Yearly Archives: 2019


World Humanitarian Day, celebrated 19 August each year, recognizes the service of aid workers, who risk their lives in challenging times. This year, we acknowledge the strength and courage of Women Humanitarians. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2018, Pakistan is among the lowest performers in the world, with women holding the fewest managerial positions. Times of crisis make women even more vulnerable.

Despite these challenges, the role of women in Pakistan’s humanitarian sector is very encouraging and positive. This year we pay tribute to the women humanitarians of Community World Service Asia and honor their contributions:

Kiran Bashir

Working to Promote Women in Decision-Making

Kiran Bashir has been working in the development sector since 2012. Currently, she is based in the Umerkot office, where she is managing the Every Voice Counts (EVC) program. EVC is a long-term program that aims to enhance women’s voices in local governance processes through capacity building and advocacy to make stakeholders—especially government departments—accountable to women, specifically for implementation of pro-women policies and laws. This project is focused on women in Umerkot and Mirpurkhas who are marginalized, oppressed and subjugated due to customary practices, patriarchy and a lack of education, awareness and opportunities. The project aims to empower women to participate in the social, political and economic fabric of society through monitoring and accountability mechanisms and active feedback on public services.

Kiran says,

My small contribution to empowering women means a lot to me. During my seven years of humanitarian work to empower women socially, economically and politically, I have engaged in a number of activities, including organizing female groups on different forums, and enhancing their livelihood and leadership skills through training workshops. The outcome is that a number of female artisans we have trained are earning for their families and are involved in decision-making at household and community levels


Some of the most notable achievements in the Every Voice Counts program of Pakistan include:

  • Enrollment of girls in school from the community of Umerkot and Mirpurkhas districts, where conventionally girls are not allowed to receive education.
  • Involvement of women in community level decisions.
  • Establishment of linkages among stakeholders and local government departments to ensure the implementation of laws and policies related to women’s empowerment.
  • Issuance of a notification by the government on the implementation of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act and the formation of district level mentoring committees to ensure its implementation.
  • Efforts to get ‘safe houses’ for women who have survived violence functional which were nonfunctional for decades.

Kiran further shares that as a female humanitarian worker in a male dominated society,

You have to put up with different challenges, like acceptance by the community as a mentor or activist; mobilizing community members, especially elders, who think they are more experienced in decision-making and knowledge; and maintaining a liaison with the government line department and ensuring implementation of policies and laws which are their mandate but are not being fulfilled.

Her message on World Humanitarian day is,

Love and care are the basis of humanity, so love and care for people to protect humanity, irrespective of their caste, color, religion and gender.

Aliya Harir

Making Society a Better Place, Especially for Marginalized Segments

Aliya Harir is an Assistant Program Officer based in the Islamabad office, and she is engaged in the Equality, Inclusion and Participation Portfolio. She has been working in the humanitarian sector for the last three years. Her responsibilities include facilitating a network of community activists and individuals to advance the personal rights of religious minorities and the implementation of job quotas for minorities.

At CWSA, her work in the humanitarian sector involves supporting disadvantaged communities to achieve social and economic empowerment in close partnership and coordination with government authorities, institutions, policymakers and parliamentarians. This is done by striving to pursue and promote implementation of existing government policies that support economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities in Pakistan.

At CWSA, the core approach underlying the struggle towards social justice is to assist marginalized communities, who live their everyday realities on the front line. Aliya’s work also involves engaging with communities directly and strengthening their capacities to foster constructive collaborative engagement with fellow citizens, strengthening their appreciation for Pakistan’s religious diversity and trying to combat prejudice and violence.

Aliya shares the following challenges as a humanitarian worker:

I think that in humanitarian work, there are multiple daunting challenges. One that we as humanitarians keep coming across is that there is a lot of criticism from people in the non-humanitarian sector who often question why the struggle for social and economic empowerment have not yet been successful. These are the people who undervalue social justice and who regard our approaches to achieve it—through engagement, partnership and coordination with governments—as futile work. The challenge then is to remain hopeful and to continue to do our work in an encouraging and positive environment. At CWSA, we see our work as long-term processes, collaborative engagements and commitments. The work and change that CWSA wants to see in the lives of disadvantaged communities will take longer than the critics would like.

Aliya further shares about the role of women in the humanitarian field,

Women in Pakistani society are often perceived as custodians of customs and traditions, rather than active partakers in work. As a female humanitarian worker, I feel that I have more access to conversations that affect communities than my male colleagues. In communities, women humanitarian workers are able to overcome cultural barriers—they are welcomed in homes in communities—which help humanitarian organizations build strong social networks and enhance their knowledge of local community issues. My message on World Humanitarian Day to all female humanitarians is that many times in our work we will come across hardships, criticism and non-acceptance by people who do not recognize our role. However, at other times we will be respected and appreciated for our role. In both situations, we should continue to play our part to make this world a better place.



