Stories

Distribution of hygiene kit after training session on Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) and Children Hygiene and Sanitation Training (CHAST)

Community World Service Asia is implementing an integrated emergency WASH and Shelter project for families affected by the 2015 earthquake in District Shangla, Pakistan. The target Union Councils of the intervention included Shah Pur, Damorhi, Kuz Kana, Bar Puran and Banglai.

The key components of this short-term disaster response project include Rehabilitation of Water Supply Schemes, Repair and reconstruction of Latrines and Distribution of Self help repair Shelter kits. The project also provides trainings on Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) and Children Hygiene and Sanitation Training (CHAST) techniques of health and hygiene along with provision of hygiene kits and waste bins to the communities.

The distribution of self-help repair shelter kits to the affected families has been completed. A total of 1400 shelter repair kits have been distributed among the targeted earthquake affected households. The shelter kits distribution was done in three of the selected union councils including Damori, Kuzkana and Shahpur.

A standard process for the distribution based on the selection criteria of participants was followed under the project. Tokens were distributed amongst the concerned communities and information regarding the distribution ceremony was shared with all participants. It was mandatory for the community member to bring their original identity card along with the token to receive the assigned kit.

On the day of distribution, an orientation sessions on safer construction techniques was conducted to enable the communities to utilize the shelter repair kit as per the guidelines. Follow-up visits are scheduled to be conducted in the coming months to guide the communities on how and where to construct their shelter and how to utilize the kit to avail its maximum benefits. Along with follow-up visits, follow-up sessions on safer construction techniques are also planned in the year ahead.

Understanding and application of financial concepts is becoming essential in the nonprofit sector, as donor agencies increasingly prefer organizations that have sound financial management systems in place. A Financial Management training was designed and conducted by our Capacity Institutionalization Project to strengthen the financial management skills of participants belonging to small-scale organizations in Pakistan. The training aimed to equip participants with methods, skills and techniques to help them utilize financial management tools with efficiency and effectiveness.

This 5-day training session welcomed participants from Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and NGO workers, particularly those belonging to small-scale organizations. The training catered to both financial and program personnel. It was a third training of its kind, held at Mirpurkhas Sindh from 9th to 13th  of May, 2017. Twenty-seven participants from fifteen organizations, including 23 men and 4 women, took part in this activity based training.

Nazar Abbas Naqvi, financial management expert and a trainer with 18 years of relevant experience, facilitated the five day workshop.  Mr. Naqvi has worked on international donor funded programmes, including USAID, DFID, Asian Development Bank, European Commission and the World Bank. He has delivered extensive capacity trainings on financial management to public sector staff, Civil Societies Organizations and NGOs across various regions of Pakistan and abroad. Nazakat Bibi, Education Specialist at Community World Service Asia and Nadia Riasat, Senior Program Officer co-facilitated the training with him.

The training imparted specific skills on the fundamentals of financial management, developing effective financial policies and internal controls and streamlining accounting systems as per organizational policies. It geared participants on  preparing budgets, financial reports as per donor requirements, as well as facilitating audits to ensure transparency.

Through the various interactive sessions in the workshop, participants’ knowledge on the roles and responsibility of an organization’s board members, managers, finance and program team was also enhanced. The importance of budget in planning, control and decision-making was highlighted with key components and language of accounting system. Participants were made familiar with the concept of reconciliation and analysis of books of accounts. The link between budgets, accounting records, and financial reports were also explained in detail. A sample set of financial policy guidelines and procedures required for an operational NGO program were also shared with participants, which will help the participating organizations to strengthen their financial systems.

A session on resource mobilization was taken very well by the participants as it was a new topic for participants, both with financial and non-financial backgrounds. They were sensitized on mobilizing monetary resources. Some of the finance managers attending the training shared their interest in playing a more prominent role in resource mobilization. “It was an ambitious and knowledgeable workshop in which we learnt many things. On behalf of our organization, Orangi Charitable Trust (OCT), I would like to congratulate Community World Service Asia for the successful training from which all the participants benefited,” shared Qazi Raheem Bux Qureshi, a participant from Orangi Charitable trust (OCT).

