributing to someone’s achievements, celebrations and life in all its glory. To celebrate the strength of women and their progress and to promote their rights, International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated in the month of March globally. Buxo Lund, a small village in the rural district of Badin in the southern province of Sindh in Pakistan, celebrated the day with as much vigor and zest as all over the world. This day gave the people of Buxo Lund an opportunity to recognize the role of their women who work effortlessly all year for their families and their communities.

Women in Buxo Lund are usually occupied with household errands, stitching clothes or handicrafts for their family members or helping on the agricultural fields. They were  never aware of International Women’s Day or its global commemoration.

It became an important occasion for all of us to pause for a moment, to reflect on ourselves, to appreciate how much we have done and what more needs to be done in the field of gender equality,

shared Goveri, a resident of the village.

Under the Promoting Sustainable Agriculture Practices to Improve Food Security and Livelihoods of Vulnerable and Marginalized Farmers of Badin Project, the program team, in coordination of the local Farmer Field’s Group (FFS) established under the same project, organized community based activities to celebrate Women’s Day. Thirty-five women participated in the event.

Amina, resident of Buxo Lund, officially opened the event with the recitation of the Holy Quran. Shazia Shah, a Nutrition Officer with Community World Service Asia, delivered a brief introduction of the organization and its project with the community in Badin.

Apart from promoting sustainable agriculture here, we highly support and encourage the participation of rural women farmers to ensure achieving food security here and long-term development of the village. The on-going capacity building activities, including farmer festivals, exposure visits to agricultural institutes, awareness raising session and celebration of international day with the community’s participation has served as an engaging and empowering platform for women here.

Shama, the project’s Agriculture Officer, shared,

International Women’s Day is a day of recognition and celebration of women globally. This day values the contributions that women bring to communities.

Farzana, Community Extension Worker highlighted the basic rights women are granted globally and emphasized on minimizing cultural and social barriers to strengthen gender parity in the society.

The women of Buxo Lund village actively participated in the event and some shared their views openly as well. Bhambo expressed,

Women play a significant and prominent role in every household. A family without the contributions of women is incomplete. She cares for her family as a wife, feeds the children as a mother and supports her siblings as a sister.

Another resident, Goveri, expressed,

Every human being deserves to live a happy life. Women should not be overlooked, but they should be respected as equally as men. This event has enhanced our knowledge in women’s rights. We now know that women deserve equal rights as men do in our village.

The views and statements contributed in the event by the local women indicated towards the compassion, will and resilience of these women.

I was not aware of this special day for women and its international importance. I am glad to know about it as we will work hard and raise our voice to press for progress in the societies we live in,

positively added Bhoori, a mother and farmer living in Buxo Lund.

Asiyat Azeem, 36-year-old mother of eight, is a lady health worker (LHW) from Morand Patu village located in Umerkot, district, Sindh Province.  She has four daughters and four sons.

My husband is an old man and does not work. I am the sole bread earner in my house. As a LHW with the health department, I earn a salary of PKR 21,000 monthly. My income is mostly consumed in household expenses.

Asiyat added that her two elder sons are not employed due to lack of education.

With my little savings I could not afford their education, I therefore set up a small grocery shop for my eldest son. He earns around PKR 300 – 500, varying on the daily sales. There are days when they there are no sales even. My second son assists me in my activities as a health worker.

Women in Morad Patu lived a conservative life and were not allowed to travel freely on their own. They rarely stepped out of their homes and if they ever did, it wouldn’t be without the men in their families accompanying. Most of their days were spent taking care of their children and families and completing daily home chores. Some of the women stitched clothes for their families and children in their spare time; however, their skills were not utilized to earn money.

My son, who works as a health worker with me, has been very supportive. He travels to far cities to purchase medicines and vaccines. Together, we then give vaccinations and conduct other health inducing activities together in Morand Patu and nearby villages.

Since Asiyat has been bearing all financial responsibilities on her own, she was unable to send all her children to school. However, Asiyat made sure to send her three younger children to a local school in the district to avail education. Of the three, two of her sons attend classes one and four and the daughter is in class five.  Asiyat’s eldest daughter is married and has four children of her own, while her second daughter is working as an artisan in the vocational center set up by Community World Service Asia and Ycare.

Community World Service Asia’s project team came to the Kharoro Charan village in 2017 to identify new villages for inclusion in their Livelihoods’ project. There, at the village health center, they met Rasheeda, a prominent gender activist from the village, and a few lady health workers (LHWs). Krishni, a LHW, was among the participants at the meeting. After their meeting, Krishni met Asiyat and told her about the initiative and shared contact details of the team with her. In response, Asiyat was quick to call and invite the livelihoods team to her village as she had a strong desire to bring development opportunities to the village and to improve her communities’ standards of living.