After almost 19 years in the aid sector I have come across many wonderful women humanitarians. What unites us all is our passion and commitment to serve those in crisis. Together, we strive against the odds and persevere to fulfil our goals. We juggle family responsibilities while meeting head on the demands of a challenging sector.  We take on personal risk to promote justice and alleviate human suffering wherever we find it. That’s why we at the CHS Alliance are celebrating that 2019’s World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is befittingly dedicated to every single woman humanitarian.

Unique benefits
Let’s be honest, us women humanitarians are essential for an effective response. We gain access to the most vulnerable in a crisis: women, children, older people. We can relate and build deep-rooted trust with these hard to reach groups. Trust is important. Trust stems from recognising that humanitarian organisations are there to provide impartial assistance and protection to all in need. And trust builds when that assistance is of high quality and makes a difference on the ground.

Limited potential?
While all humanitarian responses are extremely demanding, just being a woman poses some distinct challenges. Operating in patriarchal societies (common the world over!) creates barriers that not only restrict our ability to work freely and safely, but also limit our incredible potential.

I remember during the 2005 South Asia Earthquake response, it was so difficult to access the women living in some of the more conservative and remote communities in North Pakistan. We had to negotiate with male community leaders before we could meet the women. Fearful of the changing cultural norms, communities can view women humanitarians as a threat. In fact, OCHA-backed research shows that female aid workers are at particular risk of assault and violence.

This places great responsibility on, amongst others, the aid sector to mitigate and address the challenges women humanitarians face carrying out their roles effectively.

Practice what we preach
Unfortunately aid organisations are not immune to the norms and values that constrain women humanitarians’ potential. As humanitarian and development personnel, we strive to support and empower marginalised groups, including women, to secure their basic rights. Yet as female employees in the sector we know we can be treated differently, stereotyped, pigeonholed. We still don’t see gender balanced humanitarian responses. Our organisational policies and practices don’t always facilitate women to do their work fairly or effectively.

So, we need to turn the gaze back on ourselves. Our sector needs to consider why we do not apply the same rules and standards within our organisations that we promote externally? We need to practice what we preach. Despite the availability of various standards, including the Core Humanitarian Standard, and organisational codes, female aid workers are still not all treated equitably the world over, we still face increased risks simply due to our gender, and our voices can go unheard.

For all women humanitarians to flourish, the aid sector needs to address these challenges. I believe that each organisation and our sector as a whole can transform if women humanitarians are treated more equitably and are provided with a safe working environment. We also have no hope of achieving gender parity at all levels of humanitarian action unless aid organisations have robust HR policies in place to boost career development for women and fight workplace harassment.

Be a trailblazer
So how do we do this? In my opinion, many policies and practices in our sector need reforming. We as aid organisations need to:

  • Apply the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), which requires aid organisations to adopt policies and procedures that are non-discriminatory, a key way to support women humanitarians to do their job effectively.
  • Recruit employees with the right motivation, whose values align with the Core Humanitarian Competency Framework.
  • Invest more in developing organisational cultures with zero tolerance for sexual harassment and discriminatory attitudes towards female employees.
  • Ensure robust Complaints Response Mechanisms internally and externally.
  • Participate in ‘Communities of Practice’ and networks dedicated to promoting quality and accountability in aid, and harassment free work environments.

The CHS Alliance helps our members to apply the CHS, and all our members are committed to enabling women humanitarians to work in safe, harassment-free environments so that they can provide high quality, effective aid.

There are some real trailblazers in our sector; organisations that have taken concrete measures to enact robust non-discriminatory policies. I have been a part of such processes within my own organisation – by verifying against the CHS – and so I know first-hand the effect such a change can have.

Shama is the CHS Alliance Vice Chair & Deputy Regional Director of Programs
& Organizational Development at Community World Service Asia.

World Humanitarian Day marks the day UN envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieiro de Mello, and 21 other staff were killed by a suicide bomber at the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq on August 19, 2003 (Keystone / Jerzy Undro)

August 19 marks World Humanitarian Day. First celebrated 10 years ago in 2009, the day was inspired, if that is the right word, by the tragic deaths of 22 aid workers in Baghdad in 2003, when a suicide bomber attacked the UN compound there.

I remember that day 16 years ago. Many journalists, myself among them, had been looking at post-Saddam Iraq, at the ambitious task undertaken by the UN to support the country towards a new future, and considering that this could make a good story. My own trip, together with two Swiss journalists, was at the planning stage.

Those plans came to an abrupt end that day, as aid workers and journalists alike began to look hard at what seemed to be a harsh new reality of working in conflict zones.

It’s not just being caught in the crossfire,

one aid worker told me.

We have actually become targets.

In Geneva, that new reality exacerbated the grief at the loss of so many colleagues. Dr David Nabarro, then working with the World Health Organization, arrived back from Iraq still with the dust and blood of the bombing on his clothes. He told of trying to treat the wounded, while knowing some of his friends remained trapped inside the bombed UN headquarters.

I realised,

he reflected later,

that my life would never be the same.

Shrinking space, more deaths

Moving tributes are paid every year to those who died in Baghdad, and World Humanitarian Dayexternal link tries, with a new theme each year, to draw attention to the role of humanitarian workers, and the need for them to operate safely.

