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Akhtawar, is a 19 year old artisan who dreams to become a professional handicrafts manufacturer. Belonging to Raeem Dino Thaeem village in Thatta, Akhtawar lives in a joint family system, with eighteen members living in one house. Five of them her own siblings.

My elder brother is a teacher at a private school located in Bello City. He earns PKR 1500 (US $ 15 approx.) a month. He is also a member of the Gender-based violence (GBV) and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) theater groups formed in our village. He earns  PKR 1500 per day for his performances. Our father is an agricultural farmer, harvesting crops including wheat and rice. He owns the land but buys seeds on loan as he cannot afford to buy them. This way the loan is returned in the form of harvested crops. Most of the harvest is given to the seeds seller in order to repay the loan.

Community World Service Asia’s and Christian Aid’s livelihoods project came to Raeem Dino Thaeem village with an aim to empower the local women and assist them in earning a better living by enhancing their inborn skills of stitching and embroidery. To initiate the project, an assessment test was conducted to select artisans for the vocational trainings. Many women from the local villages took the tests to be selected. Akhtawar was amongst those who passed the assessment test and was selected as a participating artisan under the enhancing livelihoods project in Thatta.

The three month Adult Literacy Training enlightened many uneducated women in the village. I passed my matriculation but some women at the centre had never received any schooling since their families could not afford it . They could barely afford their household and medical expenses. The literacy training enabled the artisans to learn basic Mathematics, English and Urdu. Many of the artisans wrote their names for the first time in English. My aunt also received the literacy training and she used the learning to teach her own school going children at home. I also teach my younger brother and sisters. I even teach my mother who learns as eagerly as my siblings. My uncle was so pleased to see how well we read and understand the course books.

Before the trainings, Akhtawar stitched clothes at home without the use of any sewing tools.

It was at the skill development training that we learnt to use sewing tools. We usually measured the clothes directly on the body and cut accordingly. Therefore the fitting of the clothes was never accurate. We learnt to use measuring tapes at the skill development training at the center. The quality of my stitching and apparel fitting improved immensely. On the other hand, we learnt new designs and threadwork which enhanced our embroidery skills bringing variety to our work and increasing its value.

Akhtawar has received many personal orders from neighbours and other residents of nearby villages since she graduated from the training centre. Young and determined Akhtawar has already worked on completing orders for some of Pakistan’s famed fashion designers such as Shayan, Imrana from Indus Valley Schools of Arts and Architecture (IVS), Habitt, Najia and Nida Azwer.

I have earned an estimate amount of PKR 8000. My mother is ill and requires medicines at all times. After some tests, the doctor told us that my mother’s brain is weak and prescribed some medicines. The expense of travelling to the hospital in Tando Allah Yar and tests were all borne by me. This made me very emotional as I never thought I would ever be able to help my family this way. In addition, I also paid the admission fees of PKR 1000 for my brother’s English Language course for which he travels to Bello City. I also contribute to his monthly school fees which of PKR 500.

According to Akhtawar, the input and participation of women in their village has mostly been limited to their homes. The only way they sometimes contributed was through farming which is exhausting  during the scorching sun in the day. T

he crops we harvested or the money earned through the sale of the crops was mostly paid off in loans, so very little was saved for the family to use. The vocational center enabled me to contribute to my family of eighteen members. I proudly contribute in the household, education and medical expenses and my parents and siblings are pleased with my growth and financial independence.

Akhtawar’s elder brother and sister, Rahim and Bakhtawar, are members of a theater group as well which performs to raise awareness on issues of SRH/GBV.

Initially my father did not support the idea, but when he attended some performances and witnessed the change in the rigid minds of many villagers, he too supported my siblings in their work.

Many men in these communities are conservative but many have gradually started engaging and participating in the theatre plays as performers and spectators.

I watched the first theater performance in November last year when the group performed in our village. The men in the village were surprised to know how young girls’ health are badly affected by child marriages. They were not aware of the health and mental issues a young girl goes through when married early. I was astonished to see the change in men when they refused to marry their young daughters after watching these plays. Today, many encourage their daughters to join schools or vocational centers in order to build a better future for themselves. In addition, mothers’ consent started being taken before entertaining  marriage proposals for their daughters.