  • Prem Das: I have learnt a lot about financial management. Risk management was a new and interesting topic for me which I was very little aware of before. Most importantly, the session on resource mobilization has enabled me to contribute more to my organization.

    Society for Safe Environment and Welfare of Agrarians – PAK.

  • MB Khaskheli: The training helped us to understand all the aspects of financial management. This training was designed on building knowledge on basic level. It will be interesting to attend an advanced level training on finance in future. It was an excellent, highly encouraging and full of fun learning experience.”

    RDA- Rural Development Association

     

  • Beena Baig: This training gave me an insight on financial management, budgeting and financial reporting. It gave me an opportunity to refresh all, previously learnt, financial theories and policies. I have learnt techniques of resource mobilization which will be more beneficial as we only managed record resources.”

    Community World Service Asia

  • Arjun Pattel: I was very lucky to be a part of such an constructive and communicative training. I have learnt a lot in these five days. Prior to this training, my knowledge level about financial management and policies was quite weak. This training enhanced my skills in financial management immensely.”

    Pakistan Village Development Program (PVDP)

  • Afshan Waheed: The Financial Management training was a completely new experience for me as it is not my field of work. But attending this training proved to be very beneficial as I learnt basic concepts of financial management and accounting. Now my concepts are clear and I will be able to contribute in financial discussions and decisions.

    Sukaar Welfare Organization

Student performed different plays and tableaus focusing on disaster management.

Children are change agents and providing them with training to enhance their knowledge and skills is essential to help them grow and develop. Similarly, children living in disaster prone areas, need to be trained on disaster risk reduction (DRR) methods to make them resilient towards the adverse impact of disasters.

Frequent occurrence of onset disasters make children vulnerable as they are adversely affected and their lives disturbed. In such situations a lack of DRR awareness makes things even worse.  Under Community World Service Asia’s project, supported by Christian Aid in Thatta, collaboration is done with schools to develop a platform for young children to enhance their knowledge and skills on DRR through various trainings and activities, making  them more resilient to future disasters.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction highlighted the importance of education and public awareness being critical in promoting a culture of resilience at all levels.  Furthermore, commitments were made at the second session of Global Platform for DRR (2009) to provide safer schools by including DRR in all school curricula. Considering the importance of public awareness, a DRR Carnival, organized at the Government Boys Public School (GPPS) in Main Sindhi Chandia, Sujawal, was organized to provide an opportunity to young children to present their DRR work. A Mobile Knowledge & Resource Center (MKRC) truck and DRR models were displayed at the exhibit, with brief sessions on simulation models carried out live.

The main purpose of the event, celebrated on 25th May, 2017, was to engage teachers and students from different schools to hear about their experiences; how they implemented DRR in their schools and how it contributed to making their schools safer. A student of class 4, Iffat Mehmood Khattati, opened the event by the recitation of the Holy Quran with Sindhi translation. She recited Surah Feeal, a surah focused on disaster.

Nisar Ahmed Memon, Head Master GBPS Main Sindhi Chandia, welcomed all the participants on behalf of the school administration. Nisar Memon highlighted the theme of the event saying,

“In partnership with Community World Service Asia, I am pleased to announce that we have successfully conducted School Safety Trainings in various schools in Sujawal. We have a long disaster history in our area. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves, our families and our communities to tackle these disasters to reduce our loss.”

Students of GBPS Main Sindhi Chandia performed a welcome tableau for the guests, teachers and students at the event. The play was focused on a Sindhi Legend singer, late Jala Chandio. The purpose of the performance was to pay respect and honor to the Sindhi Traditions.

Community World Service Asia staff appreciated GBPS Amin Sindhi Chandia School for organizing this impactful event and reiterated the importance of training children on DRR as

“students today are the leaders and change-makers of tomorrow.”

