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.

Shireen Khan, age forty-seven is one of the affected community members residing in a sub village of Darra district, Panjsher province. A farmer by profession, Shireen is the only breadwinner of his family including his wife and eight children. Life was usual until an avalanche struck Shireen’s village on February 25, 2015. “The snow slide occurred during midnight. It ruined everything, our house, our goods and orchards, and all our valuables causing us a loss of approximately 600,000 Afs (10,000 US dollars). More than this I lost my five month old baby in this natural disaster,” shared Shireen with grief.

Furthermore he shared that overall twenty-three people are killed, six injured and thirty-five houses are destroyed from his village due to this avalanche. Awaiting emergency assistance Shireen shared, “till now we have received some support from community members and few national traders. Our land is completely destroyed; hence there is no possibility of reconstruction or any other opportunity for livelihoods. If anyone assists me I will migrate from this area and construct my new house at a different location to start a new life.”

To develop an environment that encourages the students’ physical and cognitive development, CWS-P/A established five play areas in schools that participate in its girls’ education project.

“I am very happy and enjoy coming to school,” shared Shakira, a fifth grade student. Ever since the play area was constructed, Shakira attends school regularly. Although her house is four kilometers from the school, she enjoys walking an hour before school so she can enjoy time in the play area. “I play three times a day; before school starts, during the break, and lastly before leaving for home. I feel quite energized and it also helps me to memorize my lesson very well. I am confident to attain first position in my class this year.”

Muzafar, a teacher, also observed a positive change in Shakira’s interests. “Before the construction of play areas, Shakira used to be absent very often, but now she has become very enthusiastic. She comes to school regularly and also learns her lesson well. She is ambitious to become a lawyer in the future.”

“I express my gratitude to the school management and CWS-P/A for motivating my daughter to attend school regularly”

During the construction process, our project team conducted several monitoring visits of the schools. Excited children were anxiously waiting for the play areas to be functional. They regularly asked our team when the play area would be completed and how frequently they will be allowed to play. Shakira’s parents have also acknowledged this effort and personally thanked our project staff for this initiative. “I express my gratitude to the school management and CWS-P/A for motivating my daughter to attend school regularly,” shared Samiullah, Shakira’s father. He further shared that the school principal informed him about the overall increase in children’s attendance and a growing interest in their studies.

Our girls’ education project began in 2009, with an aim to increase girls’ enrollment in school, enhance teachers’ capacity, and encourage community involvement in education, gender equality, and economic growth.

Many villages in Nangarhar are host to communities that cannot financially support their children’s education. Higher education is even more inaccessible due to distance, financial constraints, security concerns, and prevalent cultural restrictions.

Our girls’ education project is designed to provide the girls of these communities with a sustainable source of income, learning, and empowerment. Skills based classes on handicrafts such as hand embroidery, bead knitting, drawing, and painting were conducted as extra-curricular activities in the local girls’ schools selected in the Surkhroad District of the province as part of this project.

“My higher education is now ensured which will help me become a doctor so I can further support my family and the community.”

Diana, a student at the Peer Sayed Hassan Gailani High School in Surkhroad, and recipient of the skill based classes on embroidery handicraft has benefited immensely from these activities. One of her handicrafts was selected as the best piece by the panel of judges at the school competition. Diana started receiving numerous orders for making hand embroidered garments and other accessories from many schoolmates, teachers, and community members.

“I am really thankful to the Girls’ Education Project because it provided me the opportunity to introduce my skills to a wider audience. I, myself, did not realize my hand embroidery skills until I was appreciated by the judges’ panel and skill based class participants. That is when I recognized my skill and decided to further improve it and use it as an income source.”

Today, Diana has four female students from her neighborhood, to whom she teaches embroidery skills at her house, along with making products on order for other clients from the community. Diana plans to establish a handicrafts business center with other women from the community, in the future.

Diana further added, “I am very happy and hopeful for my future because my father has advised me to save my income generated through these sales for enrolling in university instead of contributing for household expenses. My higher education is now ensured which will help me become a doctor so I can further support my family and the community.”

Our girls’ education project began in 2009, with an aim to increase girls’ enrolment in school, enhance teachers’ capacity, and encourage community involvement in education, gender equality, and economic growth.

Developing a strong network, where each organization can learn and apply the Sphere standards to improve their humanitarian accountability is one of Mr. Kep Kannaro’s goals. Kannaro, the new Sphere Focal Point for Cambodia, is also the Cambodian Humanitarian Forum’s (CHF)[1] Chairperson and Executive Director of Partnership for Development in Kampuchea (PADEK).