Both of Akhtawar’s parents fully support their children in actively participating  in activities that are helping to bring positive changes in their community and society. Akhtawar shared that girls in her village did not travel faraway places for any reason.

My father permitted Rahim and Bakhtawar to attend the SRH/GBV training in Hyderabad for 10 days. He encouraged them to bring back knowledge and new learnings which will enlighten the conservative minds of the villagers.

Ali Hassan (Akhtawar’s father has been supportive towards bringing positive change as he believes in educating people who have not been fortunate enough to gain such opportunities.

Life has changed a lot since our involvement in the livelihood project. I work as an artisan and my brother and sister are part of the theater group. We also travel to attend trainings whenever we get an opportunity. This initiative has given a new meaning to our lives. Girls were caretakers of their home and this was the concept we were living by. But after theater performances and women working in the vocational centera, women have realized that, like men, they can also earn and support their families, and live a better life. Women can also go out in the world and explore opportunities to have a better future for them and their children,’

openly expressed Akhtawar.

 

A seminar promoting breastfeeding among local communities in rural Sindh was held during the World Breastfeeding week at the three Rural Health Centres, supported by Community World Service Asia and Act for Peace. A large number of community members consisting of women and men and government health department officials took part at the various sessions of the seminar at the RHCs in Hyderfarm, Nabisar and Dhoronaro. The seminar was facilitated and sessions were delivered by experienced Medical Superintendents (MSs) and Community World Service Asia health team on the importance and benefits of breastfeeding. This was organized to encourage more and more women to breastfeed for longer periods and to not consider it a taboo.

Key points highlighted at the seminar were:

  • WHO recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed for 6 months and solid foods are started after that, along with continuing breastfeeding for two years and longer
  • Breastfeeding provides the ideal amount of nutrition for infants. It is a perfect combination of vitamins, protein and fat – everything that the baby needs for a healthy development
  • Breast milk consists of antibodies that help babies fight viruses and bacteria
  • Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months without being given any formula milk are less prone to infections and illnesses
  • Breast milk is easily digestible and is also known to be a contributing factor towards higher IQ scores later in childhood
  • Breastfed babies are considered to have a healthy weight with less chances of obesity later on
  • Breastfeeding also helps the mother to lose pregnancy weight faster

An FM radio campaign on monsoon preparedness has been initiated on FM 92 by Community World Service Asia considering the Monsoon outlook issued by the Pakistan Meteorological Department. Community World Service Asia is executing this campaign with the support of Christian Aid and in close coordination with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), Sindh. The radio messages are aired six times a day and reaches 12.2 million people in twelve districts of Sindh.

This radio campaign has been appreciated and acknowledged by the Director General, PDMA.

Click here to listen

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.

Improving teachers’ skills and knowledge is seen as one of the most important investments, of time and resources, that local, state, and civil leaders can make to education.

“The Teachers Training and the Master Teacher Training conducted by Community World Service Asia, was a new experience of professional development for us. With its focus ranging from classroom processes and structures to teachers’ personal and teaching traits, it taught us a lot. It was a learning opportunity for us teachers that was explicitly aimed at enhancing teaching skills and increasing student achievement,”

 expressed Hameeda Memon, a 42 years old teacher at the Government Girls Primary School, Civil Hospital, Thatta.

Hameeda has been teaching for 23 years and has always been passionate about teaching.

“I was not familiar with the various teaching methods I learnt at the training. Our students have mostly been engaged in mindless memorization. The lessons were not properly understood and the students studied enough to achieve passing marks only.  I wanted the students to enjoy their work but was unable to encourage them towards building interest in academic books,” added Hameeda, “In the teachers training, we were taught various theories and methodologies like students. We were the students this time. Morning meeting exercises and role play activities were conducted. We engaged in group activities and learnt how to develop low and cost no learning material. All this involvement through the interactive exercises increased our interest in teaching. That was when I realized how important it is to engage students in practical activities like these to keep their minds and bodies fresh to comprehend lessons better and achieve greater outcomes.”

