Yearly Archives: 2019

At least 38 people have been killed and 614 injured (160 reportedly in critical condition) in a devastating earthquake that rocked Bhimber and Mirpur Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Jhelum and other districts in Punjab and parts of KP on September 24, 2019 at around 4 o’clock.

The epicenter of the 5.8-magnitude quake was near the city of Mirpur, 22 kilometers (14 miles) north of the city of Jhelum along the boundary separating the agricultural heartland of Punjab province and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the US geological agency, USGS, said.

As aftershocks continued to rock the region, many left their homes and spent the night on the roadside or in parks.

Rescue operations have been carried out by the Pakistan army and are about to complete while the relief activities have also started led by Army and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) through local government.

The Prime Minister of Pakistani Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider Khan, told reporters that infrastructure had been destroyed. Roads, mobile phone towers and electricity poles in the area were badly damaged.

454 houses with 135 severely and 319 have been partially damaged however, the figures are expected to be increased with the information pouring in from the inaccessible areas.

Due to the damages occurred to the infrastructure, some of the affected areas have not yet been reachable and information from those areas are yet to be arrived.

Confirmed by the Deputy Commissioner of Mirpur, almost 70% of the houses structure in the Mirpur city have been damaged due to the earthquake and the communities are avoiding residing inside these cracked houses.

He further shared that tents, blankets, drinking water and food items are the immediate top priority needs of the affected communities.

Community World Service Asia Response:
Community World Service Asia is in contact with the local government and other stakeholders active in the area. Its emergency response team is on standby and can start the relief operations immediately if required.

Contacts:

Shama Mall
Deputy Regional Director
Programs & Organizational Development
Email: hi2shama@cyber.net.pk
Tele: 92-21-34390541-3 

Zunaira Shams
Sr. Communications Officer
Email: zunaira.shams@communityworldservice.asia
Tele: +92 12 34390541-3 

Sources:
theguardian.com
tribune.com.pk
thenews.com.pk

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Local level organizations engage the most crucial, unreachable areas of a community, empowering it from within. They enable community members to enhance their own and others’ capacity to create waves of social change. One way Community World Service Asia supports local organizations in their grassroots efforts is to equip them with effective strategies of social mobilization. These strategies assist communities in contributing to and participating more productively in social, economic, politico-legal and decision-making fora to improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

Bringing Social Mobilization to Communities Through Training

Community World Service Asia’s Essentials of Social Mobilization training workshop aims at enhancing social mobilizers’ skills to overcome existing barriers in communication, performance and engagement with their target communities.

CWSA conducted this training at the Department of Social Work at University of the Punjab from August 28 to 31, 2019. The training engaged 28 social mobilizers and staff members from 11 local organizations in various theoretical and practical learning experiences to enhance their social mobilization capabilities. Participating organizations included Médecins du Monde, Helping Hand for Relief, The Brooke Hospital for Animals Pakistan, Easy Approach Community Organization (EACO) and Forum for Language Initiatives.

The training helped the participants to develop an understanding of:

  • the essential traits of a social mobilizer;
  • how to use effective tools of communication;
  • the steps for enhancing community engagement;
  • how to identify the root cause of an issue in a community;
  • how to disarm myths and stereotypes and employ cultural and contextual strategies to overcome challenges; and
  • project management and problem handling.

The training employed a mix of activities, energizers, group discussions, indoor and outdoor role plays, innovative use of audio/visual techniques and daily reinforcement to support learning. It also provided an opportunity for the participants to share their experiences and success stories with their peers, which helped them to develop a sense of trust and confidence, strengthening the group work dynamics.

By the end of the four days, with the support of the CWSA team and resource persons, Moazzam Ali and Nergis Khan, the participants prepared customized action plans to apply their learning within their organizations and in the communities they serve. Equipped with practical knowledge and actionable plans, the participants expressed their eagerness for additional training on other topics to continue to increase their effectiveness in their work.

Participants’ Voices:

“The training techniques were interesting and engaging. The trainers, Moazzam Ali and Nergis Khan, not only held theoretical session, they also engaged participants in practical learning exercises such as role plays and group activities. We can replicate these activities in the target communities to build capacities of community members.” Mahmood Ahmad Medecins du Monde

“The activities conducted in the training workshop were interactive and provided long-term learning. The session on Policy of Social Mobilization made me realize the importance of having such a policy on an organizational level. These policies can be designed in accordance with the culture and context of the organization, which will boost the efficacy of the project activities for the welfare of communities.”

Rehana Yasmeen Easy Approach Community Organization (EACO)

“The training content helped me in overcoming the communication and mobilization gaps which exist in my field work. Moreover, the training environment was very welcoming, and it allowed me to share experiences openly and learn from others’ as well.”

Sajjad Ahmad Forum for Language Initiatives

Representative of University of Agriculture Tando Jam delivering a presentation.

