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Farmer families in Badin trained in Kitchen Gardening through Clay Pitcher Technology with the purpose to grow vegetables

Many rural communities in Badin have benefited from Community World Service Asia’s and CFGB’s Food security project, which started in 2015. This initiative seeks to ensure food security and sustainability in rural areas by providing villagers innovative farming skills. By doing this, they are positively impacting the community sustainably by guiding them on how to acquire their own necessities rather than merely distributing tangible products such as food kits or shelters. Through the project, villagers are encouraged to become self-sufficient instead of dependent on external assistance.

Using various methods, the project is equipping rural communities of Badin with essential knowledge on health, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture. The project recently held a Farmers Festival for women farmers to celebrate World Food Day and the achievements of these farmers over the last two years. The festival featured many performances, including poem recitals, song competitions, and two didactic dramas enacted by local children and the village’s theater group, which has been formed as part of Community World Service Asia’s projects in the area. More than three hundred and fifty women from Union Council Khairpur Gambo and Pangario of Badin and fifteen elementary school students from the same area participated in the festival. The children (students) enlightened the attendees at the festival on the  importance of kitchen gardening, tree plantations, good nutrition, environment conservation and the history of World Food Day through tableau performances. Representatives from the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP), Participatory Village Development Programme (PVDP), Arche Nova, Society for Safe Environment and Welfare of Agrarians in Pakistan (SSEWA-Pak) and Local Support Organizations (LSOs) also participated at the festival.

I came to this festival because the project staff has become like family. They teach us so much that I respect them. When I received the invitation to this festival, I was very excited to attend the event. The atmosphere in this festival is delightful. It is a wonderful opportunity for us women to come out of our houses, enjoy ourselves, and learn. What we learn will help us change our lives,

remarked, Fozia Iftikar one of the farmers at the festival.

The mother of four children, aged between 4-11 years, Fozia deeply cares for her family. She hopes that her children will be able to learn vocational skills that will help them in the future but has not yet been able to find an opportunity for them. Fozia lives in Shukaraldin, a rural village of Badin, where her husband works as a farmer on a small plot of his own land. Due to the nature of his work, Fozia’s husband does not earn a steady monthly income. Fozia explained,

After every six months, my husband sells whatever crop he has been growing on the land, and we live off the profits. However, we have to wait for that income since some crops, like cotton and peppers, take six months until they are ready to sell.

Fozia is not able to do full-time work because of her young children, but she does sewing at home. She rarely receives sewing commissions, and when she does, they are usually from relatives. Thus, the family’s main source of income is through her husband’s farming. The family is dependent on the water and weather for their crop’s wellbeing, creating an unstable financial foundation for the family.

Two years ago, Fozia started growing a kitchen garden after the team came to her village and began to teach the community about health and nutrition. They encouraged the villagers to create kitchen gardens so that families would have food security and eat more healthily. Fozia shared,

We learn a lot from the project team who taught us about health and hygiene. Because of this teaching, my family has been able to prosper. We didn’t know anything about growing vegetables until they taught us about it. My family did not pay any attention to health, but now we are all very interested in this matter.

Community World Service Asia holds teaching sessions in Fozia’s village once or twice a month. The staff teaches the community members about agricultural techniques so that kitchen gardeners will be able to maintain their produce. Sessions for men on  fishing and other food-gaining practices are also held.

Fozia confidently asserted that it is easy to maintain her kitchen garden, and she appreciates the change—in terms of finances and health—that it has brought in her family.

I am very happy,

she expressed,

I like eating my freshly grown vegetables. The healthiest diet for my family is to eat our homegrown vegetables.

Ever since Fozia’s family has been eating homegrown vegetables, the family has had some extra money, initially used to purchase vegetables. They use it on other household necessities, such as oil, sugar, clothes, and the children’s school books. Moreover, when Fozia’s kitchen garden has excess vegetables, she either sells them to generate more income, or she gives them to people who do not have any food.

Fozia has also noticed that her family’s health has improved. She estimates that in a year, there may be one or two illnesses among her children, but no more than that. Furthermore, she noted that her family is much more energetic than they were when they ate vegetables from town.

This kitchen garden has had positive effects on my family. We eat clean and healthy food which has improved our health,

Fozia declared.

Fozia’s children did not like eating vegetables before, so the family often ate lentils, the children’s favorite meal. Fozia did not know the nutritional value of vegetable before. However, after Community World Service Asia began holding sessions in her village, she discovered that their diet was unhealthy. Now, the family consumes vegetables at least once a day rather than only once or twice a week as they did previously. After Fozia began attending the sustainable farming sessions, her family has much more variety in their diet.

