Yearly Archives: 2019

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 November. 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.

A training on kitchen gardening was organized in the last week of  June for twenty two women farmers of village Mandhal Thakaur located in Umerkot District of Sindh, Pakistan. This training was conducted as a key component of the Food security and drought response project supported by CGFB & PWS&D.

Through the day-long training, rural women gardeners were taught about the composition of gardening plots and were shown different ways of protecting their crops against diseases and insects. Economic and nutritional value of the harvested vegetables was highlighted as part of the training, and participants were made aware of the seasonal calendar of locally grown vegetables and how the growth and size of the harvest is affected by inclement weather. After the training, the women kitchen gardeners prepared patches of land to grow a variety of vegetables including okra, mung bean, brinjal, wild melon, cluster beans and ridge gourd. Their gardens now provide them and their families a variety of good quality home-grown vegetables which has improved their nutritional conditions as well as food diversity.

Here is a short video that captures participants of the training engaged in practical gardening exercises to prepare their land for cultivation and sowing seeds. While they are at it, these energetic and humble kitchen gardeners recite Gayatar Manthar, culturally considered one of the oldest and most powerful of Sanskrit mantras sung to cultivate agrarian lands in this region.

Mai Kenkoo, a 70-year-old elderly grandmother to four young children, lives in the remote, drought-struck village of Ramsar[1] with her son and his family. The family managed their expenses well with harvesting two acres of agricultural land that Mai Kenkoo owned. Her daughter-in-law worked to manage their land’s agricultural output and cattle which sufficiently fed the family and allowed them to save money to pay for the education of three of their elder children[2].

Life, however, became difficult for Mai’s family when severe drought hit the region and Ramsar village in September last year 2018. The area had been frequently affected by droughts in recent years, but the latest one had a more severe impact on the people living here. For more than a year, Mai’s family has not grown anything eatable. Mai remembered her deceased husband,

Not only were we better off when he was around but also it was less difficult to cope with the rigors of life in drought-stricken conditions.

 Her husband who was a cobbler and was a support system for their family until he passed away in 2009.

The old couple only had one son and no other children to call their own. Their son was diagnosed with tuberculosis a few years ago and treated with incorrect medicines which further exacerbated his health. Mai’s son works as a cobbler for a living and mended rubber skinned water gallons commonly used for fetching water in the area. His monthly income is between PKR 800 -1000 (approx. USD 6). His wife works on handicraft production from her house and embroiders ethnic Sindhi caps for the local community on order. Through this, she earns an average monthly income of PKR 3000-4000 (approx. USD 25). Before the drought, she was also engaged in farming activities on their land.

Since mid of last year, there were no yields from our fields. My daughter-in-law worked hard but could not grow a single crop without water. Her health started deteriorating too and was unable to breast-feed my youngest grandchildren. The children’s health suffered too. There wasn’t enough food to feed them.  They felt weak and refused to walk to school. I could see the weakness on their face. None of us were able to fill our stomachs well. And there was nothing to save for future meals or to sell-off. My son’s health also worsened as good nutrition fights back his illness but there was not enough food to keep him healthy anymore. He had to stop working due to his worsening health.

The drought had affected the health of their livestock.

With no rain and the continuing dry spell for two years, we had no fodder or water to feed our cattle. They had become like skeletons and we eventually lost them to malnutrition,

narrated Mai. With the leftover farm animals (four goats and a donkey), currently, the family’s daily needs are met with the fresh produce of the cattle. Mai’s goats and donkey graze on dried sunflowers receptacles that grow wild around their land which saves their fodder expenses and gives the donkey enough energy to fetch drinking water for the family[3].

While Mai’s two elder grandsons, seven and eight years old, are off from school for summer vacation, they fetch water as they place a tire-shaped rubber water gallon on their donkey on a three-kilometer (one-way) ride.  The water they fetch is used for the family’s drinking and cooking needs of a day. When their school was on, this task was carried by either of their parents. Water for animals is sought from a nearby approachable tube-well the quality of which is bitter in taste.

Mai shared that her grandchildren’s primary education is free, but the family’s income is insufficient to meet even their household expenses. In times of illness or medical emergencies, they cannot afford the travel expenses to go to hospitals or buy medicines.