Water scarcity is one of the main challenges for communities in the Thar Desert, which also includes almost half of Umerkot district. During field operations, Community World Service Asia and partners observed significant negative impact on the lives and well-being of the local communities from chronic water shortage and drought, putting these communities at high risk. Their main sources of income are agriculture and livestock, which are totally dependent on the availability of water. Owing to these issues, Community World Service Asia is partnering with Community World Service Japan (CWS Japan) and Japan Conservation Engineers & Company Limited (JCE) to implement an emergencies project to enhance drought-related disaster resilience by improving access to water and supporting drought-resilient agricultural practices in Umerkot district.

Under this project, the partners organized a one-day workshop on August 30, 2019, to determine how various stakeholders within government and non-government organizations can better coordinate to resolve these issues. Key questions to explore included how to determine the best locations for well digging; how technologies can be used to identify potential areas for aquafers; and how communities and relevant government departments can support the maintenance of these resources to make them more sustainable.

The training drew an estimated 25 participants from government departments such as the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), Arid Zone Agriculture Research Institute (AZRI), Extension Department, Pakistan Meteorological Department, Sindh University of Tando Jam, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Sindh, Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), and Water Management Department as well as staff from Community World Service Asia.

Mir Hassan from Community World Service Asia started the workshop with an overview of the project and its stakeholders. During the training, the participating government agencies were given a chance to share about their roles, responsibilities and achievements in the field of disaster management to highlight best practices and find synergies in support of the at-risk communities. Representatives from PDMA Sindh, Sindh University of Tando Jam and Pakistan Metrological Department began by presenting their work and areas of expertise.

Then the lead trainer, Takeshi Komino of CWS Japan, shared the findings of the field visit with the workshop participants and discussed where collaboration is required to address the water-related issues of the communities. He also shared how potential areas for digging wells can be determined in cheaper and more appropriate ways using technology and how Electrical Resistivity Surveys can be done at specific locations to get clean water.

Then the representative from PDMA Sindh, Ajay Kumar, shared about their mandate and the response they have extended to the drought-affected communities to date. The representative of the Sindh University of Tando Jam, Arshad Narejo, followed by sharing about their work in the field of Disaster Risk Management. Then a representative from the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Abid Laghari, shared about their research and existing resources and how one can efficiently utilize meteorological data to minimize a community’s vulnerability to drought and other disasters.

The workshop was concluded with a note of thanks by Komino for the participants’ collaboration and expertise in service to the communities affected by the drought.

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For any new employee, it takes time to learn and adjust to their new working environment. Through leadership training with Community World Service Asia, Samsam Haider—a new Agriculture Development Officer for the Farmers Friend Organization (FFO) Support Program—is starting his career in development with important skills to excel in his challenging and multifaceted role.

After completing his M.Phil. degree in Agricultural Extension eight months ago, Samsam started working in the FFO Support System Program’s Operations Department. Samsam is responsible for developing and organizing Farmers Field Schools (FFS) and providing assistance to agriculture projects. He also organizes capacity development initiatives and performs departmental tasks involving data collection and management and monthly reporting.

According to Samsam, the FFO Support Program’s projects involve many different components, such as Human and Institutional Development, Health and Nutrition, Youth Development, Women’s Empowerment and more. Each component requires strong leadership skills, high confidence and effective team building skills to generate positive and productive outcomes.

Samsam says he participated in the Leadership Development for Managers (LDM) training workshop organized by Community World Service Asia in April 2019 because

The workshop was the essential platform for me to excel in my skills.

He added that the training taught him more than its name implied and was helpful both in his role at work and in his personal interactions. He commented,

The workshop was not limited to leadership content, as it also covered management styles, communication skills and motivation and team building. The training provided the opportunity to learn how to incorporate leadership strategies in our practical and professional lives.

For example, following the training, Samsam said he was able to apply the Conflict Management Style right away with his colleagues to understand their behavior and management traits. He explained,

A person’s behavior varies in different situations of conflict management. It can be difficult for me to judge the situation. To combat this, I developed a 15-statement form for various colleagues to rate their views on different situations occurring in the workplace. It was an interesting exercise, as I got to know how different individuals perform in various situations. Moreover, it helped me understand the working environment and the nature of my colleagues,

Samsam said.

Now, he says, he feels much more prepared for many different challenges and scenarios that will inevitably occur as he grows in his career. He said,

The learning I gained from the LDM Workshop has been fruitful, as it helped me to know my colleagues better. I learnt basic leadership skills and explored the latest trends and techniques of leadership to incorporate in my professional life. I will seek more learning opportunities focused on building capacities in communication skills, managerial leadership, time management and team building.

In addition to his own growth, he is also sharing what he learned with others at the monthly meeting of the FFO Support Program’s Operations Management Focus Group. Though Samsam is one of the newer faces at work, he—like a true leader—is already working to improve the culture of his organization through learning and collaboration.

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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. She has been working in the humanitarian sector for the last three years. Her responsibilities include facilitating a network of community groups and individuals to advance personal rights and promote good governance.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

(swissinfo.ch)

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

2020

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.