The vegetables that we used to buy in town are grown with polluted water, and they were always several days old when we bought them. On the other hand, the water I use to grow my vegetables at home is clean, safe water. Our homegrown vegetables are much fresher than the ones in town. We grow all sorts of vegetables at home, such as tomatoes, cauliflowers, pumpkins, squash, and many more. Homegrown food is optimal for my family’s wellbeing.

Rural women have been trained in kitchen gardening under the food security project. Fozia Iftikhar is just one of many women who have benefited from the project. Another woman farmer, Heeri, from village Prem Nagar, Jhudo, expressed herself at the farmers’ festival,

The kitchen gardening training build our skills and knowledge in growing vegetables at home. Before this, we always had to buy vegetables from the nearby market which was not only tasteless but also difficult to purchase due to high prices. With the kitchen gardening training and vegetable seeds provided by the livelihoods team, we are no more dependent on our men to fetch vegetables from the nearby market.

 She further added that the nutrition training also helped enhance inclination towards taking healthy and balanced diets through the food that is available to them.

Nasreen, another farmer, from Shukarddin Araen village, Jhudo, further added,

Kitchen gardening is a ray of hope for me and my family. My family enjoys fresh and chemical free vegetables from our garden. In addition, I have earned PKR 35000 by selling fresh vegetables in nearby markets. This has improved our standard of living.

The community will continue these kitchen gardens. We did not force this project on people. All we did was sensitized and mobilized them. People are beginning to realize the benefits of kitchen gardens themselves,

a staff member of the project assured.

Hundred percent of the target families have been trained in nutrition and kitchen gardening, providing fresh vegetables at the doorstep of villagers. Families were provided with vegetables seeds to grow in their kitchen gardens. This availability of vegetable at their doorstep not only increased diversity in their meals but also enhanced the quality and quantity of food consumption of the targeted families. A periodic survey report revealed that acceptable food consumption score of the targeted families have increased up to 70% at the end of second year of the project implementation. This was at 43 % initially. Through the teaching sessions in villages, the food security project staff hopes to see continued development in the communities of Badin. The change evidenced in the lives of village women, such as Fozia Iftikhar, reveals that the project is bringing the world one step closer to achieving the second sustainable development goal: Zero Hunger.

The use of visual communication in documents and presentations not only facilitates anchoring the attention of readers and retaining higher recall value but also makes content easy to comprehend; saving time and reducing reading fatigue. And most importantly, visual content incites a relationship of empathy and emotions between the reader and the subject or scenario described. Recognizing the value addition of this form of communication, there is an increased demand of more visual representation in reports, documents, and presentations in the aid and development sector as well. Reports with more visual data and information have higher readability and a greater acceptance by the audience. With the dynamics changing, the use of visual communication is becoming more and more essential.

Mehar Aftab Salma, Communications Officer in Aga Khan Planning and Building Service (AKPBS), Pakistan, rightly identifies these changing dynamics,

The way people consume their information is changing dramatically each and every day. With the rise in mediums such as blogging, live-tweeting, and video streaming, the way you reach your audience is never going to be the same again.

Mehar started working with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) when she was undertaking her Bachelors degree in Computer Sciences. She has been affiliated with AKDN for more than ten years now. “

I have worked under different agencies of Aga Khan Development Network. For more than six years, I was working with Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) in Gilgit, which focused on working for poverty reduction and socio- economic development. I am currently a Communications Officer at the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan (AKPBSP)

Today, it’s easy for information to get lost or overlooked if it is not in an easily consumable format. Integrating visual content into your regular and annual reporting can boost the level of information your audience can absorb and remember.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to capturing your audience’s attention, you want to take full advantage of every chance you get to communicate your message,

says Mehar Aftab. She further elaborated that her field of work encouraged her to continue studying in a related field of her choice which allowed her to complete her Masters in Business Administration with specialization in Marketing.

The best part of my job is the different mode of communications I use to connect with the audience. We communicate through images, photo stories, case studies, news articles, videos and documentaries.

My role focuses on developing and sharing weather updates, monitoring media, developing quarterly e-newsletters, collaborating with other organizations on similar themes, drafting press releases and media briefs, development of IEC material for awareness raising, event and activity reporting and developing documentaries to share project challenges as well as successes.  In times of disasters, my role becomes that of an emergency communicator in which I am in continuous coordination with the program departments established close to or at the disaster area, for updates. In order to be accurate and updated with the right kind of information, I gather updates through phone or by travelling to the concerned area. By the end of the day, a situation report produced with details of the disaster and assistance being provided by AKDN agencies

.