And yet, the attacks, the abductions, the killings continue. In fact, they appear to be rising. In 2018 there were more than 400 acts of violence against aid workers, and 131 deaths. From South Sudan, to the Ebola-afflicted Democratic Republic of Congo, to Syria, to Yemen, to Afghanistan, aid workers are risking their lives to save lives.

But somehow, the tangible help they bring, their much-stated policies of remaining completely impartial and of helping the most vulnerable, do not seem to ensure the respect and protection aid workers need to do their jobs safely.

Focus on local

And so this year the UN and aid agencies are looking at ways to promote greater safety, and greater respect. A key focus from the Red Cross is on local volunteers. The Red Cross has 191 national societies, made up of thousands of people who, when disaster or conflict strikes their community, are the first to respond.

It is {primarily} local aid workers who are being killed in the line of duty,

explains Jemilah Mahmood, Undersecretary General at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)external link.

Often our volunteers are also the breadwinners in their families.

Too often, however, attacks on and deaths of local humanitarian workers get little attention, at least compared to the headlines that tend to accompany the killing of an international aid worker.

What’s more, the safety training, and even the insurance against death or invalidity for local aid workers is often very inferior to that provided to international staff.

The Red Cross is pushing for fairer treatment for local volunteers, negotiating an insurance scheme, and encouraging more safety training.

We want to ensure that people on the ground, local volunteers, get what is afforded to international workers,

says Jemilah Mahmood.

It is the responsible and ethical thing to do, it’s not an add-on.

Focus on women

Meanwhile the UN’s office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairsexternal link has chosen to make women the focus this year. Amid evidence that female aid workers are at greater risk of violence, particularly sexual violence, than their male counterparts, OCHA says it wants to celebrate their ‘strength, power and perseverance.’

That should mean more than simply celebrating individual achievements, believes Shama Mall of the CHS Alliance, an organisation which promotes the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability.external link

Women humanitarians are essential for an effective response,

she points out.

We gain access to the most vulnerable in a crisis: women, children, older people.

At the same time however, women aid workers can face mistrust, even from their own communities, if their work is seen to cross cultural or societal barriers.

I remember during the 2005 South Asia Earthquake response it was so difficult to access the women living in some of the more conservative and remote communities in North Pakistan,

says Shama Mall.

We had to negotiate with male community leaders before we could meet the women. Fearful of the changing cultural norms, communities can view women humanitarians as a threat.

‘Practice what we preach’

Shama believes aid agencies have an as-yet largely unmet responsibility to address the specific challenges women face when carrying out humanitarian work.

But she adds, the employment practices of those same aid agencies sometimes still perpetuate gender imbalance:

As humanitarian and development personnel, we strive to support and empower marginalised groups, including women, to secure their basic rights.

Yet as female employees in the sector we know we can be treated differently, stereotyped, pigeonholed. We still don’t see gender-balanced humanitarian responses.

Time then, she believes, for the humanitarian community to look inwards, and consider

why we do not apply the same rules and standards within our organisations that we externally promote? We need to practice what we preach.

Erosion of principles?

But as the humanitarian community unites on August 19 to honour aid workers, and the role of women aid workers in particular, there is another nagging worry.

Whatever aid agencies themselves do to increase safety, to raise awareness of the particular challenges for women, and the particular contributions made by them, there is still the fear that as attacks on aid workers increase, the space for humanitarian work is shrinking, fuelled by a lack of support for the principles which underpin such work.

2019 is also the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, a set of rules often violated, but nevertheless steadfastly supported for decades by world leaders, and viewed by many as irreversible.

But today, the Conventions, and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, do not get such vocal backing from government leaders. Instead the focus is on putting national interests first, on protecting borders. So much so that some organisations in the US and Europe even face prosecution for helping migrants and asylum seekers.

This ‘criminalisation of aid’ could, Jemilah Mahmood of the Red Cross fears, have serious implications for the safety of humanitarian work.

When aid is criminalised, and there is politicisation of humanitarian assistance, of course it will have implications for security and safety,

she says.

Those implications are: more restrictions on how and where aid workers can operate, less respect and understanding for the crucial role they play in conflict and crisis, and perhaps even more attacks and deaths.

A tragedy not just for humanitarians, but for humanity.

Imogen Foulkes is originally from Scotland, and began her career with Scottish television, before moving to swissinfo’s predecessor Swiss Radio International. She has been the BBC’s Geneva and Switzerland Correspondent since 2004. Her assignments have taken her from an ICRC medical mission in Colombia, to UN human rights promotion in Tunisia, to UN support for elderly refugees in Serbia. And, from the heart of the new Gotthard tunnel on opening day, to the tops of Switzerland’s shrinking glaciers.


You can follow Imogen Foulkes on twitter at @imogenfoulkes, and send her questions and suggestions for UN topics.