After the students’ performance, Naseem Khuskh, a teacher at one of the schools,  recalled the tragic memories of the Kashmir Earthquake (2005) in which the death rate of children was very high.

“As a teacher, I feel that students require the most attention at times of disasters. They suffer socially and psychologically. DRR Trainings are preparing students for emergency situations, making them more confident and  prepared during disasters.”

Khud Bux Behrani, Deputy Director Social Welfare, Thatta, also shared his views speaking at the carnival,

“In my experience, I have witnessed that children are the most vulnerable in under-developed societies. Government schools in our area are poorly established with no mechanism of evacuation at times of disasters. Therefore, I encourage organizations and school administrations to extend the role of DRR to build resilient societies and reduce losses and damages.”

Tufail Ahmed Temro, Taluka Education Officer, added to Behrani’s statement,

“Learning by doing; if students are involved in such trainings and drill activities, they will learn faster. There is a lack of extra-curriculum activities to supplement academic learning. I would request the  Community World Service Asia team to bring more such programs and trainings to our schools to improve the quality of education here.”

“Our team of volunteers have taken a lead in delivering awareness sessions on Malaria and its preventive measures in our area of Kheeral, Bijori,”

taking the opportunity to share information at a public platform,  Muhammad Hanif Walhro, President LSO Kheeral, talked about the initiative of LSOs taken in the context of DRR. He added that volunteers from the communities have been trained on rescue and response for future disasters.

A total of five hundred guests, including students and teachers from various schools, government officials and other stakeholders, actively participated at the event.  Two display stalls were set up which exhibited different equipment used at times of various disasters. DRR themed paintings made by students of GBPS Main Sindhi Chandia, Sujawal were also on display. Guests at the carnival were also shown the Mobile Knowledge & Resource Center (MKRC) and were oriented on the different kinds of disasters and the effects they leave behind in communities.

Kitchen gardening activities conducted under the Sustainable Farming project in Badin aim to improve food security and household nutrition for disaster affected communities. Mirzadi, wife of Photo Khan and mother of eight children, belonging to Abdul Karim Leghari village in Badin, is one of the most active participants of the kitchen gardening trainings in Badin.

Six of Mirzadi’s children are married while she lives with two of her unmarried sons, who work for daily wages as labourers and sharecroppers in the area, supporting their mother and their very old and unwell father.  The family does not own any land and relies solely on the income of the two young boys.

Mirzadi had no experience or expertise of growing vegetables before the kitchen gardening training. Earlier, she purchased vegetables for cooking from the local markets. This was expensive for her as she had to travel a distance to reach the markets and then buy the vegetables at whatever rates were offered. Considering the menial income of her sons, this was difficult to afford very often.

At the kitchen gardening trainings, Mirzadi learnt basic gardening skills and the knowledge to grow her own vegetables in her own little garden. Mirzadi found the “nutrition session” most interesting as it highlighted the importance of providing her family with nutritious food by consuming fresh and chemical free vegetables.

Upon the completion of the training, Mirzadi prepared a patch of land near her house to sow the seeds she received after the training. Soon after the seeds cultivated, producing fresh nutritious vegetables, Mirzadi observed a substantial decrease in her household, especially kitchen, expenses. This saving allowed her to keep the money for other domestic matters and healthcare needs. Mirzadi is successfully growing spinach, carrots, radish, garlic, coriander and tomatoes in her garden.

“My family is regularly consuming nutritious food including fresh and green vegetables from my kitchen garden,”

Mirzadi happily expressed.

“Kitchen Garden has proven to be very useful for our family as it has ensured a greater degree of self-sufficiency. Though my grandsons and granddaughters are living separately, I send them freshly grown vegetables from my garden to ensure their healthy diet as well.”

On Day 4, participants were involved in at the refresher training.