Naheed, a Community Mobilizer working with Community World Service Asia, shared,

When we first came to Murad Patu, all the girls hid in their homes and stared at us from a distance. No girl or woman was ready to sit for the skill assessment and join the center for skills development. The men in the village thought that we, the women representing the organization, will work against their cultural norms and will encourage women to disobey their families and men and leave their homes to build a future for themselves.

To bridge these social barriers between the project team and the community, Asiyat gathered a few elder community members (men and women) of the village and conducted a joint meeting to brief them about the project, its interventions and the establishment of the vocational center. In the beginning, Asiyat dedicated a room in her own to be used as the vocational center as part of the project. As more and more artisans, started registering, it was getting difficult to accommodate all of them in that room. Moreover, the natural light (being the only source of light in the room during long hours of electric load shedding) was insufficient to continue the lessons and intricate handwork. Asiyat discussed these issues with Arbab, the President of the village Steering Committee, who, vacated a room in his son’s house in the village to use as the vocational center. This room was much bigger in size and had more windows which allowed sufficient natural light to enter the room. The forty-five artisans selected at the centre were divided in groups of three; each group worked for two hours daily at the centre.

As a gender activist, I was given six households to work with and raise awareness on gender related issues. I held meetings with all households individually and observed their issues closely. After identifying their problems, I worked with each household accordingly. In the initial meeting I briefed the families about gender equality, the negative impacts of early and childhood marriage and gender discrimination. Through a booklet consisting of pictorial flip charts, delivering clear messages, it was easy to explain to the families the importance of gender equality in a society.

The views and opinions of the women in Murad Patu were generally overlooked and they had no input or say in decision-making processes. After Asiyat starting meeting these families and initiated candid discussions on prevalent issues with them, the women started to open up and participate  in decision-making, especially regarding decisions relating to their children and  their  marriages.

When a proposal comes for a girl, both the parents take a mutual decision whether to accept or refuse the proposal. We speak up when we disagree with any decision taken up by the men in the family. Before, it was impossible to say anything as the decision made by the elders was considered as the last verdict,

shared Khatoon, a woman residing in Murad Patu.

Most girls in the village rarely attended school and many of them just played in the village instead of attending school. Asiyat narrated,

I encouraged mothers to send their children, especially girls, to schools as this education will be beneficial for their future. I explained to them, if a girl is educated, she will be able to support her family financially in bad times and make important decisions for them. Women here never thought of their future before, therefore they do not encourage their daughters to be prepared for bad times either.

Zainab, a resident of Morad Patu, recalled,

My daughter did not go to school. My family was amongst the six households assigned to Asiyat to work with. She came to our house and told us why education is important, especially for girls. I did not think for the better future of my daughter. But today, I am happy to share with you that my daughter goes to school regularly and I wish to see her grow intellectually.

Fehmida and Gulzaab, daughters of Merab, another mother from Morad Patu, also started attending school after Asiyat encouraged the family to do so and enlightened them about the need and significance of education for a happy and progressive life.

Early and child-hood marriages were a common practice in the village. Girls of Morad Patu would customarily be married off by the age of 15years. Asiyat shared,

Due to the rigid mind-set and cultural norms, the people here never measured the disadvantages of marrying young girls. Shahnaz, 13 years old, and Farzana, 14 years old, were to be married in December 2017. Knowing the problems young girls face due to early marriage, I met with their families individually to try to talk them out of marrying their young daughters at such a young age. The families were told about the burden we put on young lives which affects their health badly.  Moreover, I explained the complications girls face during pregnancy at young ages, badly affecting the health of the mother and child. I gave them an example of a minor girl in our village who was married and consequently experienced three miscarriages due to which her health seriously deteriorated. Upon knowing the severe risks girls face in early marriages, the families of both the girls postponed their marriage for five years. Today, both the girls are happily working in the vocational center as artisans and earning through the local orders they receive.

Among the twelve hundred villagers living in Murad Patu, Asiyat was the only woman who worked independently, stepping out of her house to earn a living for her family.

After continuous meetings in relation to gender equality, we have 45 artisans working actively in the vocational center and contributing financially in their households. Three of the artisans travelled to Umerkot City and Chor (a city near Umerkot) to shop for their families and children. This was a great achievement.

I believe that women should be able to come out and take decisions for themselves. Mostly women do not share their opinions or wishes and only dream of being given importance. I encourage women to believe in themselves and take action to achieve their dreams. My son, who assisted me in my health activities, is also a gender activist under the livelihoods project. I am glad to see that my son is also working for women empowerment.

