Stories

Across Afghanistan, communities continue to recover from three decades of conflict. Education, particularly for girls, has been severely damaged and disrupted, with a lack of safe schools, difficulty in travelling and a shortage of qualified teachers. Poverty and cultural norms further contribute to the serious obstacles to education for both girls and boys, and the reconstruction of the country.

Community World Service Asia is committed to working with local authorities in Afghanistan and enabling them to provide quality education for students. We promote awareness and understanding among communities about the importance of education, especially for girls, with an emphasis on a culturally sensitive approach. We provide extra-curricular educational activities for girls, such as civic education camps, in order to address the gaps in their education system and empower them to play an active role in their communities. The construction of safe play areas and the provision of sports equipment uphold the right of children to play, and are a vital part of our efforts to build the confidence of children.

In addition, we provide extensive and in-depth training to teachers, supporting them to create engaging, child-centered classrooms and conduct meaningful lessons which will equip their students to learn effectively. As part of this initiative, we have been holding subject-specific trainings for teachers from eight schools in Laghman and Nangarhar provinces on a variety of courses identified as priorities by the vast majority of surveyed teachers, including Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and General Sciences. The workshops develop the knowledge of participants on these subjects as well as exploring learning strategies and teaching techniques.

A five-day training was held in June for twenty five teachers in the Behsood district of Nangarhar, on the subject of Chemistry. The workshop resulted in a 446% increase in the technical knowledge of teachers, as measured by pre- and post- test scores on the subject matter.

Ab. Malik, a teacher at Malika Suraya Girls High School, shared the impact that the training had on her abilities and confidence to teach Chemistry, “Most of these things were really new to me and had no idea how to do experiments. But after attending this training, I feel that I have become an expert and trained teacher who can provide the students with effective chemistry classes.”

Zalmay Halimi Hazrat, the District Education Director for the Behsood District, visited the workshop, and was extremely positive about its value and relevance for teachers in his area. He expressed his views saying, “If other organizations conduct similar trainings for our teachers that are just as effective, we would very soon be able to observe the positive change and improved quality of education within our school that we hope to see. This is the first time I am seeing the entire wall of our training hall completely full of charts. This indicates that throughout the training days you all have worked hard and have had lots of practical activities.”

A wide gender gap exists across Pakistan, with women able to access fewer opportunities for participation in education, employment and social and political life. Nationally, only 45% of women are literate, compared to 69% of men[1]. There is also a strong disparity between urban and rural areas, 71.1% of those who live in cities or towns able to read and write, and only 46.3% of those who live in more remote settings[2].

Women in rural areas are therefore particularly marginalized, and are affected by a variety of factors which limit their access to education. There are few schools, a lack of female teachers, insufficient sanitation facilities at schools, and often long and unsecure journeys between home and the classroom. This further compounds the general issues of insufficient resources, untrained and unqualified teachers, out-of-date textbooks and poverty, which present obstacles to girls and boys alike.

Community World Service Asia is committed to empowering rural women through education and income generation. Through our women’s empowerment project in Thatta, Sindh, funded by Christian Aid, women receive training to develop their skills in traditional embroidery, appliqué and other crafts. The project also supports these women to develop sustainable linkages to local and high-end markets, and education on sexual and reproductive health. A key component of the intervention is the introduction of adult literacy classes, through which participating women receive education in basic reading, writing and mathematical skills.

The second adult literacy center was opened in Ghulam Muhammad Soorjo village, Thatta, on 1st July, with fifty women enrolled. The new students eagerly shared their motivation for undertaking the classes, with reasons including being able to read the expiration dates on medicines, verifying their national identity cards, and registering to vote.

[1] Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement survey (PSLM) 2008-09-Most recent government figures available.

[2] UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011

 

Community World Service Asia, with the financial support of Christian Aid, has been working with flood-prone and affected communities in Thatta, Sindh since 2010. Along with utilizing our innovative Mobile Knowledge Resource Center to conduct interactive training workshops to support community members, teachers and students to become disaster resilient, we promote community ownership of disaster risk reduction initiatives through the formation of local level disaster management committees. These committees are essential to the active participation of communities in preparedness and mobilization in the event of a disaster, as well as building sustainability of the intervention. The committees carry out assessments of local risks and capacity to respond, as well as producing hazard maps and conducting evacuation drills.