August 12 marks the annual celebration of International Youth Day. It is an international day of awareness, recognizing youth across the globe and empowering the world’s youth to make positive contributions to their communities and nations. Young people are powerful agents of change and progress when they are educated and empowered to participate in decision-making. Rooted in Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – to

ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

– International Youth Day 2019 highlights efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible.

Education is a form of learning in which knowledge, skills and habits are transferred from one generation to the next generation. Hence, it should lead to relevant and effective learning outcomes, growth and development. The crucial role that quality education plays in youth development is well recognized. Community World Service Asia is promoting sustainable and equitable quality education in Asia since 2009, using multi-tiered approaches that encourage communities in remote areas to support education for both boys and girls. We engage in strengthening the capacity of teachers, work with communities and local governments and improve school facilities, where needed, to enhance the environment and quality of learning.

Our Education Program supports national education plans of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs). The program aims at improving lesson delivery, developing child-friendly classrooms, and increasing student enrollment. Young teachers, students, parents and community members are involved in various activities including teachers’ trainings, school management meetings and sessions and awareness building sessions.

One of the target schools under our Girls’ Education Project (GEP), The Government Girls Primary School (GGPS) Abdul Wahid Colony in Umerkot, Pakistan, was struggling with low enrollment, low attendance and low engagement from the School Management Committee (SMC). In 2015, the school had a total of 80 students, with only 20 students newly enrolled. Sami, the school’s principal, identified several reasons.

Weak infrastructure and limited basic facilities discourage parents from sending their children to schools in Umerkot. Moreover, far off distances, social evils and child labor contribute to the high illiteracy rate as well. Teachers in schools often use old methodologies of teaching, such as reading the lessons, giving lectures and assigning lengthy homework. As a result, students do not have positive outcomes and lose interest in studies,

she said.

In 2016, Community World Service Asia invited teachers from the school to attend Teachers’ Trainings as part of the Girls’ Education Project.[1] In 2017 and 2018, six teachers from GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony—Sakeena, Mariat, Mohni, Naheed, Tania and Sami—were trained on pedagogical skills, early childhood care and education (ECCE) teaching methodologies and implementation of the Scheme of Studies.[2]

When Community World Service Asia came to us,

said Sami,

things started to change gradually.

Putting New Methods into Action

Sami was pleased with how practical and hands-on the trainings were, packed with new strategies they could implement right away. For example, they learned about new ways to engage with their students, such as involving them in morning meetings to increase social interactions and in practical work to build interest in learning. The training also placed strong emphasis on lesson planning, which has renewed the teachers’ excitement and dedication to their lessons.

Naheed attended a Teachers’ Training focused on ECCE Scheme of Studies and ECCE Methodologies in January 2019. Back in the classroom, she began implementing new teaching methodologies involving group work, pair activities and learning through play. Since then, Sami observed,

Students have become confident and regularly attend school, as they are enjoying their studies.

Sharing her learning experience, Naheed said,

We have developed a different attitude towards our students after the trainings. The child-friendly environment created in our classrooms has encouraged students to learn more freely and ask questions frequently without any hesitation. The quality of education has improved immensely as students are more engaged in active learning.

Naheed and the other teachers have also worked to increase teacher-parent interaction, with positive results among both students and their parents.

Parents are more involved in their children’s education updates and have witnessed the support the teachers give to their students in school. We have received positive feedback regarding teachers’ behavior with their children and the children’s increased interest in studies,

 Sami added.

The students have noticed the difference. Humera, a student from class 4, shared,

There is so much change in our classroom. Our teacher, Naheed, encouraged us to participate in sports and cultural events and academic activities. We meet with students from different schools in these events and now I have made many friends in Umerkot. My parents motivate me to study hard after the parent-teacher meetings. They are very supportive and helpful, especially when I do my homework.

Reinvigorating the School Management Committee

The School Management Committee (SMC) of GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony is comprised of a General Secretary, a chairman, two teachers, two parents and two students. Its primary functions are to monitor teacher attendance, increase student enrollment and build awareness among parents on the importance of education for their children. It also holds administrative functions such as organizing co-curriculum activities, monitoring provision of free textbooks and disbursing SMC funds for improving the school. Unfortunately, the committee had not been fully engaged in its duties.

Abdul Razzaque, Senior MEAL Officer at Community World Service Asia, conducted a session for the SMC in February 2018, emphasizing the key role of the SMC in strengthening relationships between the schools and local communities. He highlighted each of the SMC’s functions and why it was important.

Shahida, who has served as the chairman of the SMC since 2017, said the difference was dramatic.

It was after the teachers’ training and SMC session that the SMC of Abdul Wahid Colony was actively involved in the school’s operations and academic decisions. The learnings provided by Community World Service Asia further built on our capacities to work towards better outcomes for our students, teachers and the entire school system,

 she said.

Sami is very pleased with the progress she has seen at the school since her team started to work with Community World Service Asia and implement what they learned through GEP.

This year we have enrolled 60 new students, and today, a total of 210 students are studying in GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony. Moreover, 50% of the parents come to us for regular updates regarding their children’s progress after the Parent-Teacher meeting held in collaboration with Community World Service Asia,

 she said.