Prior to the training, Mehar worked on Coral Draw, Photoshop and Publisher for photo designing and editing.

Having a basic understanding of the software, I managed to work on the software. There were times when I needed to go through some tutorials or ask a friend for technical help. Through a colleague, I got to know about the Visual Communications Course offered by Community World Service Asia. It immediately caught my attention and I wanted to attend this training as it was a good learning opportunity. The agenda of the training was delivering the theoretical and practical aspects of visual communications which I thought was very interesting.  The techniques and visual modes are constantly changing with time in the communications field. For this I believed that the training would help update us on concepts, knowledge and skills to deliver advanced and appealing visual content. In addition, I was expecting a platform of a diverse group of people from the communication and development world and an opportunity to share learning experiences with them.

My learning started from the day I heard about the training. I was eager to attend the training but it was difficult to leave my thirteen-year old daughter behind for seven days with my husband. The team was very cooperative and offered to accommodate me with my child. Hence with the support of Community World Service Asia’s team, I managed to maintain my work and motherhood balance,

shared Mehar with a smile.

During the seven-day training on Tools of Visual Communication in the Development Sector, conducted in Murree this July, participants were enlightened with basic knowledge and the technicalities of visual communications. This included theoretical sessions on the various terms, formats and new modes of communication as well as practical sessions on how to use basic and latest communication equipment and softwares to develop content and achieve effective visual communication.

I knew the basic handling techniques of DSLR. However, the minor details of how to capture an impactful picture with all details like framing, posture of sitting, focus of subject, bringing out the inspirational and motivational aspect of pictures was new to me in the training. In addition, the diverse group of people differed in theme of work, age and organizations. Their experiences were different and to know their experience and challenges and how they overcame it in their work was a wonderful learning opportunity.

There were many young participants in the training who were more experienced with camera and tripod handling. They helped me during the practical sessions on how to use the DSLR and with placing it correctly on the tripod and how to use the tripod most effectively. The most interesting learning for me was when a participant from Doaba shared his knowledge and practice at work. Doaba also works in disaster management. He shared that he publishes information on areas or people which have experienced living through disasters to raise awareness and share information. It was an innovative approach which I thought of initiating once I got back too. This will allow a comprehensive awareness to the reading audience.

The training covered all aspects of visual communications.

The session on video making was all-inclusive. The facilitator, Imran Lashari, briefed all participants on how to edit and add relevant coverage through the use of Premiere Pro, software for professional video production. Graphical inputs were explained to make videos appealing and effective. Participants were also trained to provide technical feedback when reviewing and finalizing documentaries.

Normally the development of documentaries and videos are out-sourced. The communications department is in constant correspondence with them delivering all details required to showcase in the videos. Mehar was unable to provide technical feedback prior to the Visual Communications Training. The final piece of video had to be reviewed in detail but Mehar lacked in technical knowledge, therefore was unable to share feedback in relation to the post-production of the video.

The team hired for documentary making consists of technical experts. The training assisted in enhancing knowledge in the technicalities of video making,

added Mehar,

After the training, I have worked on two documentaries with the consultant teams. One focused on disaster management is in its finalization process and the video footage for the other is being gathered. While sharing inputs, I analyzed all aspects and gave detailed reviews. The consultant team was quite impressed and recommended me to join a video production house. Moreover, we are making an animated clip for the community and school students focusing on avalanche preparedness. During its initial briefing with the consultant, I confidently shared descriptive ideas on how to capture videos to make the clip short and crisp.

There is a need to deliver the right kind of message through videos and pictures to make a real impact.

We develop a lot of IEC material for disaster preparedness, health, hygiene and safer habitat awareness and it includes manuals, brochures, posters and briefs which are printed and distributed in various communities.  The newly learnt skills will really support me in developing impactful content which will help in delivering effective messages to the audiences.

I am more confident on providing feedback on visual content I receive from teams or consultants now. Even while developing a presentation, I am more selective of which picture to use to relate perfectly with the written text. The understanding of connectivity has been built which has improved the quality of my work. The quality of our visibility material has improved exceptionally with this new found essence of innovation.

A two-day workshop on the Sendai Framework for Action (SFA), an international legal framework for implementing disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects, was conducted for stakeholders of the humanitarian and disaster management community in Kabul, Afghanistan this November. The workshop was conducted by Community World Service Asia and supported by the Japan Platform (JFP) and the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA). The prime objective of the workshop was to orient participants on the SFA, enhance their understanding in order to use it more effectively and to identify its gaps while working in the Afghanistan context.

