Stories

Proper understanding and application of financial concepts is becoming essential in the non-profit sector, as donor agencies increasingly prefer organizations that have good financial management systems in place. A training conducted and organized by Community World Service Asia in August was specifically designed to strengthen the financial management skills of participants belonging to small-scale organizations. The training aimed to equip participants with knowledge and skills to help them utilize financial management tools with efficiency and effectiveness.

The training imparted specific skills on the fundamentals of financial management, developing effective financial policies and internal controls, streamlining accounting system as per organizational policies, preparing budgets, preparing financial reports as per the donor requirements, as well as facilitating audits to ensure transparency. The training was held in Murree in which twenty-three participants from twelve organizations working in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces in Pakistan. The methodology revolved around brainstorming, individual exercises, lectures, role-plays and group work.

Mr. Muhammad Masood Ahmed, the trainer for the event, came with a vast experience in financial management and capacity building with national and international development organizations. He has worked in the civil society sector with cross-functional responsibilities such as financial management, budgeting, auditing, operations management, and conducting trainings. He has trained over  a thousand staff members of CSOs from all across the country on various areas of finance, in addition to conducting staff evaluations, training needs assessment exercises, and has additional experience of charting development plans for staff.

His thoughts,

“I feel very content that I have worked with such a wonderful team with excellent standard of work and I would like to congratulate Community World Service Asia on successfully organizing the Financial Management training for small-scale NGO’s. Overall, the training went by in a very friendly and professional manner. Selection of participants was excellent and every participant eagerly showed interest in learning and participated eagerly.  I am also grateful to Miss Lubna, Community World Service staff and trainer manager, as an intelligent individual, who is willing to take the lead in situations when required. Her good judgment has been important on several occasions, and her initiative has been of great value in completing the workshop successfully and in time. It is all because of the dedication and her hard work and the team that I am able to complete the workshop in time successfully. It is commendable to see how she organized the time and encouraged the participants to move forward when needed.”

  • 1-rizwan-mehdi-shah“I have learnt a lot about financial tools, rules and policies. Each topic, every day was clearly and briefly defined by Sir Masood Ahmed and I am completely satisfied by the services provided by Community World Service Asia.”

    Rizwan Mehdi Shah, SAHIL

  • 2-haider-ali“Excellent Environment, good group discussion, style of presentation at the end was excellent. I look forwrad to the next training conducted by Community World Service Asia.”

    Haider Ali, Association for Gender Awareness & Human Empowerment (AGAHE)

  • 5-waqas-khan“Everything, which I learnt in this 4 days’ workshop, is very useful and quite knowledgeable for me, I have learnt Chart of accounts, financial planning, internal control, financial policies and procedure which are all very useful.

    Waqas Khan, Community Support Programme (CSP)

  • 6-nazra-bibi“Overall contents of the training and facilitation by trainer were commendable and we appreciate the methodology adopted for this training.”

    Nazra BiBi, Khwendo Kor

  • 7-riaz-hussain“It was my first experience of attending such type of financial management training. It was useful and informative for me and I learnt many new financial principles.”

    Riaz Hussain, UFAQ Development Organization (UDO)

  • 8-sharon-shameer“Learnt about policies and procurements, financial cycle, chart of accounts. I will apply all these learnings in my own organization and will share the information with my colleagues as well.”

    Sharon Shameer, Community Advancement Society-(CAS)

  • 9-naima-gul“This workshop proved practically productive of all the trainings I had ever participated. I am delighted to be part of this training and look forward to implementing the practical knowledge learnt here.”

    Naima Gul, Civil Society Support Program-CSSP

  • 10-nazia-meer“Financial Management training was good. Many things were new for me, for example, unrestored fund, how to attract donors for funding, and financial checks of the organization. All these elements were relevant to the topic and productive.”

    Nazia Meer, Terre Des Hommes Foundation

Koshlia, a mother of five, three daughters and two sons, lives with her husband Chatoon at Kharoro Charan Village in district Umerkot. She is a born artisan, belonging to a humble rural background. Koshlia struggled to meet the survival needs of her family everyday as their family had no regular source of income.

“My husband is a mason. He does not earn on a regular basis. I am an artisan and have been crafting products at our village and nearby areas. As our income is insufficient, it becomes difficult to solve emergency situations and unforeseen daily crisis.”