Under the “Women economic empowerment through disaster resilience approach, Sindh Province Project, a four days refresher training on “Sexual Reproductive Health(SRH) and Gender Based Violence (GBV)” of a theatre group was conducted in mid-March of this year. The first training of its kind was conducted in the start of the year when project was initiated. The objective of the refresher training was to enhance the group’s performance skills, dramatisation techniques and develop a thorough understanding on the topics of SRH and GBV to better represent them on stage. Exercises to improve confidence levels and adaption of more audience interactive methods were also practiced in the training to increase audience attention and performance impact.  It also aimed at prioritizing and highlighting the topic related issues to further build awareness among rural communities to change rigid mindsets.

Yousuf Dominic, a specialist consultant at Community World Service Asia, facilitated and lead this refresher workshop. Yousuf has an extensive experience of 22 years as a consultant trainer on various capacity building programs including gender equality, social mobilization and sexual reproductive health.

Before the start of this four day workshop, Yousaf had scheduled one whole day visiting the project field sites to observe the existing social and cultural gaps and to take note of field level operational issues. Ways to address the points noted during the field visit were carefully incorporated in the session plans of the workshop.

The training commenced with a brainstorming session in participation with all the theatre performers. At this session, Yousuf shared his findings and gave his feedback on the observations brought back from field. “I was glad to see the hard work and dedication the performers put in their work. However, more work needs to be done on early childhood marriages, health issues and women protection policies through more informative dialogues.” Yousaf emphasized on the importance of conducting social mapping in order to develop a clear understanding on common issues existing in the communities.

Thus, a social mapping exercise was carried out where participants were divided into groups. Each group identified various issues in their respective communities and the reasons behind their being. Each group then developed solutions for the issues identified and shared their proposed strategies with the others. This effective group activity allowed the participants to jointly identify five key issues, which were common among all communities:



  • Women harassment

     

  • Early child Marriage

  • Women ignored in decision-making

  • Girls Education

  • Restrictions on women

Through this training, performers were enabled to write stories and performance scripts on the issues of sexual reproductive health and gender based violence through group exercises and thorough discussions. After evaluating the stories shared by the participants, Yousuf expressed the importance of authenticity in writing stories and representing real life examples. He further elaborated that performers may work on stories through social mapping and prioritize their issues and develop more needs based stories which would have more impact and relativity for audiences.  In addition, Yousaf clarified, “Stories must have a clear introduction to the audience on the basic parameters and a very tangible reason, so that a positive and effective message is conveyed to the crowd.”

A story/show script was fully developed in the four day training through social mapping exercises. The participants wrote their dialogues keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issues. A final theater show was performed on the last day of the refresher training. Participants developed a comprehensive understanding on characterization and role plays during theatre shows.  Their story and script skills were enhanced and specific capacity was built on plot construction and characterization. All participants were then awarded certificates for their contribution, commitment and participation.

A group photo of Community World Service Asia Jhuddo staff with the delegation of Sindh Agricultural University.

A group of 37 students of the Rural Sociology Department, Sindh Univeristy, accompanied by senior professors and chairman of the Rural Sociology Department (RSD), visited Community World Service Asia’s Jhuddo Office this April. The purpose of the study tour was to orient students on the working methodologies and policies of humanitarian organizations and NGOs’ and the role and structure of Community Based Organizations (CBO). Something different from the usual theoretical classroom learnings at the RSD, this exposure tour was designed to familiarize students with the different cultures and living patterns of rural communities and provide them with a practical learning experience.

Ashar Nasir, Project Manager at Community World Service Asia, along with other staff, welcomed the group of students and faculty members at the local office. An introductory session, on the organization and its various projects and thematic areas, kick-started the exposure visit for the eager guests.

The group first visited Fazal Wadho village; one of the targeted villages of Community World Service Asia’s Promoting Sustainable Agriculture project in Badin. Participants were welcomed by members of the Community Based Organization (CBO). Mohammad Hassan, community representative of Fazal Wadho village, gave a detailed presentation on the village profile and its’ previous and existing initiatives with different organizations. He also briefed the participants on the history of the CBO’s  formation, its objectives  and their role in local development. This was followed by a question and answer sessions in which a student asked about the importance of CBOs at a community level. To his response, it was shared that CBOs bridge communication and networking gaps between feudal lords and higher officials and the local community people. The CBOs also amplify the voices of the  village people on local issues and together with concerned departments develop resolutions to those issues.