Sessions on Gender education and Health Hygiene and Environment were the most informative and appealing content for Hameeda.

“It was the first time for me to learnt about these topics. We all were aware of the terms but we never studied them in our context. I now believe that these topics should be included in the curriculum to increase student’s knowledge on it as well. Teachers’ should emphasize on gender education and hygiene like they do on discipline and class work.”

Hameeda feels more confident and prepared about our classes after receiving the training.

“The Master Teacher Training was more about teaching methods and adult learning. It focused on planning and reporting skills of teachers for better class presentation and school management. These trainings have influenced our classroom practices significantly and have lead to improved student achievement. Zia, a student in my class, was very weak in her studies. She rarely spoke in the class and had difficulty in understanding her lessons. After the morning meetings and role plays, she started to speak up and participate in conversations. Today, she sits in the first row of the class and manages the black board and charts displayed in the classroom. Likewise, I have given other students certain responsibilities for classroom management. This ownership has motivated students to be more attentive.”

“Learning is a continuous process; more learning leads to better results. Even as teachers, we have a lot to learn and there is always room for improvement. If we are trained, we will deliver our lessons efficiently and more effectively, with the result being, our students benefiting in the long run. In addition, the reputation of the school will improve and the enrolment of students will increase. It’s a cycle of improvement at every stage. That’s why trainings like these should be an on-going process,”

concluded Hameeda with a positive attitude.

Mithal, a 45-year-old widow and mother to a 13 years old son, lives in Phul Jhakro village located in Thatta district, Sindh. Her son and her live with her mother and brother, who is often unwell and unable to bring home a regular income. The family is therefore faced with severe financial crises throughout the year. As a means of income, Mithal worked in the agricultural fields picking chilies and cotton and grazed crops.  The floods that hit southern Pakistan in 2010 destroyed those lands and its crops, shrinking the earnings of the family even further, forcing them to live in sub-standard conditions.

Responding to the floods, Community World Service Asia initiated relief and recovery projects in Phul Jhakro village and conducted Disaster Risk Reduction(DRR) Trainings in 2011.

“Many villagers attended the DRR training and I was one of the participants as well. The trainings were very helpful as various exercises were conducted in order to minimize the devastating effects a disaster leaves behind. These trainings have made us more aware and prepared for any kind of disaster including fire, floods and earthquakes,”

added Mithal.

Mithal proudly added that after the informative and life-saving DRR interventions, many of her fellow villagers started to become more open-minded and started welcoming new ideas and learnings.

“We established a school in our village in order to promote education amongst our children. The teacher belonged from our village as well. Disaster Risk Reduction Trainings are given in schools as well which has built an additional knowledge and has made our children more aware in relation to disaster management.”

Observing the keen interest and rapid learning of the people of Phul Jhakro, soon after, a vocational training center, conducting Adult literacy classes for women for the first three months, was established.  Earlier, Mithal gave thumb impressions as her identification as she was unable to read or write. At the Adult Literacy Trainings, she learnt to read, write, and calculate basic mathematics. She could also sign her name now. Mithal was appointed as the monitor of her class which gave her even more confidence and motivation.

“This training enhanced my educational skills giving me the confidence to speak to other people and negotiate while taking handicraft orders.”

Mithal said that many women in her village were unable to read and write as most did not go to school for basic education but now things have changed.

“The center conducted a three month Vocational training which focused on enhancing our stitching and designing skills. We were taught about family colors and how to use light and dark colors together to form vibrant designs which are both appealing and beautiful. A variety of new techniques were also taught, including appliqué work and cushion embroidery. Different stitches were practiced including Kacho Stitch, Lazy Dazy Stitch, Moti Stitch and Pakko Stitch. I enjoyed working on the cushion designs as it was new to me and I found the work to be very elegant.”