Hope was raised when the training center was set up in Kharoro Charan. Koshlia believed that the centre encouraged the women of her village to promote and refine their handicrafts skills and culture to make them financially independent, helping them resolve their household issues. “I felt that I could change my life with new ideas, skills and exposure.”

In the developing world, there are thousands if not millions of rural artisans that are living in vulnerable families and communities. There is little coordination with the outside world and as a result there is a lack of learning and skill development. An important way to strengthen and develop the talent of these artisans is to help them interact with professionals and built market linkages. While it is good to network in meetings and events, often the best way to learn is to visit and see with ones own eyes. Koshlia shared that her happiest moment was when she visited Karachi.

“It was my first time going to Karachi. I was very excited to see the products sold in the big cities and meet new people. I met with the students and designers who were crafting similar products as we did back in our village. We learnt about designing and the usage of different colors. We came to know about the vast variety of patterns that can be used to make our products unique and appealing. I feel I was very lucky to be part of such an interactive and communicative visit.”

Rural women contribute to the income of families and the growth of communities in a multitude of ways which makes them resourceful economic agents. However, due to lack of resources and interaction, and restricting gender norms they face persistent discrimination. This hampers the use and achievement of their full potential. She gladly expressed,

“I am happy to be an artisan which is also our identity.  It is true that the rural women can be meaningful economic agents but limited resources have lessened our growth opportunities. I am thankful to the training centre for providing a platform of learning and development for me and many like me. I will further engage with other rural artisans to share the knowledge I gained in this exposure visit so that they can benefit as well.”

Koshlia is currently earning well as she has received more orders as her products have become more trendy since her exposure visit to Karachi.

“I have been very fortunate as now I am contributing  to the income of my family. I now see my children growing in a better and healthy environment. We purchase drinking water on monthly basis and I occasionally purchase livestock fodder for our goats as well. I intend to fully support my children in acquiring education.”

Women like Koshlia are striving to build a better life for their families and to bring in economic, environmental and social change in order to maximize access to better standards of living, health care and education.

“Literacy unlocks the door to learning throughout life, is essential to development and health, and open the way for democratic participation and active citizenship.” Kofi Annan, Former General Secretary of United Nations

September 8th is celebrated as International Literacy Day marking the importance of literacy for individuals and communities worldwide. This year, International Literacy Day is celebrated with the theme “Reading the past, writing the future” on its 50th anniversary. UNESCO recognized the fact that reading and writing are amongst the most important skills children can learn in school. It is also important to know that not all children are fortunate enough to be educated. UNESCO reports that 1 in 5 adults in the world is illiterate and two thirds of these illiterate adults are women. Community World Service Asia is supporting women and children through their education and literacy programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan where literacy and development rates are at its lowest. The programs are heavily embedded with gender equality in determining access.

Basmeena’s story

In a small village in Behsood district in Afghanistan, Basmeena, an 11th grade student at the Bahrabad Girls High School, has stepped out of the conservative traditions of her community. She aims to make a difference and change the negative mind-sets of both men and women in the society she has grown in. “Personal growth is only possible when you look beyond the four walls of your home. Gaining exposure by moving freely in society, be that through school or at work, it is necessary to meet and greet new people from different walks of life to gain new perspectives and develop oneself as a human being”, affirms a confident Basmeena.

Basmeena participated in one of the Civic Education Camps conducted in some of the girls’ schools in Behsood District through Community World Service Asia’s Girls Education project. Attending the camp helped boost her creativity, build confidence and enhance her presentation skills. She interacted with students and teachers from different schools and communities, with some of whom she became good friends. Since most girls in these communities come from similar backgrounds, it is easy to befriend relatable individuals with whom one can share thoughts and ideas.

“I always felt I could be a leader, but this just remained a thought in my head.” Basmeena being a poised girl, was looking for opportunities to be able to speak up and let her voice to be heard by those who mattered and were capable of making a difference. She was able to find a slot at the camp, where she volunteered for the Mock Camp Elections as a Presidential candidate alongside two fellow students. Basmeena energetically started campaigning to gain maximum support and votes for the Election Day. “Since I love to talk, I did not hold myself back.” She delivered powerful speeches and acted as a dependable leader of her party. When the elections came to a conclusion, Basmeena was astonished to find out that she had won with majority votes in her support and has become the President.