In 2011, Kannaro participated in CWS-P/A Sphere training for the first time. Shortly afterward, Cambodia experienced massive floods. He immediately initiated an emergency response proposal, integrating the Sphere standards. “It was very difficult to put into practice,” admitted Kannaro. “We’ve been blamed for not responding as quickly as we should because of time taken by the assessments. However, the results were positive and the donors were really satisfied.”

Convinced about the potential of the Sphere standards and the importance to enhance quality and accountability of humanitarian response in Cambodia, Kannaro wanted to enhance the expertise of the Cambodian civil society organizations.

In 2012, with the support of USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), Kannaro created the Cambodian Humanitarian Forum, a network of national organizations dedicated to strengthening emergency response capacities of national organizations. Since its creation, CHF has organized several capacity building initiatives, including Sphere standards trainings, and established an information and resource-sharing center.

CWS-P/A approached CHF this year based on a consultative process with some Cambodian organizations about the possibility of having a Sphere Country Focal Point in Cambodia. CHF accepted this role. As Chairperson of CHF, Kannaro took it as an opportunity to learn from his peers in the region and to transfer the acquired knowledge to his Cambodian counterparts.

“Awareness has increased and standards are more integrated in their emergency response after the training given by the forum.”

Today, Kannaro is proud of the progress made by Cambodian non-profits who benefited from the trainings. “Awareness has increased and standards are more integrated into their emergency response after the training given by the forum [CHF].” He also emphasized the challenges ahead. Despite the progress, he admitted, “Not many organizations are aware about the Sphere standards, and we also need to work closely with the government to mainstream those standards into the humanitarian response.”

Kannaro is enthusiastic about how the Sphere standards positively impact humanitarian response. His goal is to advocate for a proper disaster response law that would integrate the minimum standards. “If we can integrate standards in the law, more NGOs will apply them.” With a smile and positive outlook, Kannaro concluded, “It will be difficult, but we can make it.”

Kannaro and CHF exemplify of how capacity building and an effective networking platform can strengthen the promotion and application of the Sphere standards in humanitarian programs. They also demonstrate the importance of having Sphere champions, the ones who can inspire, empower, and engage more organizations for improving humanitarian effectiveness and enhancing the quality of aid delivery to the communities.

In October 2014, Kannaro was among ten Sphere country focal points who participated in the Sphere Focal Point Forum in Bangkok, Thailand. The event encouraged candid discussion, peer learning, and joint advocacy while enabling a sense of community among Sphere practitioners across Asia. Speaking at the event about his role as the Sphere Country Focal Point, Kannaro shared, “My vision for the future is promoting awareness and the ability to apply Sphere among the network [CHF] members; secondly, to work with government line departments and ministries to integrate Sphere standards into disaster management law; and thirdly, to work together to apply and build awareness among community members so they know about the assistance they are receiving.”

[1] CHF is a network of national NGOs and civil society organizations working in Cambodia which aims to improve humanitarian actions for saving lives in communities during emergency through capacity building and training, accountability, coordination and cooperation, and quality humanitarian standard.

As the Sphere regional partner in Asia, Community World Service Asia supports the promotion and implementation of the Sphere standards training, Q&A deployments, technical support, and events such as this forum. In collaboration with The Sphere Project, we organized the Sphere Focal Point Forum, twice, in 2011 and in 2014. This year’s Forum was jointly financed by The Sphere Project, Diakonie-Sweden, Act for Peace and Community World Service Asia.

Before Raheema participated in adult literacy and vocational training, she faced difficulty in meeting her family’s needs. She lives with her four children and husband who earns a meager daily wage in Karo Mallah Village, Thatta. Raheema always wanted her children to be educated; she enrolled two of her children (one girl and one boy) in school, but due to financial constraints she was unable to continue her daughter’s education. While describing her concerns, she said, “If my children are not well, I am unable to take them to a hospital since I don’t have money.”

Due to poverty and social barriers, Raheema did not receive an education; however, her passion to learn motivated her to join the adult literacy center and vocational training center established by Community World Service Asia. Learning to read and write, she began passing on these basic skills to her children.

Because of her fine skills in appliqué work; she was selected as a master trainer which gave her an opportunity to teach the same skill to other women. An exposure visit to markets in Karachi enabled Raheema to understand the market trends, designs, color scheming, and how she can utilize her skills for a variety of products. “With assistance from Community World Service Asia, I received two orders from the buyers in Karachi, for myself and also for other trainees in my village,” she shared.

“I managed to purchase stationery, uniforms, and paid other expenses with my income in order to reenroll my children in school.”