On June 15th, members of the disaster management committee in Union Council Bijora, Thatta participated in an exposure visit to a neighboring village, Ali Muhammat Jat, to share their experiences of working to build community resilience to natural disasters.   The visit was an opportunity for both communities to identify good practices and areas in which they can learn from one another. The participants shared the importance of engaging and coordinating with community members in order to successfully identify needs and priorities, and effectively sensitize communities to important practices such as education and disaster preparedness. The committee in Ali Muhammad Jat, supported by Islamic Relief Pakistan, also shared their initiative of monitoring local news alerts to develop their own early warning system, which the committee members from UC Bijora found particularly interesting and useful.

Exposure visits like these enable the communities with whom we work to develop links with other groups, learn from them, and adapt relevant initiatives to strengthen their own practices. This also helps the committees which we establish in becoming self-sustaining and durable in the long-term.

Farhad working on a solar panel to make an efficient and economical solar energy system to generate electricity
Farhad working on a home built solar power system
Farhad working on a home built solar power system

Twenty-nine-year old Farhad lived in the Afghan refugee village Barari in Mansera with his parents, his wife, and six siblings. His brothers were young and school going, while his father’s ailing health didn’t allow him to work, which left Farhad as the sole income bearer in the family.  Being the eldest among the siblings, Farhad started supporting the entire family financially since a young age through working at the local vegetable market on daily wages.

Providing for a large family of ten members with meagre financial resources meant that their living standards had greatly deteriorated since their arrival in Mansehra. The family’s day to day needs were increasing but most were unmet due to scarcity of funds. Even though Farhad worked for many hours and did all he could to provide for the family, his efforts were not paying him much monetarily.

Recognizing Farhad’s difficulties, his family’s need and his commitment to support them relentlessly, the Community World Service Asia team selected him as a participant of the electrical trade training for the Vocational Training and Market Development project. Farhad invested four long months of hard work and energy into this training. Upon successful completion, he was given the opportunity to work as a local electrician at the Barari camp. He took up many assignments at the camp, which along with earning him a better income, also helped in polishing his newly acquired skills.

Soon after, with the repatriation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan announced, Farhad and his family, among thousands of other refugee families, had to return to their motherland.  The return journey to their home in Jalalabad, Afghanistan went smoothly until they reached there.

“When I arrived in my hometown, there was no electricity in the entire area. The residents of my village were only using lanterns for light as no other source of electricity was available. Soon as summer came, the people were only equipped with hand fans to cool themselves with. Immediately, I planned to use the knowledge I had learnt about solar energy during my training in Pakistan and so I began experimenting with putting up a solar energy system in my house. The people around me were very impressed with my work and the expertise I displayed. Soon, many of them started requesting me to install it in their homes as well for which they would pay me. Today, I earn around AFN 25,000 per month in my hometown”, says Farhad proudly.

“My younger brother is now studying matriculation at school and every day on his return he helps me with my electrical work. He is also learning the profession from me as he assists. Just through receiving this training, I have accomplished a lot.  I am very thankful to Community World Service Asia and all other organizations involved in this project for selecting and supporting me.”

Since 2009, the ongoing conflict in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and its adjoining regions has resulted in a mass displacement of its population to different districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK). More than thirty thousand families from these displaced communities have migrated to Kohat, a city located at around 70km from Peshawar. To support the displaced community in Kohat, Community World Service Asia (formerly CWS-P/A) in partnership with Dan Church Aid (DCA), is providing livelihood interventions to improve food security among selected migrants and host communities.

During consultative meetings with the affected population, lack of skills for income-generation and food production opportunities were identified as a prime concern among the conflict affected populace in Kohat. To reduce these vulnerabilities, Community World Service Asia provided skills training fifty men and fifty women from the target communities on tailoring, embroidery, welding and plumbing. Selection of training was made depending on each trainee’s requirement and choice. Supporting toolkits to continue practice of the learnt skills were also provided to the training participants.

Trainings to the fifty men were provided by implementing partners Sarhad Rural Support Program (SRSP) in Kohat. Dilawar Khan, Samiullah Khan and Shah Jee Khan are three of the selected participants of the trainings provided. The three of them shared how this intervention by Community World Service Asia has made an impact on their lives since their displacement.