Basmeena adds that after winning the election in the summer camp and being appreciated by the facilitators and participants for her capacity to deliver powerful speeches, she became more confident and hopeful. She searched for other opportunities to take part in where she could debate, speak, and represent the girls of her school in front of an audience. After taking her parents’ permission, she contacted the Girls Education Project (GEP) team and requested their support in talking with the school management regarding her membership acceptance in the school’s Parent and Teacher Committee (PTC). With the active correspondence of the GEP team, the school management was convinced and approved the membership of Basmeena to join the PTC. She was proudly introduced to the committee as the first student representative member of the PTC. “I am so glad for being welcomed as a PTC member, a formal platform where I can discuss issues faced by my friends and fellow students. Now I am officially a leader!”

26 year old Chandna from Village Nabisar says: The most beneficial feature of provided medical services is the free of cost treatment by a trained healthcare team and quality medicines given for free. Before Community World Service’s health project, we used to suffer because of the lack of Female Medical Officer in our area and we had to travel long distances for treatment and we also used to spend a lot on medication.

Community World Service Asia is operating three Rural Healthcare Units (RHU) in Hyderfarm Taluka, Nabisar Taluka Kunri and Dhoronaro in district Umerkot in Sindh. These healthcare units provide curative and preventive health services to the communities. The RHUs located in Hyderfarm and Nabisar also consist of an outdoor patient department (OPD) and provides free consultations and essential medicines to patients. Labour rooms are operational at all the three health facilities. The staff at these healthcare units include female medical officers, lady health visitors (LHVs), medical technicians and social mobilizers.

The health services at these RHUs focus primarily on reproductive health of women of child-bearing age. Disease Early Warning System (DEWS) and Health Information System (HIS) have also been established at two of these health facilities.

Sheherbano belongs to Haji Talib Bijoro, a small village in Thatta district, Sindh, Pakistan. At just 18 years of age, Sheherbano has already been working as an information secretary in her village, facilitating various NGOs who work with the community there. Passionate about working towards the betterment of her village, she spoke about her participation in the recently held three-day disaster risk reduction (DRR) training.

“In the beginning when Community World Service Asia came to our village, they discussed how they were going to work with us for the betterment of our community and our village. We learnt so many things about fires, storms, floods and earthquakes. They informed us about the different measures we could undertake to keep ourselves safe during floods and fires,” she said.

Talking about the precautionary measures to take during disasters, Sheherbano said that while she and her fellow villagers were previously unaware and uninterested, participation in the training had changed their perspective and they had become interested in learning about preventative measures.

“In case of a flood, as soon as we hear about it on the radio news, we should take the elderly and the children of our village to a safer place. I also learnt that we should keep our valuables with ourselves and in case of an emergency, we should find a place which is above the ground level to keep ourselves safe,” she added.

Sheherbano is eager to spread this knowledge with her family and friends in neighbouring villages as well. She said that weddings or other village ceremonies are good opportunities for her to tell her friends about her learning at the training conducted by Community World Service Asia staff in Haji Talib Bijoro.

When a fellow villager told Sheherbano about a fire that broke out in their village, she shared her knowledge on the actions and precautionary measures one should take as she had learnt during the DRR trainings. She shared the causes behind fires breaking out and spreading fast and how to effectively and immediately contain it with her neighbours and community members.

Shanti, 30, is an artisan from Kharoro Charan village in Umerkot, Sindh.  Embroidery has been a part of her life from a young age. “I learned embroidery skills myself because my mother died when I was just a child,” Shanti proclaims. “I enjoy this work because it is in our culture, and our community is known for this work.”

Traditional handicraft skills are a daily feature in the life of most rural Sindhi communities.  “Embroidery  work is a good source of income for our people and many love to wear embroidered clothes in all seasons in our country,” Shanti believes. “Our handmade craft is demanded in the market, and fortunately we are very rich in this skill.”

Shanti joined Community World Service Asia’s training centre because she wanted to see her embroidery to be used in new and different designs and products which could be sold in the urban market.  She wants to be able to provide for her family and cover the costs of health care and education for her children.  “When my children ask for new clothes for festivals, I am not able to  fulfil their wishes,” Shanti admitted dismally.