As a tourist destination, Swat has been both economically supported and environmentally damaged by tourism. Urban areas and industries along the river Swat have expanded faster than the capacities to manage solid waste, placing heavy burdens on the local infrastructure for industries, public services and governance. According to a research study conducted by our partners, University of Peshawar (UoP), on the extent of industrial and municipal dumping into local springs, rivulets, canals and the river Swat, it has demonstrated that drinking water resources are now significantly polluted. Immediate attention by leadership in all stakeholder groups is now needed. It is noted that the business community has an essential role to play in devising plans to save the Swat River, as well as ensure the future health of local citizens.

Based on the evidence gathered through the research, Community World Service Asia organized a seminar titled “Clean Water is Everyone’s Business”  in collaboration with the SWAT Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the UoP, to build more awareness on the environmental issues around polluted water sources in Saidu Sharif, Swat. The seminar held at the Serena in Saidu Sharif on the 13th of March created an opportunity for businesses and local Government leadership to discuss ways on partnering and recommend solutions to put an end to the degradation of the Swat river, and to identify other local drinking water sources. An approximate of fifty participants from Swat, Peshawar and Islamabad, representing the Swat Chamber of Commerce, University of Peshawar, Swat local government, local organizations and university students attended the seminar.

Dr. Moeen Ud Din, Corporate Director, Training and Development at the Serena Hotels, spoke about the importance of clean environment and the need for water conservation in his opening remarks at the seminar.

Fresh, clean water is a limited resource. Water conservation is key for  the preservation and health of our environment. We must put all our efforts in conserving water. The lesser water is used or wasted by people, the lesser chances of clean water being contaminated. Moreover, water conservation reduces energy use, thus reducing household expenses for many people. We are gathered here to discuss the importance of clean water and exchange ideas on how to save and clean the already polluted water.

Bakht-e-Karam, representing the Swat Chamber of Commerce and industries, urged for the business community to collaborate with the local government and non-governmental organizations to preserve the environmental heritage and protect water resources from contamination by industrial and commercial wastes.  It is this waste that eventually flows into canals and streams. Dr. Bushra Khan, Associate Professor at UoP’s Environmental Sciences Department, shared the findings of the research study being conducted by her team on the various sources and types of contaminants and pollutants that were destroying marine life in Swat rivers.

Dr. Ishaq Mian, another Associate Professor at the UoP presented findings on the status of drinking water sources in and around the Swat district capitol. He said,

Clean water is every citizen’s right and cleaning water is everyone’s responsibility. While turning on a tap and filling a glass to drink seems like a simple enough thing to do, the story of how water goes from a lake or river to your kitchen is actually a complex one.

Professor Dr. Hizbullah Khan, Chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences Department, UoP highlighted the global and local perspectives of Water contamination.

By the year 2029, the world population will be 10 billion and half the world’s countries will outgrow their water supply. People around the world identify access to clean water as the most serious environmental challenge facing the planet today. In sum, people globally recognize water as a key concern. The public and private sector has an important role to play in solving global water challenges, and that companies and others need to provide more information about what can be done to advance a better water future.

 Karen Janjua, Senior Program Advisor from Community World Service Asia highlighted the potential roles of social businesses in preservation of clean water and environment while also creating a cheap clean source of electricity.

The participants took keen interest in the topics discussed which made the sessions interactive as they raised questions and recommendations to the speakers.. James Clark, Public Affairs Officer at the High Commission of Canada shared in the concluding remarks,

Teaching to the public about importance of water conservation is very important in order to save this earth and to maintain quality of human life. We can all start saving water at home. Even if you feel overwhelmed about the global impacts of water scarcity and conservation, do what you can locally and encourage others to follow your lead.

Marvin Parvez is one of the firmest believers in the positive impact of humanitarian standards, as well as an expert practitioner within the Sphere community. Discussing his work as a long-time Pakistani humanitarian professional and as a Sphere partner in Asia, he shared his experience and talked about the many times he saw standards improve people’s lives in the aftermath of a crisis.

Marvin started his career working with the Tajik refugees fleeing into Afghanistan during the civil war. He got to know the Sphere standards in October 2005, when a major earthquake hit the Kashmir region. With devastation across India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Marvin took part in the disaster response as a staff member of Community World Service Asia (CWSA), a large humanitarian and development organization with projects in 11 Asian and Pacific countries.

CWSA was recognized as a Sphere regional partner in Asia in 2011. The organization started carrying out capacity-building, advocacy and dissemination activities across the region. Since then, CWSA has trained more than 8,000 relief workers from different backgrounds, showing them how the application of humanitarian standards in disaster response truly has a positive impact on the affected communities.

As regional representative, Marvin has had the opportunity to witness such impact and the implications for all the actors involved. “The agencies that adhere to the Sphere standards are different. The population has started to realize it”, Marvin explains. “It improves our relationship and credibility both with the communities and with the local government”, he adds.

CWSA has been deeply involved with the two most recent revisions of the Sphere Handbook, gathering input from practitioners all across Asia, contributing to the translation into local languages, and organizing multiple launch events for the 2011 edition. As a Sphere partner, the organization also works to build the capacity of other relief actors in the region and to encourage the local application of quality and accountability standards in both policy and practice.