Establishing and promoting the indigenous and national handicraft industry has benefits for all. Not only does it provide additional employment locally but also raises the living standards of both rural and urban populations. As part of the livelihoods and Women empowerment projects supported by Community World Service Asia and its partners, exposure visits were conducted where rural artisans met with urban buyers of Bhit Shah and Karachi. Mithal was among those who were an active part of these visits.

“The exposure visits to Bhit Shah and Karachi further developed my understanding and broadened my knowledge about the handicrafts market. In Bhit Shah, I experienced the work of block printing on Ajraks which was completely new to me. Initially we did embroidery on the neck lines of shirts only. The exposure visit to Karachi enhanced our perception and we learnt to do embroidery on shirt borders, waist coats, bags, cushion covers and other open pieces of cloth. We now know how to keep samples of our work for future use and display for buyers.”

Mithal also attended the training conducted at the campus of Textile Institute of Pakistan in Karachi, where she learnt how to make high fashion shirts, jeans and different designs of Kurtis.

The same artisans were then given an order of products to produce for a Fashion Show that would launch their handicrafts brand to the fashion and textile market in Lahore. Working on the production of those products was a completely different experience according to Mithal.

“We made laces with various designs of embroidery, Muko and Zari work. We were not aware of what the final product, using our designs and embellishments, would look like. On my way to Lahore for the Fashion Show, I kept wondering what our pieces will be used for and how it will look, what kind of response our work would get. When we got to the venue of the event in Lahore (the Pakistan Fashion Design Council), we saw the finished products for the first time; those included sarees, shirts, kurtis, lehngas (long skirts), long coats, waistcoats, trousers, bags and scarves. We were amazed to see the complete products and how the laces and embroidery pieces were used to make such a beautiful collection. We did this I thought to myself in disbelief!”

 Mithal had never in her life gotten the chance to showcase her work and talent at such a high profile event which made her even more nervous regarding peoples’ expectation and response to her work. Mithal excitedly expressed,

“It was a wonderful feeling to see our work on the ramp. The zari, muko and embroidery work on the laces was immensely appreciated by the designers and guests at the event.”

As Mithal shared, the women of their area have always been entirely dependent on the men in their family to go out of their homes.

“This concept has changed and I now travel independently on my own. I have travelled to Karachi and Lahore. My first airplane trip to Lahore was one of the best experiences of my life. I was extremely excited to travel so far from home to promote my work further. My brother has been very supportive throughout my journey. Many villagers discouraged him not to allow me to travel on my own and promote my work. But my brother always encouraged me to move forward with my talent as I was working for a positive cause and change, for the betterment of our lives.”

Mithal now receives many orders as the demand for her designing and embroidery has increased. She has received orders of various products including rillis, laces, shirts and jewelry.

“My land was destroyed due to the flood of 2010. After receiving two orders of PKR 11,000, I utilized that money on replenishing the land and bought seeds to grow crops on the land again. My brother was very happy with this progress and we now grow wheat on our land which has increased our source of income further.”

Mithal also now conducts DRR trainings on her own in her village to expand and strengthen women’s knowledge, empowering them in decision-making processes at times of calamity.

“The villagers address me as an officer as I have travelled to Lahore and Karachi to progress my hard-work. Even my son calls me a professional officer and proudly walks in the streets of our village.”

Most women in the village are more encouraged now as they see Mithal’s courageous change by stepping out in the world to play a better role in the socio-economic development in her respective community.

Mustufa and Zainab, parents to a young son and daughter, lived in Khamiso Dal Village located in Union Council Tando Hafiz Shah in Thatta, Sindh. The couple was living a troubled life since the floods in 2015 hit their house and their lands severely. The house was left totally damaged and all their belongings were washed away.  Zainab also suffered from a mental illness which made things further difficult for the family

Saving the lives of his family being the only thing on his mind, Mustufa, fled Khamiso village and the flood, and made it to Hameed farm. He stayed there for two and a half months with his family and was barely earning for the family by cracking stones.

