Stories

At school, girls are not only able to study but participate in extra curricular activities and sports as well.

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Community World Service Asia is working to promote and improve education for girls in Afghanistan. Our initiatives aim to support and encourage the enrolment of female students in schools, whilst also building the capacity of teachers so that the quality of education is enhanced.  We also provide school kits, build playgrounds and distribute sports equipment so that students have the chance to learn and play. We work with teachers to address gaps in civic education so that students become more aware and empowered, and are able to become active and engaged citizens.

Co-curricular activities, such as summer camps and life skills classes, support the students to build confidence and learn new and relevant topics.

Community World Service Asia is pleased to announce the launch of an exciting pilot scheme to strengthen our monitoring process.  Starting with two of our projects which are being implemented in rural Sindh, Pakistan, the Frontline SMS system is being introduced to engage our stakeholders in our monitoring.

Project participants, including members of local steering committees, community gender activists and lead members of our Women’s Enterprise Groups have been provided with mobile phones and a credit allowance of PKR 100 (approx. US$ 1) a month to report activities directly and instantly to the field team.

The award-winning system assigns numbered codes from 1 to 9 to different activities or incidents.  Steering committee members, for example, can report the absence of a teacher by simply sending a text message with the number 3; gender activists can report that they have held a household meeting by texting the number 4; and the sales and marketing agents of Women’s Enterprise Groups can report that they have received an order by sending the number 7.

Crucially, the system enables people with low levels of literacy to be included and communicate instantly with the team.  Community World Service Asia looks forward to using this innovative application of technology to further empower our project participants by involving them in this important part of monitoring.

Community World Service Asia, with the support of Christian Aid, is working to empower women in rural Sindh, Pakistan, by supporting them to earn an income through traditional handicrafts skills. Mithal talks to us about her involvement in the project.

Name: Mithal
Age: 37 Years
Village: Phull Jakhro
Occupation: Tailor, House wife, Artisan

Q: How much did you earn before becoming involved in this project?
A: Before, my monthly household income was around 1,000 – 1,500 rupees [approximately US$10 – 15].  I earned by sewing the clothes of villagers.

Q: How has this affected your life?
A: It was not enough income for me as i have a son.  Complete responsibility for him shifted to me after the death of my husband. So it was difficult to manage the household expenses.

Q: Tell us about how you learned these skills.  Do you enjoy doing this kind of work?
A: Before joining the Centre, I was familiar with some of the traditional skills which I had learnt from my mother. Yes, I enjoy doing this work, because for me it is like my ancestors’ custom, and I have to keep it alive by making embroidery which I know on different products.

Q: Why did you want to be a participant in this project?
A: Before this project, in our village, there was not any kind of literacy or vocational centre where I could learn both literacy and more embroidery skills. So the interest to learn more made me able to participate.

Q: What new skills have you learned at the centre?  How do find the teaching style?
A: I learnt more about ralli (traditional quilting) making designs and appliqué work at the centre. The teaching style of our instructor is very motivating.

Q: How much money have you earned through your handicrafts since becoming involved in the project?
A: I have earned 3,000 rupees [approximately US$30] since i have been involved in the project.  Orders were made within my village, and my friend made the order for me.  The order was for four embroidered shirts, and it took me one month.

Q: What was it like for you to fill these orders?
A: It created a hope for me that slowly, but now, it is going to be a source of income generation for me.

Q: What did you do with the money you earned?
A: I gave 1,000 rupees to my mother who is also a widow, and ill.  I gave 1,000 rupees to my elder brother. The rest is spent on food and clothing.

Q: What do your family think about the money you have contributed to the household?
A: I am a widow and stay with my elder brother and mother. My brother has his own family to feed, but he supports me too. He was also ill, so when I gave him the money, he became happy and felt proud of me.  I am very happy to feel that I can also contribute for my household.

Sindh is known as the “breadbasket of Pakistan”, as the agricultural sector in the province directly supports around three quarters of the country’s population.  However, due to heavy rains, cyclones and sea intrusion, leading to rising water levels, as well as the flat topography of the land, the area is extremely vulnerable to flooding, and has suffered extensively from the effects of flooding, which causes extensive damage to the lives, health, livelihoods and homes of millions of people living around river embankments in low lying areas.