A total of sixty humanitarian actors and policy makers representing the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock MAIL, UN Agencies (UN-WFP, UN-IOM) , Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), INGOs, and NGOs, participated in this learning event.

Afghanistan being a signatory to the SFA, the ANDMA took an active part in the workshop and their Director of International Relations, Mohammad Omar Mohammadi, also welcomed the audience and expressed his gratitude towards Community World Service Asia for arranging this workshop. He believed that this workshop would really enhance ANDMA staff’s level of understanding on the framework and would further enable them to improve the implementation of DRR activities and policies at a national level.

Emmeline Mae Managbanag, Deputy Director at Community World Service Asia (CWSA) in Afghanistan briefed the participants on CWSA’s DRR initiatives, coordination, and partnership with ANDMA since 2008. She further conveyed that the organization has been active in DRR through a number of projects. This was followed by a presentation by Ezzatullah Siddiqui, advisor to the ANDMA. He introduced the workshop overview and explained Afghanistan’s overall disaster management system and its current international cooperation on DRR status.

The workshop included both presentations on SFA and practical group activities on its various priorities and outcomes. Participants knowledge on key SFA areas such as its history dating back to the Hyogo Framework for Action, it’s scope and purpose, expected outcomes, targets, priorities for action, guidance principles and stakeholder roles was developed and in some cases further enhanced.

Participants representing UN agencies and iMMA shared their DRR policies and projects and its impact in Afghanistan so that other participants, specially ANDMA, could learn from their experiences and would subsequently help them in preparing their national report on the Sendai Framework for Action. In a group activity participants explored gap analyses of the DRR work in Afghanistan. They specifically focused on the areas of the country that needed improved national level DRR initiatives. Through the group exercise, participants learnt how to identify and address  gaps on Capacity, Implementation, Systems, resourcing and coordination mechanism in DRR work in the country.

This group work allowed participants to share their experiences on improvement in the field in Afghanistan. Participants learnt a lot from each other. The workshop facilitator advised participants on how to use SFA for DRR. He discussed the application areas of SFA for each organization, main actions points to use for SFA and the support required for implementation of the framework.

Participants’ knowledge and understanding was assessed through an evaluation test post training.  The average pre-test score was 30% while the post-test score was 75%. This reveals a 45% improvement in participants’ understanding on the Sendai Framework for Action workshop.

Participants, including ANDMA key personnel, agreed to use Sendai Framework for Action and showed their commitment towards its successful implementation.

Community World Service Asia, with the support of Act for Peace (AfP) has set up three Rural Health Centres (RHC) in in the villages of Nabiser, Dhoronaro and Hyder Farm, located in the Umerkot district of Sindh in Pakistan since 2015. These health centres are run and managed by Community World Service Asia and are supporting more than 100,000 people in the district. The RHCs provide routine OPDs, Reproductive Health Services, Family Planning Services, Health Education Sessions, Antenatal and Postnatal services, and also provide free of cost medication and a full range of preventive health coverage.

The community mobilizers assigned with these RHCS regularly visit and monitor the catchment population to mobilize, organize and increase the awareness of the communities residing in these areas on health issues. They are also delivering health awareness sessions for men and women in their villages and for children in their schools.

Access to well-equipped health facilities is a major issue for most rural communities in Sindh. In order to provide health services nearly at the doorstep of these deprived communities, free medical camps were organized in three different Union Councils in the farther catchment areas of the RHCs. The religious ethnicities of the communities where the medical camps were set up were mainly Hindu and Muslims, belonging to different sects and castes of each religion.

The Medical camps services focused primarily on Mother and Child Care. The first two camps were set up at the Syed Muhammad Memon village and Abdul Majeed Arain village through the 24th and 25th of November, while the third camp was organized at the Daim Nohri village on the 30th November. Apart from delivering free consultations, free medicines were also provided to patients visiting the camps. Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI), Gastritis, Diarrhea, flu and fever were found to be the most common health concerns while diagnosing patients at these camps.

Antenatal cards were also issued to pregnant women visiting the medical camps and were advised to visit their nearby Rural Health Center for further consultation and medication. The lady medical officers at the camps shared key awareness messages on the importance and methods of family planning. Community Mobilizers conducted sessions on Child Spacing, family planning and the importance of check-ups during pregnancy among camp visitors as well.

A focal person from the town committee also visited the medical camp and appreciated the efforts of the health team involved and emphasized on the need to conduct these camps on a monthly basis.