Community World Service Asia’s role, through their various Food Security and Livelihoods projects in the area, in forming the CBOs and VOs and equipping them with necessary resources and knowledge, was highlighted. The students and their faculty were told about the role the women of the community are playing in being trained on Nutrition and Kitchen Gardening to develop balanced nutritious diets for their families and themselves through the Sustainable Farming project in Badin. Many other field experiences were shared with the group, including the exposure visit to Sindh Agricultural University where the women project participants actively observed the workings of different departments. They also shared their experience of participating in the Farmers Festival which displayed their home grown vegetables on sale stalls and connected them with local retailers.

Dr. Ghulam Mujtaba Khushk, chairman of RSD, appreciated the efforts of the CBO in local development. He appreciated the informative and effective opportunity given to the students and the faculty members; increasing their knowledge and learning in relation to the different practicalities of rural life and how people of various local communities are being involved to build a sustainable livelihood together. The students and faculty members learnt about project implementation, project planning and social mobilization. Concluding the visit, Dr. Ghulam Mujtaba presented an appreciation letter and a shield to Community World Service Asia Team for their commitment and contribution to the communities.

Improving the capacities of education officials on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) skills contributes directly to the quality and accountability in reporting on education. It also impacts the expectations of schools and teachers that are held accountable for sub-professional behaviors, such as absenteeism.  Improved M&E systems would also support better reporting and would lead to improvement in information available to relevant decision-makers. To refine the existing system, a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Training was conducted in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan end of March this year for Provincial and District level education directorates. A total of 20 participants (men) attended the informative training at the Community World Service Asia office in Jalalabad.

Education officials in Afghanistan undertook joint monitoring visits to schools that are part of Community World Service Asia’s Girls Education Project to observe teacher trainings, classroom instructions and school-based civil education camps. In addition, they received coaching on appropriately utilizing M&E tools and on developing a comparative study of M&E systems run by other professionals in different fields.

The participants were trained on the difference between Monitoring and Evaluation processes and how to conduct an effective monitoring visit to thoroughly observe the teaching process of school teachers and the management system of school principals. During the training, the participants were engaged in various group activities where they developed monitoring and supervision plans and ways of using existing forms and formats of the Education Directorate for monitoring purposes, providing feedback and recommendations. Sessions on conflict resolution further modified the participants’ role in conflict management, if any existed in the schools.

Schools and teaching environments will benefit greatly through the commitment of effective M&E staff provided they are well equipped with knowledge and necessary skills in the said field. The monitors efficiently conduct visits and provide teachers and school management with good and constructive feedbacks and recommendations in order to improve. Furthermore, the regular visits of M & E officers will ensure systematic school management processes. The teachers’ teaching methods are observed to assure that new methods learnt from trainings are implemented rationally; existing gaps are identified and further improved accordingly. These trainings are vital as it enhances monitoring systems in the Ministry of Education and fulfils the aim of ensuring quality education within the targeted schools.

A stall showcasing antiques and cultural shawls which attracted many people at the festivals.

The Sindh Culture and Tourism Department organized a two-day “Thar and Parker Festival” at the historical Umerkot Fort from the 24th – 25th of March. The various arts and crafts of the culturally rich Thar were put on display on a number of stalls at the vibrant festival. Apparel, rillies, handbags, fancy clutches, jewelry and other handmade crafts were on display and for sale. The entertaining event featured cultural activities such as camel and horse races, folk musical concerts and standing stalls of delicious local food.