Community World Service Asia has been working to meet the urgent food needs of families displaced by flooding and residing temporarily in underdeveloped areas of Sajawal district.  The floods not only washed away their belongings, but also destroyed standing crops, leaving them food insecure and vulnerable to malnutrition and illness. To address the critical food insecurity faced by these families, Community World Service Asia provided food assistance through the distribution of wheat seeds to enable the affected farmers to sow for the coming cropping season. Each of the 1,470 farming families was provided with 100 kilograms of wheat seed, to cultivate two acres of land. The harvest from this crop would enable the families to meet their food needs until the next harvest.

Monthly food rations were also provided for a period of five months while waiting for the harvest. Rations were distributed to 2,100 families, including 70 kilograms of fortified wheat flour 70, six kilograms of pulses, five liters of oil and ten match boxes. All packages adhere to international standards to ensure that the needs of vulnerable people are respected and met.

Community World Service Asia believes in incorporating sustainability into its relief efforts, and in developing the long-term resilience of the communities with which we work.  This initiative therefore included the training of 1,470 farmers on integrated crop management, a holistic approach to sustainable agriculture based on indigenous knowledge, and the training of 419 community members on disaster risk reduction practices.

As part of the capacity building on disaster risk reduction, a tree plantation campaign, titled “One Family, One Tree”, has been initiated to protect the community from soil erosion, which exacerbates the risks of flooding.  The campaign supports the government’s efforts to minimize the threats posed by climate change and future environmental hazards, and was welcomed by the community.  With support and facilitation from the district administration and the Social Forestry Department, some 2,200 saplings for Eucalyptus, Bakine and Neem trees were provided at subsidized rates of just PKR 2 (approximately US$ 0.02) per plant.

Community World Service Asia is delighted by the enthusiasm and commitment to the campaign, and will continue to support efforts for a green future for Pakistan.

Haseena, a 28 year-old-artisan woman, belongs to the village of Dadu Panwar near Thatta. She started working after the floods in 2010. Haseena says that prior to joining the center established by Community World Service Asia, she did not know many types of embroidery stitches. She says that it was at the center that she and her fellow artisans learnt how to read and write their names.

“We used to give our thumb prints but now we are able to sign.”

Haseena feels that it was through the continuous efforts of the vocational teaching instructors and designers that opened up various aspects of local craft.

“We went to Karachi for a training. Previously, we didn’t know which products would be made out of our samples but once we went to Karachi and saw the market, we found out what our embroidered samples were being used for. When we went to the market again, we saw bangles, earrings, and bags that had been made out of embroideries similar to ours. If we work more passionately, we will be able do well,”

she says. 
Now that the center has been reestablished, Haseena says all the women in the village are very excited at the prospect of learning new skills and going to Karachi.

“We are very happy and are hopeful to learn further and move forward in life. If we get money from our orders, then we will spend that money in educating our children, running our homes.”

She feels that it should not only be the man’s responsibility to earn money for the house.

“This skill that we are learning will allow us to be independent and not rely on anyone else for financial support,” she adds.

Deeba, 34, belongs to the province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan, where she teaches chemistry in Abubakr-e-Siddique Girls High School of Behsood district. With five daily classes and more than 200 students, she has a busy schedule. Married with two daughters and a son, Deeba’s journey as a woman, working outside the home, has not been easy. Even though she had the support of her family, Deeba says it is still an uphill battle for women to work.

“It is believed that women must stay at home and serve other family members,”

she says. She further explains that While there are many opportunities for men to help enhance their capacities, women are restricted by cultural barriers, financial dependency and early marriages and very few are actually able to enter the workforce.

Deeba would often struggle to explain some concepts to her students as she didn’t have access to a lab and they did not hold any other practical experiments along with lectures. A great opportunity for her came in the form of the Chemistry Subject Based Training conducted under Girls Education Project (GEP) funded by JPF in Behsood district of Nangarhar province. The training gave her an understanding of specific teaching methodologies for Chemistry. She also learnt different kinds of experiments that she now uses in her classes.

“I was afraid of the questions from the students before and would always try to keep students busy in lectures and solving problems on the board. Now, I encourage them to ask questions until they completely understand the lesson. I can feel the respect for myself in my students’ eyes,” adds Deeba.