The three villages where the camps were set up were all at a distance of seven to nine kilometres from the district of Umerkot. These areas were identified as the most vulnerable in terms of access to health facilities and frequency of diseases. Most of the community members from these villages are unskilled laborers and farmers who cannot afford expensive medical treatment or travel costs to health centres in the cities.

Honestly, neither the students nor was I actually enjoying the lessons,

confessed 3rd grade Mathematics teacher Inayatullah. Teaching at the Zangue Girls High School in Behsood District of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, for the past four years, Inayatullah has a students capacity of 77 in each of his two classes.

In these four years of his teaching,  Inayatullah had been using traditional teaching methods that he had learned during his academic years. Rather than engaging his students in the classroom, he taught them through lectures and theory based learning methods which led the students to lose interest in the subject and topics taught. This was damaging the quality of the school’s education standards and was leading to absenteeism. Inayatullah had not been introduced to new and interactive teaching methods then so he went with what he knew only.  With time, Inayatullah observed that many students in his class could not even identify [alphabet] letters easily and were not able to combine letter to spell or read our words properly. This was very worrisome for him as a teacher as well as for the institute.

In March 2016, Inayatullah got the opportunity to participate in a five-day teachers training conducted by Community World Service Asia. The training was conducted for school teachers to learn about new teaching methodologies to be able to establish child friendly classroom environments and to motivate students towards learning. It focused on enhancing teachers’ capacities on being more interactive in their teaching styles and finding ways of actively involving students in daily classroom activities. The teachers were trained on development and utilization of various low and no cost teaching methods and teaching aid materials. Moreover, the teachers were encouraged to form student groups in their classes, assign various tasks to each group and conduct group work exercises with them to ensure students involvement in classroom activities. This will bring into practise the learning by doing theory. As a result of this training, the teachers adopted different teaching methods and started using colorful and visually appealing materials during classroom learning sessions making the lessons easily understandable and interesting for their students.

One activity introduced to the teachers in the training was the “Morning Meetings”. This, among other exercises, was something new and interesting for Inayatullah. Teachers were encouraged to use the Morning Meeting activity to help students and teachers interact with each other through questions and answers. A simple question like “What is your favourite fruit?” would spark up conversations regarding likes and dislikes of students and teachers.

I liked the Morning Meeting activity with the students the most. It not only helps establish a trusting and friendly relationship between the teachers and students but it also improves students’ confidence in sharing ideas, asking questions, and discussing issues with each other.

According to Inayatullah, prior to the training, teachers mostly used the lecture method or reading from the book, which was not only hard for students to understand but they also lost attention of students very easily during class.

As i started using the many creative teaching methods i had learnt in the training, not only did my students start engaging and participating more in class activities but it also made the learning easier for students. They responded to new lessons much more and much better now.

Inayatullah now forms four to five groups of students in his classroom and assign tasks to each group to carry out during the day. By carrying their responsibilities, they are involved in classroom activities, feel a sense of ownership and are confident.

Inayatullah regularly develops teaching plans which he follows on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis now. This helps him set targets and utilizes various activities he has learnt in each of his lesson. He has also started using low-cost or free teaching materials to help students learn. The various activities and games he now uses have created a child-friendly and a nurturing environment in the classroom. This productive learning space is encouraging students to become more and more participative classroom activities, and shows the improving students’ interest in school and learning activities. Inayatullah further expressed,

The biggest change I have observed is the improved learning ability of the students and decreased number of absentees in my classroom. The students can easily read and write now and are learning better. The quality and accuracy of their homework has improved by more than 50% in just six months. This is a tremendous achievement for both the students and me.

Last year after an unfortunate encounter in Pakistan, Jumadin, living a life of a refugee for 30 years, sold all his belongings and returned with his family to Afghanistan. Jumadin, a disabled man, begged for money on the streets and well-off neighborhoods of Peshawar in Pakistan as a means of earning for his family. One day, however, after collecting his daily money on the streets, he got into a dispute with the local authorities and was taken into custody.

Following the incident, Jumadin with his parents, wife and six children, fled Pakistan and crossed the border to settle back in his country. The family migrated to the village of Murkondy, Mehterlam in the Laghman Province of Afghanistan. They started living in an extremely old, terribly conditioned two-room house. Even back in Afghanistan, Jumadin continued to beg for money in order to support his family, and also asked wealthier families for charity in the form of food and clothes.