The festival was inaugurated by Syed Sardar Ali Shah, Minister of Culture and Tourism in Sindh. “This festival will show the more beautiful facets of our rich desert which has formerly remained hidden as the region has predominantly been known for its natural disasters and subsequent deaths of children,” announced Mr. Shah. He added that such events will bring back harmony and a cultural spirit to the region which has suffered consistently in the past. Dost Mohammad Rahimoon, MPA Sindh, also present at the inauguration ceremony added, “The festival will provide a forum to people to showcase their rich culture and traditions for the entire world to see.”

Local artisans of Umerkot, along with Community World Service Asia staff, participated at the event, showcasing and promoting their handicrafts from Umerkot and Thatta. A range of products including casual apparel, jewelry and other home accessories produced under the brand “Taanka” were exhibited for sale at the festival. A large number of people visited the stall and watched the artisans hand make some of the products “live”. Syed Sardar Shah, also paid visited the Taanka stall and appreciated the quality work of the artisans that stood out among the many stalls at the festival.

Women from near and far villages, attended the event and were very happy to see a large variety of cultural apparels and antiques at the stalls. Families enjoyed tableau and the many music and theatre shows being performed by local communities and theater groups. Folk musician sang and entertained audiences at the festival for hours and received much applause and cheers. The festival ended with sparkling, large fireworks on the second day, lightening the lives of the people of Thar with color, happiness and celebration.

A walk was commenced to observe Health Day at Rural Health Center, Hyderfarm.

Community World Service Asia is provides medical care with a focus on maternal, neonatal and child health (MNCH) through supporting three Rural Health Centers (RHC) in Umerkot since 2015. These health centres provide healthcare to the most vulnerable communities affected by recurrent natural disasters, disease and poverty. The primary aim is to provide medical care through curative and preventive services while adopting a community-based approach by ensuring participation of village health committees and government health department.

The MNCH team organized World Health Day on 7th April at the RHCs in Umerkot in participation of a large number of community members from catchment area, government health staff of each RHC and professionals from NGOs and Civil Society Organizations. The main focus of the day was the topic of “Depression” which was the universal theme of this international day globally. Attention was also given to other more common health issues in the area such as heatstroke, diarrhea and anemia.

Depression is one of the many results of poor health, poverty, economic and social injustices and power imbalance prevalent in the rural society. The main purpose of celebrating this day was to raise common public awareness on various health issues and to sensitize the community and paramedic staff on mitigating the health problems common in the community through self-care and knowledge building.

Topics discussed on World Health Day in Umerkot:


  • To increase public awareness regarding various causes and preventive measures of depression

     


  • To provide detail knowledge of getting prevented from various diseases including diarrhea and missiles.

  • To encourage most vulnerable groups of people to frequently and regularly checkup the women during pregnancy in MNCH Centers.

  • To promote self-care among people of rural area.

  • To motivate the paramedic staff to make their efforts in providing health facility to vulnerable community of the catchment area of all three RHCs.

Medical Superintendents (MSs) of each health facility, health committee representatives, community activists and project staff gave orientations to the community members including men, women and children, on the major causes, prevention and mitigation of depression, heatstrokes and diarrhea. They imparted key messages on good health that aimed to enable men, women and children to lead healthy and productive lives and continue being of valuable existence in lives of their families and communities.

Rural healthcare lags in quality, affordability, and accessibility for several reasons. The main problem faced by health authorities in this regard is lack of awareness. One of the major reasons for such a deplorable state of health in these areas is the lack of health facilities. The establishment of health centers is ensuring better health and is supporting an improved standard of living for the people of rural Sindh.

“Daughters have always been preferred in our family, unlike other families in the village. My husband and I have never given priority to our two sons over our two daughters. We love all of them equally,”

said Hurmi, a resident of Haji Chanesar village in Umerkot. Hurmi is the Vice President of the Steering Committee of the village and a gender activist in the area.

“My first child was a daughter. Normally in our community, daughters are considered as burdens and families are not so happy when a girl is born. But the case was different at our home. I am lucky to have a husband who loves daughters more.”