Spread the Word!

To transform education systems for more schools like GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony, let’s unite together. Ahead of the International Youth Day, UN DESA, in collaboration with UNESCO, will be calling for a transformation of our education systems to make them more inclusive, equitable and relevant for the 21st century realities. We would greatly appreciate your help in amplifying this call, using:

Accounts to follow:

[1] Improving Access and Quality of Education for Girls in Umerkot Project is implemented by Community World Service Asia with the support of Act for Peace.

[2] A guideline for teachers that defines the structure and content of an academic course and its learning outcomes.

Last year, Community World Service Asia successfully executed the Quality and Accountability (Q&A) Week in the month of December. Two training workshops on Quality & Accountability to Affected Populations (Q&AAP) and Complaints Response Mechanism (CRM) followed by a Share Fair on Q&AAP including the launch of the new Sphere Handbook 2018 and The State of the Humanitarian System 2018 Report were held with the participation of over 150 guests from 25 countries.

This year again, Act Alliance members, Community World Service Asia and ACT Church of Sweden are excited to announce the up-coming Quality and Accountability week in December. The up-coming events include three trainings followed by a Launch event and Panel discussion.

Enhancing Collective Quality & Accountability to Affected Populations (Q&AAP)

With millions of people effected by disasters and conflicts, the importance of Q&AAP is undeniable. As part of Community World Service Asia’s response to the demands for more support on awareness raising, capacity building and collective learning, we are delighted to announce the upcoming refresher, Training of Trainers on Q&AAP. This event is a unique opportunity for all agencies, to equip staff to both disseminate and implement the standards. The Lead Trainer, Sylvie Robert, is an independent consultant with 25 years of experience, specializing in Quality and Accountability to Affected Populations (Q&AAP).

Workshop on Managing Complaints Response Mechanism (CRM)

Humanitarian agencies have a duty of care to affected communities and a responsibility to ensure that right-holders are treated with dignity and respect and that certain minimum standards of behavior are observed. This course aims to gather professional humanitarian workers from (I)NGOs, UN, donors and government agencies who aim to become experts in complaints handling. It will allow participants to understand the linkages between quality & accountability and handling complaints, from reception to investigation and implementation of the learning. The Lead Trainer for this training workshop is Ester Dross. She is an independent consultant with over 25 years of experience, specializing in accountability, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, gender and child protection.

Advancing Women Leadership

As women we are preoccupied with everything around us that we often neglect, to our own detriment, ourselves. To be provocative in transforming the way we view ourselves as women, treat each other as allies, and agents of change in a world that greatly needs the strength and leadership qualities of women. This session is a holistic approach to leveraging the strength and power of women. We are all unique beings and this course lends itself to that. It is an opportunity to facilitate, lead, take control, and think outside the box about real problems that impact women. Connie Cheung, Lead Trainer, brings a different kind of energy and approach to workshops in an effort to bring out the authentic leader in everyone. Connie’s career is grounded in emergency management. Through the years she has complemented her career by actively coaching, mentoring, and addressing issues related to workplace wellness, which include mental health and well-being.

Launch and Panel Discussion

The launch and panel discussion of the Quality and Accountability for Project Cycle Management booklet will be conducted after the completion of the three training workshops. This user-friendly booklet is designed especially for field practitioners who work in the humanitarian sector to improve quality and accountability of their projects towards communities. The revised version aims to introduce advance tools to use at each stage of the project cycle, allowing enhanced practical implementation of quality and accountability.

A group photo of participants with Uma and Community World Service Asia Staff.

Organizations want to be strongly committed to international quality and accountability initiatives when responding to humanitarian crises for a more sustainable impact on the lives of affected populations and towards its implementing partners and staff. For this reason, the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) on Quality and Accountability (Q&A) guides organizations and individuals how to ensure they deliver quality, effective and accountable humanitarian responses. The nine commitments of the CHS, supported by guidance notes and indicators, provide a detailed information for organizations demonstrating how humanitarians can deliver high-quality programmes consistently and be accountable to those they assist.  The people affected by crisis are put at the center of humanitarian action and the respect of their fundamental human rights is promoted through the CHS.

To work consistently to improve the quality and accountability in humanitarian responses, Community World Service Asia organized a 3-Day Workshop on Quality and Accountability for Project Management for the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) staff and its partners. Twenty-five participants from 16 organizations gathered in Murree from 22nd till 24th of July, 2019 to mainstream CHS and its nine commitments for better quality and greater accountability in all aspects of engagement with communities and people affected by crisis.

The training introduced the Humanitarian Principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, that offered a common basis to underpin all humanitarian action. Participants were divided in groups of 4 each, where they discussed each principle and what it meant to them. The session reaffirmed the importance of promoting and respecting these principles within the framework of humanitarian assistance.  The training elaborated each commitment of the CHS to assess and ensure the quality of our work, to reduce the risk of mistakes, abuse and corruption, and continuously improve our work – for the benefit of the participants’ organizations and the people they work for.