“The main impact is among the community: this is the most important thing for us”, Marvin insists while wrapping up the interview. “Humanitarian aid should really be about putting people first, and Sphere helps us in doing that.”

Watch Marvin Parvez's full video interview

Teachers demonstrating lesson on child motivation, appreciating a teacher for her work.

“One can never learn enough”, it is often said and heard. The same applies to teachers; teaching and learning is a continuous process that goes hand in hand. Learning new methods and understanding the process of teaching leads to better teaching practices.

Passionate teachers understand that the greatest benefit of trainings to them is the large number of additional skills they acquire, allowing their lessons and classrooms to be more interactive, interesting and informative for their students.

For many teachers, making a positive difference in the lives of students is most valuable – the feelings of self-satisfaction as you watch your students grow and succeed due to your hard work and dedication in the field. To give an opportunity for such teachers to continue feeling valued, Community World Service Asia organized and conducted a five-days master teachers’ training on pedagogical & training skills under the Girls Education Project supported by partners, Act for Peace, in Sindh province, Pakistan.

After successfully completing three teacher training cycles on pedagogical skills in the Thatta district of Sindh, this training was categorized as an advance level for those teachers already trained. The five-day sessions aimed to strengthen teachers’ capacities on adult learning, teaching methods, professional teaching standards and lesson planning on daily, weekly, monthly and basis.

Twenty-five teachers from twenty government primary schools of Thatta participated in this workshop.  As a training of trainers of sorts, the purpose of this workshop was for teachers to develop specific expertise on developing model lessons and classrooms and further mentoring teachers in their respective schools on quality teaching methods and techniques.

Sessions on adult learning theory, types of learning styles and creative teaching methods were conducted for teachers where they were also specifically guided on ways to address learning needs of students as per their dominant learning style. Moreover, the need and importance of lesson planning was emphasized in the training sessions as it was realized that teachers often overlooked that and did not recognize the many benefits of this activity.  The teachers were taught on how to develop lesson plans at different stages of their yearly activities.

During the training, the teachers’ skills on class observation tools, reporting and delivering model lesson in schools was enhanced with a particular objective of increasing class participation and students’ involvement in practical learning. As part of the five-days workshop, the 25 teachers were taken on a field visit to a government primary school in Thatta. As one of activities, participants were required to observe teaching methods at the host school and record their observation on the checklist provided by the facilitator. Teachers also observed practical and learning environments seen in different classrooms and later discussed and delivered group presentations on the gaps recorded during the visit. One key observation from the field was that since there was no lesson planning, the lessons lacked clarity of flow and were ineffective and uninteresting for the students.

Teachers, with the support of the trainers, were asked to develop “model lessons” on the gaps observed during the field visit and deliver them as part of a group exercise. Some of the topics presented by the teachers included child motivation; classroom managements; and less responsiveness by teachers. Participants also developed action plans as part of the exercise, to implement active and practical learning in their schools. As a follow up to the training, the graduate master teachers planned to conduct these “model lessons” in their respective schools and would share its calculated impact with the facilitators of this training.

As a concluding sessions on the training’s final day, Rubab Shah, Tallaqua Education Officer (TEO) Thatta, awarded certificates to all the participants of the five-day teachers workshop and appreciated their participation as they shared their learnings with her. Rubab Shah further expressed,

These innovative trainings on pedagogical and training skills have been very significant in delivering quality orientated lessons using interactive methods.  I am glad to say that I have noticed visible changes in classrooms post such trainings as teachers have developed low cost learning material with and for the students.

Teachers’ Voices:

“I am happy to attend this training as I have acquired new knowledge that will help me in becoming a good teacher. The best part of the training was its methodology and taking us on a school visit and then helping us in developing model lessons. I was a bit hesitant in delivering lessons as a master teacher in front of all other teachers but the facilitators encouraged me and I delivered complete lessons successfully.” Seema, Primary School Teacher at Government Girls Primary School (GGPS) Muhammad Hanif Khushk.

“I believe such teachers’ training help a lot in improving classroom environments. Its adding to my experience as we get new opportunities to learn from other teachers’ experiences by interacting with them. The action planning section will help us immensely in improving our lesson planning and managing classes effectively.” Nasira Parveen, Primary School Teacher at Government Girls Primary School (GGPS) Jeelani Muhalla School.

“I’m grateful to the facilitators as I learnt new ways of improving learning and delivering quality lessons. I learnt classroom observation, lesson planning and interactive methods with students. I will apply this learning in my class and share with fellow teachers in my school.” Noor Jahan M. Baqar, Primary School Teacher at Government Girls Primary School (GGPS) Ali Muhammad Jokhio