When the skills development center was set up at Haji Chanesar Village, Hurmi helped identify artisans who were most in need of a sustainable livelihood. Later in the project stage, a steering committee was formed for which Hurmi was nominated as Vice President by the unanimous vote of the artisans themselves.

“After the Community Management Skill Training, the Steering Committee was well equipped with knowledge on how to manage communities and resolve their issues and conflicts. As the Vice President, my role was more influential as many expected me to bring change in the rigid traditions we have been following for years.”

“The center brought countless benefits to women and girls in residual and nearby villages. They used to work in the fields in the season of cotton picking. Parents of young girls felt insecure sending their daughters to the fields, as they worked under the scorching sun and the bushes and thorns would tear their clothes or injure them. The center serves as a shadow in their lives. We encouraged the men of our families to send their wives, sisters and daughters to the center without a worry as the environment is safe and secure. Women in our area now work without worrying about traveling long distances while carrying heavy crops on their heads.”

As a dedicated member of the Steering Committee, Hurmi worked actively for the well-being of her fellow villagers. Recognizing her consistent efforts and dedication, Hurmi was selected as a participant of a ToT for Gender Activists.

“When I joined the Gender Group as an activist, my in-laws and neighbors discouraged me saying such activities for women were not part of our culture and it was not right to let women and girls talk so boldly on sensitive issues. My husband on the other hand, supported me strongly. He motivated me to work as a gender activist and change the mind-sets of the people who did not allow their daughters to grow socially and economically,”

reiterated Hurmi with a confident smile.

“When I started working as a gender activist, I realized that the people in these rural communities are still living in a backward world, where caste difference was a firm way of life. One of the reasons for some families to not send their daughters to the skills center was the issue of caste difference. They could not allow their daughters to sit with women belonging to a lower caste than them. They also believed that sending their daughters to the skill building center will bring dishonor to their traditions and cultural values,”

narrated Hurmi disappointedly,

“We conducted gender awareness sessions. We also led sessions to individual households to have a direct impact. Girls in our village started to go to school and early childhood marriages started to decrease.”

“Recently, a 16-year-old girl was getting married in our village. Our gender activist group visited the household and briefed the family about the problems young girls face in early marriages. When the girl’s in-laws (to be) came to schedule the wedding for February 23rd, the father of the 16-year-old refused instantly. The in-laws were furious to see his reaction. The daughter’s family called us to talk to the in-laws and explain the disadvantages of early childhood marriages to them as well. When the in-laws were also enlightened on the subject, they too understood and postponed the marriage to three years later. It is not just about one change in one house. People have started to think over many rigid traditions followed by us for ages as a result of these awareness sessions.”

“There was another instance of a man named Mohan. His wife, Dhai, was very disturbed as Mohan use to drink a lot. He used to waste his earnings on buying alcohol. He did not even spare Dhai’s minimum wage which she earned through stitching and agricultural work. He even hit Dhai when he was drunk. He once hit her with a small axe while he was drunk. He also used to beat his children. We tried to talk to him but he did not listen. So, we went to a doctor to talk about Mohan’s condition. We requested the doctor to scare Mohan by lying to him, stating that his health is weakening. When Mohan fell ill, the doctor came to Mohan and stated that he has cancer. Mohan got so scarred that he stopped consuming alcohol himself. Mohan has not been drinking since three months now. His wife is very relieved as he does not hit her or her children as his mental state has now improved. He does not waste money on drinking now and is more calm and caring towards his family. Yesterday, our steering committee held a meeting with the villagers. At the meeting, Mohan informed us that he has quit smoking as well. His wife is very happy now. Everybody in the village is curious to know how Mohan has changed so much.”

It is important for women to participate proactively for work on gender equality as only women can understand the problems of other women well enough. They will work towards resolving issues in a more realistic and practical manner.

“Women easily communicate their issues to us. I am happy when I help others to live a better life, especially when daughters are treated well. Now that we have been given a chance to live a better life, we must walk forward together to build a progressive society instead of letting each other down. I wish to see an all girls’ educated and equality based society”