Six months ago however, Jumadin’s life took a positive turn as he was selected as a recipient of cash and food supplies under Community World Service Asia’s Emergency Response to Afghan Refugees and IDPs project. An elderly villager had submitted Jumadin’s name for selection under the project after which the project team surveyed the destitute family’s living conditions and needs. Looking at the results, they immediately selected him as a recipient. Consequently, Jumadin received cash amounting to AFN 13,000 (Approx. 189 USD) for two months.

Jumadin spent some of this money on purchasing basic food supplies for his family, and saved AFN 9,000 (Approx. 130 USD) to begin a small family-run business of his own so that he could provide a sustainable income for his family. Jumadin’s wife cooks salty peas every night, and his fourteen-year-old son then sells them in the village market the next day, generating about AFN 400 a day (Appox. 6 USD). Jumadin’s sixteen-year-old son now works as a conductor in a private car service, earning a a daily wage of AFN 300 (Appox. 5 USD). With these improving family income conditions, Jumadin no longer resorts to begging and instead stays home to support his family.

It was with the help of Community World Service Asia that we started the small business. As a result, I am now a happier person and no longer suffer from exhaustion, poverty, and poor living conditions,

shared a thankful Jumadin.

As he was sharing his story, Jumadin prayed for Community World Service Asia to continue this kind of assistance, for disabled people especially, so that they can live peaceful lives and support their families.

Social mobilization is the backbone of any non-governmental organization.  Since most work of NGOs are centered around communities, social mobilizations becomes essential,

insightfully remarked, social worker Umme.

Social workers act as changing agents in the society by motivating communities to think about their social and economic problems in a community forum. This enables the community to work together in achieving their mutual goals of social welfare.

Forty-seven-years-old Umme Kalsoom Siyal, resident of one of the poorest and most under-developed areas of Punjab, Pakistan, has always had a passion for social empowerment and improvement. Umme is the first woman social worker from Dera Ghazi Khan, a district in Southern Punjab province of Pakistan, and home to a community that largely discourages women from stepping out of their homes, even for basic needs. Umme, however, is a fearless lady who not only stands up for herself but also for the disadvantaged community around her. Her numerous demanding experiences in her social work reveal this inner strength and resolution, encouraging her to never give up.

Umme first began her career in social work in 1994 as a supervisor, along with her husband, in an education project called “Alif Laam Mim.” The education department tasked them with conducting a survey of fifty nonfunctional schools so that they could devise school improvement plans. Umme recalls,

This field task was extremely difficult. We had to travel for 7-8 hours on a motorbike to reach the schools, which were located in the desert. Sometimes, it would take days to reach the right places. When we started working in the field, we observed that people had to deal with manifold issues; low income, poor health, food, education and others.

As Umme and her husband sought to empower struggling communities, the communities developed high expectations from the couple. Consequently, Umme and her husband decided to establish Social Youth Council of Patriots (SYCOP), which works with communities to improve their lives. SYCOP was registered in 1996 under a government act in 1961. The organization had humble beginnings, as it began in a one-room office in Rajanpur. However, it slowly expanded over the next twenty-one years into a highly distinguished non-governmental organization.

Umme and her husband first worked as supervisors in SYCOP, but after her husband’s death, Umme took charge as Executive Director. In addition to this role, Umme is a member of Zila Council Assembly and Punjab Commission on the Status of Women from Dera Ghazi Khan Division.

Notwithstanding her countless years of social work, Umme had never received proper training on social mobilization before she attended Community World Service Asia’s training in July this year. Rather, she learnt all her social mobilization skills through her fieldwork and had no knowledge of the specific tools used in social mobilization. However, this summer, Umme learned the fundamentals of social mobilization through the training in July.

The training not only personally benefited Umme, but it also had positive impacts on SYCOP.

During the training, Umme easily connected with the other participants, and they exchanged their field experiences and discussed community behaviors. This exchange of ideas benefited the participants, as they had diverse experiences and came from all over Pakistan. Umme is still in contact with the friends she made at the training, and they share networking and funding opportunities with each other. Umme explained,

Sharing this experience and conversing with participants has left me with innovative ideas and ambitions for the future.

Furthermore, Umme learnt risk management and conflict resolution at the training.

That was the first time I realized how important it is to go to a new community fully prepared. Social mobilizers should be aware of the underlying community conflicts and risks so that they can develop a risk management plan.

Umme also appreciated the experience of conducting a mock survey on Disaster Risk Reduction with a trainer in a village since she learnt all the practical steps of initiating such a field survey. She particularly benefited from this exercise as SYCOP is also working on Disaster Risk Reduction, so she says it could help SYCOP to replicate the same activity with their communities. In the activity at the social mobilization training, the participants conducted a field survey on hazard identification and then held a community meeting.