At the time of selection, I thought that this training would be a waste of time but the trainer worked very hard with me and made me realize how helpful it was. I am very much thankful to Community World Service Asia and SRSP for conducting this training. Now I have a skill and can earn better for my family. Before I took this training I barely earned four to five thousand a month, in which it was very difficult to manage my household expenses. I am hopeful that I will get more work opportunities in my own village now and will be able to send my children to school and provide them with better education.”

Dilawar, 26 years old, is married has three children. He lives in a joint family with the total of 22 household members. Before displacement his family’s main livelihood was farming on their own native land. In Kohat, they have no source of income and live in a rented house.

Samiullah 1

I am very happy for being nominated for the plumbing skills training. I practically learnt how to use all the plumbing tools and completed the training in a good environment. Before participating in this training I had no skills to earn an income for my family and myself. Today I have a skill and it empowers me to earn a better livelihood and lead a comfortable life. When I went back home upon successful completion of the training course, I started practicing the skills learnt and started doing some repair work for my neighbors and relatives in the village which enabled me to earn sufficient money. I was also trying to get work outside the village and finally one of my relatives who is engaged with sanitary tools business in Peshawar called me and employed me at his shop. After a week, myself and three other training graduates secured a contract for completing the sanitary construction work at a newly constructed building in Peshawar at forty thousand rupees per month”.

Shah Jee Khan belong to the Bakezai Banda village in Kohat. He is 29 years of age, is married and has two children. He had no source of income when he migrated to Kohat.

Shah G 2

“Vocational trainings conducted by SRSP and Community World Service Asia equipped me with the skills I needed and paved the way to earn a respectable livelihood for me and my family. When I came after completing the training course, I was contacted by my trainer who informed me about scheduled test interviews of UAE based MBC company in Chota Lahore District Swabi for hiring. I appeared for test/interviews on the mention date and time and passed it with good marks. The company selected me for the post of a plumber. I was offered a two year valid visa with a monthly salary of AED.1000, excluding allowances for overtime, food and accommodation. I was told that I shall get visa confirmation within 20 days. Before taking this training I was unemployed and was very worried about my future as I had no professional skill and work experience. I am very much grateful to Community World Service Asia for providing me with a hope for a bright future”.

Samiullah Khan belongs to the Afridi Banda village in Kohat. He is 21 years of age, is unmarried and lives with his parents. His father is disabled which is why Samiullah is the sole income bearer of the family.

Ama Sumani is a leading figure in her community. As president of her Village and Community Organizations, she plays an integral role in building the resilience of her community to natural disasters. Community World Service Asia established these organizations in order to mobilize communities to take action and protect themselves from the flooding and fires to which they are especially vulnerable.

The organizations conduct drills for evacuations, using stretchers to transport injured individuals, fire extinguisher use and other key responses to emergency situations. As well as leading her communities through these organizations, Ama Sumani has been inspired to take her own independent initiatives to promote disaster resilience. She has even turned her own home (pictured) into a store for resources such as emergency blankets and first aid equipment. Ama Sumani represents the dedication and empowerment which Community World Service Asia sees as crucial to building safety and security for vulnerable communities.

Mailah’s mother, Rabia, has been attending adult literacy classes run by Community World Service Asia as part of our work to empower rural women. As well as training in traditional vocational skills, like embroidery and appliqué work, we provide education on basic literacy and numeracy to support the earning potential of women.

Our participants are developing a deep appreciation for the importance of education, and are even teaching their own daughters how to read and write! Rabia proudly shares what she is learning, writing our initials (CWS), her village’s name (Jaffar), her name and her mother’s name. Mailah shows us that the benefits of activities like this are far-reaching and long-term.

Noor Elahi, age 29, is a resident at the Afghan refugee camp in Khaki, Mansehra. Being the sole breadwinner, supporting a family of eight members, including his five children, became challenging for Elahi after his father’s death. “I was distressed when my father passed away since I was dependent on him. Now I don’t have any other means of income.” Working hard to make ends meet, Elahi began to work as a laborer on daily wages until he was selected as a trainee under the Vocational Training and Market Development Program to learn carpentry skills.

Foreseeing a bright future, Elahi enthusiastically participated in a four month training program. To encourage participation, trainees were paid a stipend of PKR.150 per day including lunch and refreshment. Upon successful completion of the training he received a certificate along with a tool kit to practice his learning. In addition, he acquired a job as a partially skilled laborer at a local carpentry shop which further increased his earnings. To build upon his capabilities and learn advanced techniques, Elahi was selected for a one month refresher course.