In the session on Core Commitment 1, participants were divided in four groups where two groups discussed projects which took people-centered approach and the other two discussed projects that did not consider people-centered approach. The group discussions unfolded the importance of relevancy and appropriateness of humanitarian response to cater the needs of the affected communities. In another group activity under Core Commitment 2, two groups of men participants debated against the two women participants’ groups. Two groups were for and the other two were against the statement: “Communities and affected people have access to the assistance they need at the right time”. Through this session, participants were trained to design programmes that address constraints for proposed actions to be realistic and safe for communities. In addition, the debate highlighted the significance of delivering humanitarian response in a timely manner, making decisions and acting without unnecessary delay.

Formal mechanisms for complaints and redress are an essential component of an agency’s accountability and give affected communities some element of control over their lives. Participants shared some constraints people face that prevent them from lodging complaints. Some challenges included fear, job insecurity, cultural barriers, no response from concerned departments and sympathy. On day 3 of the training, the fish bowl activity was conducted where the partners of NCA formed a circle to share their relationship with NCA. Uma Naraynan, the training facilitator said, “The purpose of the exercise is to share opinions equally to maintain accountability.” Partners shared that NCA provides technical support when required and frequent visits are planned with timely feedback. Moreover, NCA respects their organizational mandate. Some recommendations were also shared including policy and SOPs orientation, guidelines for improved and consistent reporting and provision of field level training in relation to reporting and mobilization. The NCA representatives formed a circle in response to share their feedback with partner organizations. Some of the feedback was focused on building understanding of grant agreements and developing clarity of deliverables and reporting. In addition, NCA requested partner representative to share capacities and exposure of staff in order to enhance skills.

At the end of the training, participants prepared action plans on how they aim to implement the learnings of the CHS training and incorporate the nine commitments and the four humanitarian principles in their organizational systems and programs. The training concluded with a ceremony of certificate distribution.

Participants Voices:

“We have been implementing the Core Humanitarian Standards in our organization but were not aware of the CHS structure of nines commitments. In the training, we learnt to review and ensure our programs’ quality and accountability in accordance to the nine commitments and the humanitarian principles.”

Pirbu Satyani, Regional Coordinator, Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO)

“Bargad is involved in a range of projects. We have been implementing the nine commitments of CHS throughout our projects. However, this training provided us with clarity regarding the CHS structure and the humanitarian principles to improve our organizational systems and practices in accordance to the Core Humanitarian Standard and promote quality and accountability in humanitarian response.”

Usman Yunus, Program Coordinator, Bargad

“The key learnings from the 3-day Q&A workshop were, firstly, the importance of identifying the needs of the communities we are working in. If we are working in communities without knowing the needs, our efforts are not productive and effective. Secondly, the significance of stakeholders as we are working in collaboration with them on various projects. Lastly, it is essential for projects to be relevant and appropriate to meet the needs of the communities and affected people by crisis.”

Zara, Manager Human & Institutional Development, Civil Society Support Program

Group photo of participants with Uma and Community World Service Asia staff.

Humanitarian and development organizations exist to support vulnerable and marginalized communities with the most high-quality, accountable and effective responses possible. This requires humanitarian and development staff who possess the right skills to achieve goals and overcome challenges inherent to humanitarian work. Supporting this aim, Community World Service Asia organized a four-day training course on competency-based human resources (HR) for 19 professionals from humanitarian and corporate organizations in Pakistan in July 2019.

Competency-based HR supports efficient and productive recruiting, training and management and is accelerating the professionalization of the humanitarian sector. The training—titled “Competency-based HR Practices Using the Core Humanitarian Competency Framework” (CHCF)—was based on the proven CHCF tool, developed in 2011.[1] The CHCF identifies a set of core competencies—including specific behaviors that support program quality or minimizing risk, for example—that serve as a reference and resource for humanitarian workers to guide the processes for both day-to-day and long-term decision making and management.

The trainer, Uma Narayanan, started the course by defining the notion of competency and showing how the results of a competency analysis can inform and improve the HR processes of performance management, recruitment and selection, employee development and employee compensation. She then divided participants into six groups of three each to practice applying the CHCF to strengthen their humanitarian response initiatives. Using questions based on the CHCF, two people in each group interviewed a candidate (the third participant in the group) for an HR position. Participants found the exercise to be helpful in decision-making, finding the right person for the right job and bringing more transparency into recruiting processes.

Uma explained, “Although the HR personnel does not have the technical knowledge of the hiring position, he or she can bring in observation skills during the interviewing sessions.” In facilitating the training, she leveraged her experience as a specialist in HR, quality management and organizational development in the humanitarian and development sector. With a background in International Organizational and Systems Development, she has worked as an Organization Development and HR practitioner mostly in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Europe, for more than a decade.