Mehnaz, 35, was born in Dhenda, a village in district Haripur. In the 1980s, her parents moved to Pakistan after the Afghan jihad following which her father was unable to earn a decent livelihood. The few small jobs that he did only helped bring a very small income home. As a result, Mehnaz and her family suffered from poverty and hardship. As per family tradition, Mehnaz was married to a man from her clan but despite making compromises, her marriage fell apart. Back at her parents’ home with her now year-old son, Mehnaz felt that she had added to the existing financial worries of her family. Without a place to turn to for help, she found herself falling into depression. It was during this low that she found out about the Community World Service Asia’s training in the Dhenda area. In just her second month in the dress designing trade, she was getting orders from people; she now earns about PKR 300/ per day.

Mehnaz’s determination to raise her son independently as well as contribute to household expenses led her to successfully establish a tailoring center for women in Dhenda. Currently, she is an instructor at the center with 20 women under her training. Her story is one of resilience to overwhelming circumstances and her passion to work despite tremendous challenges truly inspirational.

Madina, 17, belongs to Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. A student of grade 11, she studies in Sayedan-e-Arabi Girls High school located in Surkhroad District. The first girl of her family to be enrolled in school, Madina has had to fight the mindset that girls who engage in social and political activities have a questionable character.

“It was believed that education is not good for girls and that they should not attend any gatherings where men are present; nowadays it is much better as parents are now in favour of education for girls.”

She further adds that cultural barriers faced by women such as insecurity, early marriages and forced marriages, become obstacles to women’s development.
Madina found her perceptions change when she attended a Civic Education Camp (Summer camp) in a three-day training organized by Community World Service Asia Education Camp in Charbagh-e-Safa GHS.

“I learned about human rights, child rights, gender equality, leadership, democratic government and election processes, which encouraged me to think differently and to take part socially and politically in civil society as soon as I complete my education.”

Madina has been passing on her knowledge to her brothers, sisters as well as her parents. Even though it was a slow and difficult task, her parents have started to acknowledge that men and women have their own roles and responsibilities in society. Now I get really excited whenever my father says,

“Madina is one of the most intelligent girls in our family and I am proud of her.”

 

With support from the Danish Center for Culture and Development, Community World Service Asia is bringing together rural artisans from Thatta and Umerkot in Sindh, and design students from Karachi.  Through their collaboration, traditional skills will be combined with marketable designs, enabling these women to connect to the urban market and earn a sustainable income from their craft.  This month, students from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) and the Textile Institute of Pakistan (TIP) visited Umerkot and Thatta respectively, in order to meet the artisans with whom they will be working, and gain some insight into their way of life and conditions of work.

Ameer khan, 39, migrated from Kalam to Swat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, around three years ago where he was living in a rented house of two rooms, a kitchen and bathroom. To support his family of ten including his mother, wife, six daughters, a son and a disabled father-in-law, Ameer khan sold peanuts on a cart in the market during winter. In the warmer months, he used the same cart to sell local cold drinks. Although with a daily wage of PKR 400/, Khan was not making enough to cover all of his household expenses, he was still able to manage somehow.

Khan’s struggles were amplified in the aftermath of an earthquake that hit Swat along with other areas of Northern Pakistan on October 26, 2015. While one room and a boundary wall were completely damaged, the other room was partially broken thus becoming unlivable. Khan was left with no choice but to shift his family to a neighbor’s home for a few days. Due to limited space, however, he had to bring them back to his own house where the only undamaged space, to live in, was the kitchen. To accommodate everyone in a single room, Khan had to sleep under the open sky during freezing winter nights.

“Ameer and his family have suffered a lot due to this earthquake and despite the damage to his house, he has not been included in the government’s earthquake survivor’s compensation list for reconstruction,”

says Jamil Ahmad, Kisan councilor, local government representative of district Swat.

“We tried our best to include him but unfortunately our efforts were futile as the list had been finalized and could not accommodate more people,” he added.

Among the more urgent needs of the communities, winterization support tops the list of most prioritized needs. Having identified the urgency of providing relief to earthquake-affected communities, Community World Service Asia, has thus far, provided support to 504 families through the funding support of UMCOR in the area.

Ameer Khan was also among the selected right holders for the winterization support assistance.

“I am very thankful to Community World Service Asia for helping me in catering to the most urgent needs of my family. With this support, at least we have something to cover ourselves with during this extreme weather”,

he said.