Raheema generates income by making embroidered suits, pillow covers, bed sheets, and other products. She is now hopeful to manage the educational expenses of her children. “I am thankful to Community World Service Asia for giving me the skills, exposure, and a way to earn a living. I have good appliqué work skill; initially the products I used to make were only catering to the market in my village and surrounding areas. The exposure visits enabled me to enhance my marketing knowledge and now by utilizing the same skill I can make a variety of colorful products with beautiful designs.”

Community World Service Asia with financial support from Christian Aid (CA) is successfully implementing the project, Alleviating Poverty through Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods Development with a Disaster Resilient Approach in Union Council (UC) Bijora, Thatta, Pakistan – Phase II. The project aims to reduce poverty and gender inequality among highly marginalized women and men through socio-economic empowerment and improved disaster resilience in disaster prone area of Thatta.

As a child, Kazbano, dreamed of obtaining an education, but cultural constraints and poor economic conditions prevented her from achieving her goal. At the age of 40, she is a mother of five children residing in Doso Himaiti Village, Thatta. “My parents were not educated; therefore, I was unable to convince them to send me to the nearest school in my village. I also got married at an early age,” she shared with grief.

A literate woman can support her father and husband with income generation. She can also contribute well in the upbringing of her children and make them a noble citizen.

Kazbano highlighted that illiteracy in her community prevents understanding on the importance of education. The mobility of women and girls is also limited, reducing their opportunity to acquire skills or education outside of their homes.

Her hope was restored when Community World Service Asia engaged the community through mobilization meetings and the formation of a community organization. Impressed by the confidence of female social mobilizers, she found the interest to learn revive in her. She requested her husband to agree to her participation in the adult literacy center. “Initially he resisted because he was concerned about our children, but later he allowed me to join the center with hope that if I am educated, I can also support my children for their education.”

The phonetic method adopted by the trainers at the center made learning much easier. “I am now able to read and write small paragraphs, read Sindhi newspapers, small sentences from books, sign boards, doctors’ names in hospitals, etc. I can also read medicine names as well as the expiry date. Now, I can support my children to acquire quality education. I am very thankful to Community World Service Asia for their development efforts for rural women like me.”

Community World Service Asia with financial support from Christian Aid (CA) is successfully implementing the project, Alleviating Poverty through Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods Development with a Disaster Resilient Approach in Union Council (UC) Bijora, Thatta, Pakistan – Phase II. The project aims to reduce poverty and gender inequality among highly marginalized women and men through socio-economic empowerment and improved disaster resilience in disaster prone area of Thatta.

Background: Sima belongs to a small village in the center of Bamyan, Afghanistan. In 2009, she was made part of CWS-P/A’s Child Rehabilitation Center (CRC) which helped her to study well. Her active involvement at the CRC gave her confidence and made her social. More importantly, Sima who is now 17 is well on her way to helping her family with increased income.

Story Collected by: Mohammad Omar

Sima’s father did not receive an education and works occasionally as a daily wage worker. Her mother and two sisters weave carpets at their home. The money is used to meet everyday household expenses for Sima’s family which includes ten members. She said, “My sisters do not attend school. While I attended school I would also help my mother in weaving carpets. As a result, I could not do my homework well or study at home and this led me to getting lower grades.”

Sima added, “Eventually, I was not interested in studying but my mother introduced me to the Cooperation Center for Afghanistan (CCA) team that had come to do a survey in our village. I was selected by the team and enrolled as a student at the CRC.”

With various ongoing interactive initiatives as part of the CRC’s agenda, Sima shared that during her first month at the CRC she did not like it because it made her realize that she was passive. “I quickly decided to change myself and became an active student at the CRC. I told my mother that I would not be able to assist in carpet weaving and used that time to prepare for all that was being taught to me. I began to study hard and actively participated in all activities which made me become social. I was supported by my teachers who discovered I was a quick learner. They gave me the opportunity to take responsibility of making announcements.”

Sima’s progress in school after she had left the CRC led her to achieving the first position and realizing her potential she was usually assisting her teachers. “As a co-teacher I gained some basic teaching skills and increased my knowledge about managing a class. I also took part in role plays. I realized if I worked hard I could support my family.”

In early 2013, while Sima was in class 11, an organization had advertised vacant positions for teachers. She shared, “I knew I did not meet the qualification requirements but I was confident about my talent and knowledge from the CRC. I passed the written exam and did very well in the practical exams because I was the only person who had knowledge on child rights, human rights, and health and hygiene education.
Sima adds that she is really proud of herself for being able to support her family. “Now my mother does not have to work more than 12 hours per day.”