“I was satisfied about my future to some extent and was pleased to know about the advance course offered by Community World Service Asia (formerly CWS-P/A). I happily participated in the course to enhance my skills and learned to operate 5 in 1 woodworking machine.”

Considering his expertise and his passion to progress as a professional carpenter, Elahi was selected by the Community World Service Asia (formerly CWS-P/A) team for Small and Medium Enterprise program along with another Afghan graduate. They were also provided a 5 in 1 woodworking machine to launch their own shop. “Together we are working very hard and generate a profit of PKR.15, 000 per month which is equally divided between us. Now, we also have an opportunity to share our knowledge and learn new techniques from each other. We provide economical services to our community members at their door step and also plan to expand our business to a larger scale. I am very thankful to Community World Service Asia (formerly CWS-P/A); because of their extensive assistance I can now support my family easily.”

To support the rehabilitation of refugee communities in Pakistan, Community World Service Asia (formerly CWS-P/A) is implementing a Vocational Training and Market Development Project in Mansehra and Haripur as Gifts of the United States Government since 2010. The goal is to enhance self-reliance and increase income for men and women of Afghan Refugees and host community. A four-month program imparts certifiable skills training to men in welding, electrical works, carpentry, auto mechanics, auto electrician, motor cycle mechanic, plumbing and masonry. Women participate in handicraft and dress designing trades in affiliation with Skill Development Council Peshawar. Upon course completion, graduates received a tool kit designed for their respective trades, which enabled them to establish small scale businesses or more easily find employment in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Dispirited by poverty, Rubeena was extremely concerned about the expenses she had to bear for delivering her first baby. Rubeena lives with her husband and his family in village Ranta, union council Bijora. A laborer by profession, her husband, the only breadwinner of the family earns PKR.200 per day, which is not enough to meet the essential requirements of seven family members.

“In view of my family’s current financial situation I was apprehensive about the high cost we would have to pay for my delivery. With transportation and medicine bills included, I knew the childbirth would cost us a lot, which we could not afford.”

Once Rubeena became aware about the quality of medical services provided at the maternal, neonatal child health center (MNCH) at very nominal rates, she planned to visit the center. Examined by an experienced,female medical officer, Rubeena was satisfied and began to visit the center for regular antenatal consultations. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy at the health center in mid-March, 2015. “Previously I was unaware of childbirth assistance available at such low costs. If I had been taking medical consultations at another health facility, we would have paid PKR.2000 or even more by now. I am glad that we managed the entire treatment at a very minimal cost of PKR.30.”

While Rubeena enjoys her early motherhood days, she continues to visit the health center for postnatal care and also consults with the medical staff regarding her baby’s health and vaccinations.

“I am thankful to Community World Service Asia, for establishing a MNCH in a remote area and for providing quality services at a very low cost. I hope this facility continues to provide support to us and to other communities.”

Community World Service Asia with financial support from Church of Scotland is successfully implementing a project on Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Centre (MNCH) in union council Bijora, district Thatta, Sindh. The aim is to improve maternal, newborn, and child health by providing curative and preventive basic health services, ante and postnatal care, family planning, and vaccination campaigns. The community also benefits from health education sessions on a variety of topics including HIV & AIDS, infant and child feeding, prevention of childhood diseases, and malnutrition. During the first quarter of the year, 1,569 community members received medical assistance at the health center. One hundred and fifty six participants including women, children and men participated in thirteen health sessions, and four health management committee meetings were organized till date.

Khumari’s eyes reflect the sorrow of losing three brothers and a cousin. Trembling with fear she shared, “my father and elder brother are soldiers based in Helmand province, south of Afghanistan. It was during midnight when our village based in Darra district of Panjsher province was hit by a snow slide flowing into our homes and destroyed everything.”

Khumari ran out of her house to save her life and recalls the screams and cries of other village members during the disaster. “My family members were trapped inside the house under the snow. Later my uncle helped to take them out.” Some of her family members survived the incident and were shifted to safe areas; however those who were not able to make it were left in the snow.

“Everything is destroyed. My father and my brother arrived the next day and were shattered to see our ruined village. Dead bodies of humans and animals were on the ground and some of them were still buried under the snow.” Khumari and her family feel very helpless and are in dire need of assistance. Looking forward to a helping hand, community members are willing to move out of this area to start a new life given that they are provided assistance from humanitarian agencies to fulfill their immediate emergency needs.