When the flood water left, Mustufa returned back to his village with this family. Nothing was left of the village though. It was a land of ruins. No house was left undamaged and there was no land left for cultivation. Everyone’s life savings and belongings had gone too. The flood had taken everything along with it.

With nothing else left to depend on, Mustafa started to cut wood and sell it off for a living. As soon as the water in the village fields dried up, Mustufa started to think about re-cultivating his 4 acres of land. Before the floods, he used to produced cotton and chilies on his fields.

“I started to have some hope when staff of Community World Service Asia came to our village and distributed various vegetable seeds for sowing and harvest. I was hopeful that the golden days of my life would return and I began to cultivate those seeds in the back yard of my home,” narrated Mustafa.

As his land had become saline, the harvest result was not as good as it was expected. Mustufa, then went to his landlord and asked for his permission, to cultivate the remaining seeds on his land. The result of the second harvest was amazing. Only in thirty to thirty-five days there was produce in the lands. Spinach and coriander leaves were the first to sprout.

Filled with content and gratitude, Mustufa and his family cooked the first produce and had a good meal. They also distributed some among neighbors as a gift of happiness. Mustufa started selling the vegetables too. He sold 45kgs of spinach for 70Rs/kg and 15 kgs of coriander for 40Rs/kg. After a few days, okra, ridge gourd and bottle gourd were also produced. He sold 30 kg of newly harvested spinach for Rs.70/kg and earned a profit of PKR 2100. Whereas, the total profit he earned from selling 25kg of ridge for 50Rs/kg and 30kgs of bottle gourd for 50 Rs/kg were PKR 2750.

“I earned PKR 8600 (equivalent to DKK540) by selling these vegetables”,

says a proud Mustufa. With the profits earned, he bought Eid dresses for his family along with fruits and meat to eat. He used some savings of that revenue for the treatment of his wife as well. Mustufa has now planned to set up a tomato nursery and has high hopes for a good income generation of it.

Village Ranwatiyoon is located on bank of river Indus in district Thatta. The local population here is blessed with fertile land which is the main livelihood of the area. Being located on the river bank, the local population has recurrently been hit with natural disasters like floods and cyclones since 2010. This has continuously been  affecting their livelihoods and lives.

These recurrent disasters have adversely hampered the livelihoods of the people living in the village by damaging their crops and fragile agricultural infrastructure, forcing a lot of people to settle for working for daily wages. This has lead to a  decrease in agricultural production.

Due to the unavailability of a proper irrigation module on the main water course and the silting of unpaved irrigation channels, farmers were not able to provide sufficient water as requirement to their crops. On the other side, a lack of funds in the local irrigation department hinders construction in irrigation channels.  With the fear of a breach of unpaved main water course, the irrigation department is also not allowing local farmers to allow sufficient water to come through as per adequate crop requirement.

This watercourse had been a source of life and livelihood for the people of Ranwatiyoon and was named “Khillan” meaning joyful when it was flowing in full volume. Local farmers were very content and at peace as the Khillan was source of supporting to their livelihood. However, a lack of financial resources of small farmers made them vulnerable as they could not reconstruct the irrigation channel on their own.

This water course runs up to four kilometers from the start up till its end, irrigating almost 355 acres of land of 155 small land holders. Farmers at the tail end of the water course could hardly irrigate their fields due to insufficient water supply and often indulged in conflicts among each other.

Observing the problems faced by these small land holders in irrigating their lands, Community World Service Asia with the support of Dan Church Aid and DANIDA, designed a project which included Cash for Work activities. Under this initiative, twelve water channels are rehabilitated to ensure a sufficient  flow and access of water to a maximum number community members.  The same scheme has also been selected for rehabilitation of uprooted farmers under the project.

Upon community identification, physical work on reconstructing the channel has been completed along with desilting of almost four kilometers of old unpaved water course. This scheme has directly benefitted twenty-six landless labors directly through cash for work. All direct participants received cash for work for almost four weeks in two cycles which enabled them to secure food for their families along with indirectly benefitting 155 small land holders. The local community is overwhelmed with the support provided to them.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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