A competency-based framework also supports the performance development process by identifying what is critical for success; then, support and feedback can be focused accordingly. In the Competency-Based Performance Assessment session, participants carried out a self-assessment of their competencies using their job profile to help identify key areas of focus. Participants were directed to rate themselves on a scale of 0 to 3 under each competency, where 0 means the stated competencies are not required for current role, 1 is Not met/Partially met, 2 is Met and 3 is Exceeds/Advanced proficiency.

Sadia Usman, Vice President of HR for Shakarganj Food Products Limited, found the self-assessment to be very eye-opening.

As I am heading the HR department in my organization, I believed that I must exceed in most competencies. However, assessing myself with evidence made the rating process difficult. This was a healthy exercise to know how we are working in our field. While rating myself, I found out that I was partially meeting the competencies instead of exceeding them.

Finally, participants were presented with a set of motivating factors in the Learning and Development session, consisting of 10 features that encourage staff to perform better. The features included working conditions, salary and benefits, job status, management recognitions and others. Each participant was asked to arrange the motivating factors according to priority—what motivated them the most and the least. Participants learnt that the competency framework, in conjunction with the job description and the self-assessment tool, can be used to get to know their team’s current performance. Taken together, these helped the participants learn to make judgments on future potential, identify the areas for growth and recognize how these relate to aspiration, ability and engagement.

The attendees were excited to take these skills and tools back to their organizations. Isma Amin, Head of HR for Secours Islamique France-SIF, said,

The training was very interesting in terms of learning the CHCF. The group activities kept us engaged throughout the training, and each exercise complemented the session and built a clear understanding of the CHCF. Uma developed a friendly and open-sharing environment where all of us felt comfortable while sharing opinions.

Another participant, Samra Rehman, HR Manager for the International Federation of Red Cross, shared,

Being an HR professional, I believe I can improve some HR practices in my organization on my return. I plan to give an orientation session on the CHCF with the staff of IRC. Moreover, the competency framework for talent management can be exercised in our field of work which will transparently assess performance and potential of employees.

[1] Developed by representatives from a cross-section of humanitarian organizations under the auspices of the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies (now the Start Network).

The role of the community members in the education system is immensely valuable.  It can lead to greater advantages in terms of improved school functions, low dropout rates and increased positive attitude of parents toward the schools. Community participation contributes in strengthening the education system as a whole,

shared Saleem Malik, Chairman of the School Management Committee (SMC) at Government Girls Campus Pithoro. Located in Umerkot city, the school has a total enrollment of 80 girl students. According to Saleem, the inactive role of the SMC in the planning, implementation and monitoring of developmental programs for the school has decreased academic achievement.

92% of the SMC members have not appeared in meetings or have not attended any training in relation to school management. They did not have a clear idea of their responsibilities towards the development of the school until they attended the session conducted by Community World Service Asia.

The SMC session conducted in March 2019 by Farhat Fairy, Project Officer at Community World Service Asia, was attended by 7 SMC members including parents, students, community members and head teacher.

The session was very informative and effective. We learnt about the important functions of the SMC including monitoring teachers’ attendance, utilizing the SMC funds to improve schools’ infrastructure, disbursement of stipends to girl students and sensitizing parents on the importance of education. We initiated quarterly meetings to implement the learnings of the session. The SMC encouraged mothers of children in the school to participate in meetings and as a result, mother of 10 students attended the first quarterly meeting in April 2019. This achievement shows that parents are realizing the importance of education and are eager to send their children to school for quality education, especially girls,

 said Saleem.

The school has been associated with Community World Service Asia since 2018, under the Girls’ Education Project[1].

The Teachers’ Trainings trained our teachers on Positive Learning Environment and ECCE[2] Methodologies and Scheme of Studies. Two of our teachers participated in the trainings which were held on November 2018 and January 2019. They implemented the learning in the school and introduced new teaching methodologies, creating child-friendly classrooms. Students now feel comfortable in asking questions and are engaged in practical activities which have built the confidence level of the girls, 

shared Saleem. The new teaching methodologies, according to Saleem, have improved student relations with fellow classmates and the teachers. Group work activities have encouraged team building and strengthened communication skills in the students’ learning processes.

Seema, a teacher from Government Girls Campus Pithoro, said,

We have made the classroom rules with the students. The involvement of students in rule-making processes have helped them set their own boundaries, and learn the difference between what is right and wrong. They actively follow the rules in the classrooms as they have set these rules. The rules are listed on a chart paper and displayed on the wall for every student to read in the classroom.

As a teacher, Seema feels that the teacher’s positive and friendly gestures in the classroom reflect the behaviors of children.

By being cheerful and active in class, children will be encouraged to do the same. If we follow the rules, the students will also be motivated to follow the same. Likewise, if a child breaks any rule, we as teachers should act calmly and explain the child what they have done wrong, rather than being aggressive or loud. The trainings have helped in transforming our attitudes with the students, consequently building a trustworthy and friendly relationship between us.

Nisha, a student of class 5, shared,

All girls in the classroom are friends together. Our teacher, Ms. Seema, has taught us to act kindly and friendly with students of other classes as well. She continuously encourages us to behave at our best. Moreover, I encourage other students to construct their own classroom rules to follow so that they can also have a clean and well-behaved classroom like ours.