Another key part of the social mobilization training was cost management. The training improved Umme’s budgeting skills, so now Umme can discuss SYCOP projects with partners and donors with more clarity. Therefore, Umme is more confident in negotiating project agreements for her organization. Moreover, her communication skills have also improved through Community World Service Asia’s social mobilization training. These skills have helped her build contacts and linkages with other stakeholders’ including government departments, civil society organizations, communities and staff.

Umme replicated the social mobilization training with the SYCOP staff and also shared training results with her board members. They plan to develop a social mobilization strategy for SYCOP, as the organization intends to register with the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan at a national level.

SYCOP has enhanced its’ mobilization skills, and now the staff is working on the field on challenging projects, such as reproductive health. Umme believes that it is important to work with men first in order to break social taboos as it is difficult to get women participation in such projects. She said that her team discussed the health issues of women in the community with their husbands openly and made them realize to prioritize health needs of their wives. After listening to them, they acknowledged SYCOP for taking such useful initiatives and asked them to work with women and protect their lives.

Umme asserted,

The social mobilization training met my expectation, and I am happy that I not only learnt myself, but also that I passed on the information to the other staff. In this way, I transferred the training’s benefits to the communities with which they work.

Umme recently experienced an incident of community conflict while working with the community. A dispute between two community members of a target village of SYCOP was adversely affecting the progress of one of their projects. Umme called both members to the SYCOP office and had individual meetings with them. In these meetings, she discussed the matter in detail with them by listening to them and identifying the reasons for conflict. Hereafter, Umme held a joint meeting with both of them in which she calmly discussed the issue. She gave both of them time to talk to each other and understand each other’s point of view. Both the parties were able to clear their misunderstanding by the end of the discussions. Umme expressed,

I believe that there is no conflict which cannot be resolved through discussion.

The Social Mobilization Training equipped Umme with necessary tools that will strengthen her social work, harnessing her potential to achieve even greater accomplishments in social mobilization.

Before construction, the road was narrow and the ground was not leveled.

Community World Service Asia is working in partnership with Christian Aid towards making the hazard prone communities of Thatta more resilient to disasters and its impacts through various participatory activities. Under this project, small mitigation schemes have been designed to provide access and safe evacuation to make communities more resilient to flooding, cyclones and other natural hazards.

Following a series of meetings between community mobilization and community based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) teams, the design and implementation of the mitigation scheme for Raeem Dino Thaheem village was planned.  After attending the Village Development Training conducted in May this year, the Village Organization (VO) of Raeem Dino Thaheem listed down the issues faced in the village on priority basis. Referring to this list, the project team decided to work on reconstructing the main road linking the village to Bello and Darro city.

Laborers to work on the road construction were selected from amongst the VO members of the village in question. A total of ten VO members from Raeem Dino worked on leveling the ground and widening the road through earth-filling. These laborers worked effortlessly for ten days under the cash for work scheme of the project. As a result, the road was successfully completed within the timeline, benefiting approximately 1500 people residing in Raeem Dino Thaeem and nearby villages.

Ali Hassan, a member of the Rahim Dino Thaheem VO, expressed,

Being part of the construction activity gave me a sense of ownership. We worked hard so that the whole community can benefit as a result.  I appreciate this project’s team to provide us with this platform, enabling us to work for the betterment of our own people.

Tech. Assistance by CWSA at RDA Office Mithi_ Tharparkar District, Sindh

The training helped my organization to better understand methods of budgeting and keeping financial records. It also gave us the competence to develop sound and applicable financial policies for our work,

Muhammad Bakhsh Khaskheli, from the Rural Development Association (RDA) participated in a financial management training organized by Community World Service Asia in Mirpurkhas in May this year. The objective of the financial management training was to increase the financial management capacity and improve policy development of local community-based organizations. Kashkheli particularly sought after these improvements for his organization.

Our financial procedures were not that swift, and we had to work hard on assembling documents, making photocopies, and preparing missing formats for going through the annual audits. Moreover, we do not have an internal audit department, so an internal audit committee consisting of three executive body members did our internal monitoring. However, this committee was not competent to conduct an internal audit that provides insight on future planning and procedural intricacies.

A resident of Hyderabad city, 42-year-old Muhammad Khaskheli works as a program manager in RDA. Khaskheli’s primary responsibilities include program development, implementation, and resource mobilization. He is also responsible for corresponding with donors.