Through the project, Shanti has been able to work with design and textile students from Karachi, and learn new skills to further enhance her inborn talent and develop exciting opportunities.  “I did not know about color combination before I met with the students.  They taught me about the usage of color, which colors look better in craft.  Moreover, I got more ideas on new designs, and now I am trying out those designs in my embroidery and stitching”

Shanti enjoyed working with the students and sharing her traditional embroidery skills with them. “The students are very kind and they respect our culture, and have taught us how to work on new designs very well” she says. One of Shanti’s most memorable experiences was visiting Karachi and participating in a design workshop at the Textile Institute of Pakistan campus. “I have never been to any school before, so I was very happy to  visit such a big school,” she added. Shanti hopes to provide better education opportunities to her children  with the additional income she will earn through craft making. “My children will get admission in big schools, and I am already working on orders to be able to achieve that.  Maybe I can start my own enterprise someday!”

Kanwal, 20, is an artisan from Thatta in rural Sindh.  She is one of eight family members, who struggle to make ends meet with an average monthly household income of around Rs. 7,000 (approximately DKK 448).  Most of her family members work as laborers in the field. “Low income has always remained an issue in our family, and often it caused conflict among family members,” she explains. “Because the income is low and the family is large, it is always difficult to pay for clothes, meals and other things.”

Kanwal is the only member of her family who is learning a new skill to earn an income.  “I feel peace of mind while doing embroidery.  Basic stitches, such as running stitch, I learned from my mother and grandmother.  Right now, I have learned some stitches like mirror work, hormuch and filling stitch at the VTC [Vocational Training Center], and embroidery finishing.”

Traditional Sindhi crafts are extremely important to the people in the region.  Kanwal explains that wearing these traditional handicrafts gives people pride in their identity.  Through her involvement in the project, Kanwal can share this artistic heritage through different designs.  “It is my passion to continue working in this project and improve my skills,” she says.  Working with design students of the Indus Valley School in Karachi, has enabled Kanwal to explore a range of new skills and abilities.  She has learned about product ranges, color palettes, different types of material, measurements, pinning and tracing. “It was a good opportunity for me,” she says.  “I really enjoyed [the students’] company and working with them during the design workshop.  I very much liked the institute, it was big and neat.  It seems like a dream that a visited there.”

Kanwal’s favorite experience from the project so far has been participating in the Danish Embassy’s “Innovative Denmark” event, where she showed visitors how to do traditional stitches and shared her skills.  “It has really helped me in raising my confidence,” she says.

Kanwal’s family is also excited about her participation in the project, and are confident that she will be able to earn an income with her developed skills.  An alternative source of income is vital to these communities, who are so reliant on agriculture, an increasingly fragile sector.  She explains the importance of extra income for her family, who are affected by frequent flooding in the area.  “In crop season, I have to work with my family members for twelve to sixteen hours daily under frequently harsh and unhealthy conditions to earn some money and store something for the following year to survive, which is now becoming challenging because of flooding.”

This project, which is supported by the Danish Centre for Arts and Culture and the Danish Embassy in Pakistan, is supporting artisans like Kanwal to enhance their opportunities and protect themselves from such financial shocks and is empowering them to combat poverty for themselves and their families. Under the project, rural artisans are working in collaboration with design students of renown design institutes in Karachi, Pakistan, to learn contemporary designs and stitching techniques to cater to the trending market demands as well.

What is the project?

The project aims to support families affected by recurrent floods who have been left with food shortages and minimal income opportunities as agricultural gains have been washed away.

Target groups:

  • Vulnerable households frequently affected by the floods
  • Flood-affected women engaged in kitchen gardening and other income-generation activities
  • Small landowners (who own up to six acres of land) and sharecroppers who have lost their crops during the recent and previous floods
  • Flood-affected landless labourers
  • Socially and religiously marginalized disaster-affected communities
  • Direct Target Groups: 1,535 households (including 625 women-headed households), or 7,675 individuals
  • Indirect Target Groups: 300 households, or 1,860 individuals who will indirectly benefit from the rehabilitated agriculture infrastructure

Achievements so far:

  • Introduction of IRRI-6 rice crop, a saline tolerant crop which will eventually increase resilience of rice planted in saline-affected fields and protect farmers from damage and loss of crops
  • Each family received three 20kg bags of certified rice seed
  • Each family received one 20kg bag of organic fertilizer, sufficient for cultivating two to three acres of land
  • Orientation on integrated crop management techniques and disaster resilient farming techniques for affected farmers
  • 600 women-headed households received kitchen gardening seeds and tool kits
  • Cash grants and disaster risk reduction sessions support local resilience and capacity to effectively cope with the future disasters
  • Promotion of women’s empowerment and food diversity through kitchen gardening

Community World Service Asia is working with communities in rural Sindh to empower women.  With support from UK Aid and Y Care International, we are training women in vocational and literacy skills to improve their opportunities and combat poverty.  However, in order for women to be able to fully realize their potential, their rights need to be recognized, supported and upheld in their homes and throughout the wider community.

We are working to promote gender equality by highlighting some of the key issues which affect women in this area, including domestic violence and child marriage.  Theater is a powerful tool to approach these difficult topics, as it provides entertainment, can reach a large number of people, and can engage an audience in themes which are relevant to them, overcoming limitations such as low levels of literacy.

More than 60 community members, social workers, civil society activists and students came to watch a performance which was organized and held by local gender activists who are being trained and supported to raise awareness of gender issues through the project.

The play followed the story of a character called Neela, who was married at the age of twelve.  Although the legal minimum age for marriage in Pakistan is eighteen for boys and sixteen for girls, poverty and insecurity mean that many girls are married at a young age.  Through Neela’s character, the audience saw the impact of a decision made by her father, without the involvement of Neela herself or any other family members.

Neela was forced to drop out of school before progressing on to grade six, so that she could go and live with her new husband and his family.  In her new home, she experienced domestic abuse, both physically and mentally. When Neela returned to her parents’ home, the performers stopped the play and invited the audience to decide how to address the situation. This kind of interaction is extremely engaging for the audience and helps them to relate the themes of the performance to their own situations.  The audience suggested that Neela should file a case in court under Sindh’s Child Marriage Act.

The play was able to share the reality of gender inequality with the audience, and to highlight the violations of rights that are caused by practices such as child marriage. Ms Lachmi, one of the performers, explained the importance of highlighting issues relating to gender justice in the community.

“We women should be strong. We are not only the machines of producing children, but all women can stand with men shoulder to shoulder.”

Community World Service Asia’s Capacity Institutionalization project (CIP) continues to provide trainings and technical assistance resources that caters to the requirements of civil society organizations. In an effort to build the capacity of local humanitarian and development organizations and to expand the use of evidence-based practices, Community World Service Asia hosted two networking events in Islamabad and Lahore in the month of June.  Participants from different organizations shared their learnings, success stories and future implementation and partnership ideas in this event.

The first networking event took place in Lahore. Representatives and participants from various organizations attended the session and explored new possible partnerships. Organizations of the same professional community got to know more about each other’s’ work, upcoming trainings and how to participate in them, areas of priority and published work.

The second event of the same nature was held in Islamabad with the aim to promote the trainings the organization offers on various topics on organizational development and humanitarian quality and accountability at national and regional levels among the aid sector in Islamabad.

Participants Tête-à-Tête

FarkhandaDr. Farkhanda Ather – Mercy Corps

“This was an interesting event, which provided an opportunity to know the local NGOs as well as the diversified scope of work of Community World Service Asia”

NobaNoba Anil- Community Advancement Society

“This networking event was very useful, because it gave us a chance to interact with different organizations. These kind of networking events are beneficial for developing relationships between humanitarian organizations.”

mahrukhMahrukh Saleem – Plan international

“We got to find out a lot of helpful information regarding trainings today. This will  help us in enhancing the capacity of our organization’s staff. Moreover, the  event was very interactive and it provided an opportunity for organizations at all levels to get to  know each other.“

Hafeez AhmadSHafeez Ahmed- Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

“The session on Community World Asia’s work, domain and focus areas was quite an informative one. It is good for new learners as well as for those who are running their own CBOS and NGOs to get this sort of information. Vital information about upcoming trainings, their procedure to participate, very important themes like project management and financial management were covered. This session serves as a key for new avenues of development especially for those who are eager to do something in future.”

TariqTariq Rahim- ACF (Action Against Hunger) International

“It is a great experience of working with Community World Service.  They always bring us together and provide us with an opportunity to sit together and share ideas.  The event was a successful platform for networking.”