[1] Improving Access and Quality of Education for Girls in Umerkot Project, implemented by Community World Service Asia and supported by Act for Peace.

[2] Early Childhood Care and Education

Kamla is a 16 years old artisan and member of the Women Enterprise Group (WEGs) working for Taanka. She belongs to the Kharoro Charan village of district Umerkot and lives with her seven siblings and their widowed mother in a one-room house. Their father passed away two years ago. Kamla and all her siblings are currently unmarried. While their two youngest brothers attend school, none of the others are currently studying. The highest any of the older siblings have studied is till 8th grade.

With tailoring being a sort of family profession, as their late father worked as a tailor in Karachi, Kamla’s  eldest brother also worked as a tailor, for which he left the village for Karachi soon after he graduated from class 8, to learn the skill from his father and earn an income for the family. Two more of Kamla’s brothers are also currently working near the village to earn a livelihood for their family.  One runs a general store of his own, while the other mends embroidery machines. Together the two brothers earn around PKR 15000 (Approx. USD 95) a month.

Taanka not only employs Kamla, but two of her sisters as well. All three sisters work as artisans for the social enterprise brand that sells high-end fashion and home products in large urban centres like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.  The sisters worked very hard on the handicrafts they produced and earned well from it whenever they got orders. Kamla was the most highly educated among all three of them and had further enhanced her skills. She really enjoyed studying as well but had to leave school after grade 8 as none of her brothers could accompany her to school.

Kamla’s education expenses beyond primary level were paid for by my brother. I wish she could continue, but this is not possible. How will we make both ends meet if she leaves her handicraft work and starts studying again?

expressed Kamla’s mother.

Financial problems in Kamla’s household heightened when her eldest brother returned to Kharoro Charan from Karachi because of his receding health and a newly diagnosed mental disorder where he kept forgetting and repeating things. With the little savings that he returned with, he planned to build a house.

Our brother first constructed a toilet as we did not have a toilet in our house. Soon after the toilet construction was completed, he collapsed and has never been normal ever since. The construction work was stopped immediately because he needed treatment and the money he had saved had to be prioritized for his medical treatment,

Kamla said.

The brother’s health has now exacerbated to a situation where the family experiences sudden and repeated episodes of aggressive and violent behavior and angry verbal outbursts. He also breaks and tears apart the family’s belongings.

In most of rural Sindh, it is considered against the local culture for women to work outside their homes. Therefore, many women utilize their time working on ethnic embroideries and stitching apparel and home accessories; a skill that is passed on through generations. As per local tradition, the women are supposed to hand-embroider and stitch products for their own dowry or that of their daughters.  Keeping this ancient local tradition alive, Kamla and her sisters learnt embroidery at a very young age at home and hand-crafted most of their own clothes. Kamla particularly enjoyed this the most. Before working for Taanka, her sisters and she used to receive apparel design and embroidery orders from the Gumbar community in the neighboring village.

The money we made through personal orders was far too less compared to our expenses, raw materials or the time we spent on making them. Collectively, the three of us hardly made around PKR 5000 (Approx. USD 31) a month.

Kamla herself has not participated in any of the vocational trainings that WEG members of Taanka had been engaged in. She enhanced her in-born handcrafting skills through learning from her aunts and sisters who actually took part in the trainings organized by Community World Service Asia and its partners’ project to develop and strengthen the Taanka brand.

I feel motivated to work on new designs every day because the wages I earn through Taanka orders are fair. I learn new designs every day through the orders we receive from urban clients. The work is entirely different from what we did growing up. Designs are diverse, the fabric type is very thin, and there are different kinds and colors of threads and needles. In the past we have worked only on Pashanⁱ fabric, but through Taanka, I had the opportunity of embroidering designs on pure silk fabric too,

shared Kamla excitedly.

Kamla says that their mirror work is really appreciated by designers and they are receiving more orders for mirror work. Currently, she is embroidering mirrors on a daisy colored jacket. The three sisters collectively make PKR 25000 (Approx. USD 160) monthly through Taanka orders now.

The majority of what we earn is spent on our brother’s treatment. We also meet other household expenses with our earnings such as food, fetching water, and paying for our younger brother’s education expenses. Financial conditions of other artisans working with Taanka are also rapidly changing for the better.

I think women should not hesitate to learn new things. When we learn new things, we bring change in our lives and the lives of our loved ones,

says Kamla, wanting to motivate other aspiring artisans.

Kamla is an expert in hand embroidery now but she also wants to learn modern tailoring in the future.  With the little she is able to save after contributing to all the family expenses, Kamla wants to fulfil some of her own dreams too.

When I had to discontinue education, I felt very upset because my friends continued education but I could not. The day I am able to save up a lot of money from our Taanka earnings, I will go back to school, buy myself beautiful payal (anklets), matha patti (head jewellery), restart the construction work of our home, and will learn English. When I was in school, English was my favorite subject

, she said.

ⁱ A graphic embroidered silk with a jubilant festival spirit.