To respond to the severe drought conditions in rural Sindh, Community World Service Asia launched its emergency food assistance project, supported by Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) and PWS&D, in Umerkot district of Sindh in March this year.  The project aims to assist 1600 households affected by drought through the distribution of one-month food packages between March and August 2019. Some of these households belong to Ramsar village. Mai’s family is selected as a participant of this emergency food-security project.

God has now provided us a means to food through this project. We are coming out of difficult times and not only get to eat three meals a day but are also able to save for later. In the past, we not only worry about our own meals but also for that of the cattle.  Now we only worry for their survival. Worrying about providing meals for the family lead to a lot of tension among people at our home and in the neighborhood. Tension impacts our ability to do other work also,

stated Mai.

Water scarcity is a common problem in most villages of Umerkot. Rural women carrying matkas[4] on their heads and young boys riding donkey carts to fetch water long distances away are an everyday sight here. But with no water at all and the long droughts, it is becoming difficult for these agrarian rural communities to survive. Mai highlights other issues crippling the already resource challenged community, such as increasing unemployment and lack of nearby health facilities, especially for women. She remembers facing these problems here since she was a young girl but with time she feels the conditions have worsened.

This humanitarian drought response project not only supports provision of food inputs to communities but also ensures sustainability of livelihood beyond the project period through distribution of millet (baajra) seeds in its fourth round of distribution for the upcoming sowing season. These millet seeds will be cultivated and will provide the families a source of agricultural output in the months to follow.

My daughter-in-law will cultivate the seeds. If it rains, we will be self-reliant for our food needs. I have faith in God, he will do better for us,

 hoped Mai.

[1] Located 45 kilometers from Umerkot city.
[2] They walked to their school which was half a kilometer away from their home
[3] Water had to be fetched from a well it was 3 kilometers away from their house.
[4] Sand-made jars

The emergency food security and nutrition project launched in March 2019, supported by the Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) and the Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB, is assisting 1,600 most vulnerable drought affected families in Umerkot district of Sindh province in Pakistan. Through the project, these disaster-hit families are supported with food distribution and nutritional programs that will last for six months.

The low rainfall has triggered a drought situation in the southern parts of Sindh Province. The districts have not receive any significant rainfall in the monsoon seasons resulting in a long dry spell.  The Pakistan Metrological Department released a drought alert in September declaring Umerkot and seven other districts of Sindh as severely drought affected areas. As per the assessment conducted by National Disaster Consortium (NDC), comprising of International Organization for Migration (IOM), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), ACTED and Hands, District Umerkot was identified as one of the worst drought affected districts in Sindh with 31,390 affected families in 25 Dehs (A deh is an area composed of number of small villages). The assessment results of NDC for district Umerkot revealed that as per the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), approximately 72% of the surveyed households in Umerkot are moderate to severe food insecure while 28% are severely food insecure.

In the third week of June, the third round of the project’s food distribution was successfully completed in four different locations, reaching hundreds of drought-affected families from twenty-two villages of Umerkot District. Most of the affected families, who have solely been dependent on agricultural income, were also provided with millet seeds, sufficient to cultivate two acres of land, for the next sowing season to provide a more sustainable means of economic support and to improve their food security conditions. . To ensure easy accessibility, the distribution points were selected in consultation with local communities.

Food packages distributed under this project are developed in line with the minimum standards outlined by Sphere for food security. Meeting these standards, the food packages designed and distributed ensured the provision of 2,100 kilocalories for each person daily. The package includes 60kgs of wheat flour, 15kgs of Rice, 7kgs of pulses, 4kgs of sugar, 6liters of cooking oil, 400g of tea leaves, 800g of iodized salt and a pack of 10 matchboxes.

Free Medical Camps for drought affected communities of Amerhaar village of Umerkot district in Sindh were set up under our emergency response and health project supported by Hope Bridge. Over a hundred local community members, of which 44% were women and 52% children, came to take free health consultancies at the medical camp. Prior to the medical camp being set up, the local residents of Amerhaar and other surrounding villages were informed of the medical camps dates and timing by our health team. As a key activity of the medical camps, awareness sessions on Nutrition and Health, focusing on the causes and symptoms of malnutrition and preventive measures of diarrhea, were also held. More than fifty community members participated in these sessions.