Khaskheli attended the Financial Management training, expecting that it would help improve and develop RDA’s financial management system. Various topics were covered in the training, such as financial planning, bookkeeping, and accounting. Khaskheli remarked,

The session on accounting taught us to base accounting on the principles of consistency, accountability, transparency, viability, integrity, stewardship, and accounting standards. The session was highly interactive. For each principle, the participants shared examples on how to harmonize accounting with these principles.

Khaskheli gained valuable information and tools at this training, which he introduced at his organization in order to improve their financial management. After the training, RDA developed updated financial management and Human Resources’ manuals. Community World Service Asia outsourced a consultant, who visited Khaskheli’s office, discussed and reviewed every policy and procedure in the updated manuals, before finalizing it, and then a held a one-day workshop with the staff to orient them on it. The consultant also supported RDA with developing specific policies in the newly revised manuals.

Before this training, we had a very simple manual, but we were not able to develop a clear financial management system. However, these revised manuals’ detailed policies and procedures have positively affected the organization’s financial management in different ways,

Khaskheli affirmed.

Our financial procedures have improved since the training. Now, we have a better financial policy system and our documentation is complete and updated, ready for audits.

According to updated policy, the organization will hire a professional consultant to lead the internal audit committee and provide reports that will help in identifying policy and procedural gaps that are beneficial for future planning. This will continue until RDA attains resources to develop an independent audit department. After the training, RDA developed procedures to minimize financial risks. A code of conduct was also incorporated within the finance and administration departments and a clear delegation of authority was planned.

The training led to profound changes in the organization’s budgeting techniques. According to Khaskheli,

budget reporting has become easy.” At RDA, budget reports only included numerical figures before, now however, they include proper budget codes and budget narratives where necessary so that external stakeholder can easily understand the budgets. Khaskheli attested, “Because of the training, we better understand how to prepare budgets through an accountable and transparent financial system.

Adding further, Kashkheli stated,

Rural Development Association is a growing grassroots organization. We needed to develop a robust financial management system to make our financial matters transparent, easily functional, and to increase our credibility among the communities we are working with and other stakeholders, including donors.

Life was not easy for Indra, a mother of three children and married to a mentally handicapped man, Hoto Mal. The family lived with Hoto’s parents in the village of Kundo Meghwar, and Indra worked hard to support her family since her husband was unable to work due to his mental condition. Despite these difficult living conditions, Indra remained positive and hardworking since she believed that her situation was God’s will. She chose not to worry about anything but instead to accept everything as it came. Indra was content and loved her family.

Six months ago, Community World Service Asia started a skills-enhancer program of Embroider and Appliqué in Indra’s village, and it selected many women from rural villages in the district to become artisans in the program. Indra was amongst the women chosen. Through this program, women artisans are supported to become self-sufficient by teaching them embroidery and sewing techniques, linking them to the markets, and are also taught business tactics so that the women will sell their products at a market rate. Indra was already sewing women’s clothes, but she now has another platform through which she can enhance her handicraft skills. After being chosen as an artisan, Indra expressed,

I really feel proud of myself because now I can manage all my domestic expenses without any help and can give my children a better life. My aim in life is to educate my children so that they can live fulfilling lives.

Indra learned many new stitching styles such as the Hurmich, Kacho, Pako and Moti Taakna at the trainings, along with making trendier and subtler designs. She tried different color pallets and identified the ones that had the most demand. She is delighted and thankful that she was able to learn new handicraft skills through this program.

After enhancing her skills as an artisan through the program, Indra now receives product orders from surrounding villages and designers based in Karachi (through the project). Through the course of the trainings, she has established strong linkages with buyers in nearby villages and the local markets. This is where she plans to sell the orders that she is currently working on and also to promote her own private orders.

Indra has already received orders from local retailers and villagers. Once the trainings and the project ends, she also plans to introduce her own new products and designs to ensure that she provides unique and one-of-a-kind products to her clients.

Through these gained handicraft skills, women artisans like Indra earn decent incomes that are unprecedented for rural women. Besides acquiring skills, these trainings and classes are an imperative avenue of social interactions and much needed entertainment for these girls and women. Prior to her participation in the project, Indra was not allowed, and even did not get the time, to go out of her house or her village much. Now, she has made many close friends at the training centers and is looking forward to meeting them every time.

I feel much happier as a person now as I now have friends whom I can talk to, share my views with and also gossip with,

smiled Indra.

We artisans will use these lifetime skills to earn as much as possible. I really appreciate the positive and rare work environment provided to women like me. This type of environment will not only change the future for artisans like us, but it will also enhance the skills of and inspire other non-artisan women.