My husband is an unskilled laborer and I have vocational skills on hand embroidery. Together, we both earn a scanty income which is not enough to serve a family of seven members. Our household expenses often exceed the monthly income we earn. We reside far from major cities and as a result, have a difficult time finding quality healthcare as we need it. Initially, we travelled to urban areas to avail health care facility of which most expense was born out of pocketing, landing us in poverty. The free medical camps organized in Subhani village provided basic health care to the unprivileged communities. Other than providing general check-ups, the medical team sensitized the community members on personal, domestic and environmental hygiene, nutritious diet, food diversification and importance of breast-feeding through various health sessions.

Champa Bai, Subhani village, Union Council Kaplore, Umerkot

Most of our income expense is spent on healthcare. Residing in an unhygienic environment, often give birth to various illnesses in the family. As an unskilled laborer, my husband does not earn a sufficient income to fulfil all household expenses. It is difficult for people like us to even afford general health diagnosis or treatment as we reside in remote rural areas. Healthcare facilities do not reach in our area. As a result, we have constrained access to health services. Availing healthcare in Umerkot city is costly, both in terms of travel and treatment. The medical camps organized under the health project[1] have reached the poor patients in rural areas. Besides treating diseases other important topics covered by these camps include balanced diets, the significance of including vitamins, minerals, protein, the importance of hygiene and sanitation, basic sanitation techniques such as correct hand washing and environmental cleanliness. I came to the medical camp with the complaint of weakness and frequent headaches. After a thorough check-up, the medical officer diagnosed hypotension and anemia. I was prescribed with multivitamins and advised to drink lemonade regularly for instant energy.

Aami village, Subhani village, Union Council Kaplore, Umerkot

[1] Emergency Response Health Project in Umerkot, implemented by Community World Service Asia and supported by HopeBridge.

We had to travel to Umerkot city to avail healthcare treatment, which is 47 kilometers away from our village. Travel through a taxi costs us PKR 5000 (Approx. USD 33) and the consultation fee of the doctor is PKR 2000 (Approx. USD 13). As a sole bread earner in the family, it is difficult to bear large amounts of money on healthcare. The free medical camps organized in April, 2019 at Subhani village provided free consultations, money and health education to communities residing in remote areas of Umerkot. In the previous medical camps, more than a hundred patients were treated from our village. People in the village are more aware about maintaining a hygienic environment and exercising healthy practices in their homes. The medical doctor has prescribed amoxicillin, paracetamol, an anti-allergy tablet and cough syrup for the cough and fever I was suffering for a few days. The past five years have been difficult for our family due to the severe drought conditions in Subhani village. The fields do not provide a good harvest as there is little water for irrigation. The seeds we sow are wasted mostly. The total expense of the household mounts up to PKR 14,000 (Approx. USD 92) whereas, I earn a small income of PKR 9,000 (Approx. USD 59) as a laborer. Many times I have to request for loan from friends and neighbors to make ends meet.

Kirshan, Subhani village, Union Council Kaplore, Umerkot

I brought my son to the medical camp, organized in April 2019, as he complained about gastro, diarrhea and vomits. The medical officer thoroughly examined him and prescribed some medicines. The medicines included flagyl gravinate, ORS and paracetamol. He was further advised to drink boiled water and avoid unhygienic food items. I reside in Subhani village, which is a remote area in Umerkot district. Accessibility and availability of proper healthcare service is a great challenge. The medical camps organized by Community World Service Asia under their health program, has served as a blessing for our community. People from nearby villages also availed the free health service, doctor’s advice and health education sessions.

Ghaman, Subhani village, Union Council Kaplore, Umerkot

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

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

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

added Mithal.

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

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

Observing the keen interest and rapid learning of the people of Phul Jhakro, a vocational training center to develop and enhance local women artisans’ handicraft and production skills was established by Community World Service Asia and its partners. As part of the center’s program, a three-month Adult literacy class for women was conducted.

Earlier, Mithal only gave thumb impressions as her identification as she was unable to read or write. At the Adult Literacy Trainings, she learnt to read, write, and calculate basic mathematics. She also learnt to sign her name. Mithal was appointed as the monitor of her class which gave her even more confidence and motivation.

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

Mithal said that many women in her village were unable to read and write as most did not go to school for basic education but with the adult literacy and vocational classes, things had changed for the better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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