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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.

Taulka Hospital in Samaro area has a total capacity of twenty beds, but at an average, we usually have more than fifty patients admitted at a time. At the hospital, we attend to around five to seven hundred patients in a week through our Out-patient Department (OPD) and carry over a hundred baby deliveries.

In September 2018, we started partnering with Community World Service Asia’s health program and since then our hospital has seen many improvements. Through this partnership, we were facilitated with the provision of women medical staff. This really helped us in establishing the family planning section at the hospital and increased the attendance of women and child patients.  The newly recruited women staff are on duty regularly and provide OPD, antenatal and postnatal care. They facilitate daily child deliveries and also conduct health awareness sessions for families and women. Moreover, if we come across complicated cases, their team and ours work together to refer patients to other hospitals when needed,

shared Dr. Kailash Lanthi, who is a Medical Superintendent (MS) at the Taulka Hospital in Samaro.

The Taulka hospital of Samaro is equipped with basic facilities that include an X-ray machine, an expanded program on immunization (EPI), a laboratory and two in-house pharmacies.

As we collaborated with CWSA’s health team, our hospital was provided with high-quality, internationally manufactured medicines that are available free-of-cost at our pharmacy. These medicines are otherwise rarely available in rural areas such as Samaro. As a medical practitioner, I can confidently prescribe the highest quality medicines to my patients now as I am sure of their availability. We also received positive feedback from the patients about the new medicines working very effectively. In fact, some patients now insist to be given these medicines as they are certain they are more effective.

According to Dr. Kailash, the collaboration with CWSA has resulted in the development of great health and medical facilitators’ team at the hospital. The Lady Health Visitor (LHV) and community mobilizer have enhanced awareness among local communities about health care through regular health awareness sessions and field visits amongst the masses residing in nearby villages.

The local communities have moved away from traditional self-treatment and home remedies and now only come to the hospital for medical consultations and treatment. We normally find a daily high attendance rate in the OPD section now.

The health sessions have increased awareness and promoted positive maternal and neonatal health behaviors among the local communities. Increased access to and community involvement in maternal and child health services have ensured the delivery of quality healthcare services.

The patients now ask questions regarding their health and regarding the medicines, they are prescribed. This shows that they have become more conscious of receiving proper and relevant medical treatment.

Dr. Kailash, however, feels that the physical condition of the hospital building is fragile and requires extensive maintenance.

We have written letters to the concerned departments for the maintenance of the building at least four times but we have not received any positive response yet. Some of the medical practitioners’ positions are also still vacant, which leaves us with inadequate human resources to efficiently run the hospital.

Our hospital has a designated dental unit, but since no qualified dental surgeon has been appointed to the post yet, the unit is not operational. We also need to upgrade our labour room with more trained staff and equipment. For instance, we have an ultrasound machine, but we do not have a sinologist to operate the ultrasound system. There is also no access to ultrasound tests at night for people living in these rural villages. This is why we have no choice but to refer cases to other hospitals in the city, despite being equipped with an ultrasound machine at our own hospital. Sadly, families are forced to travel long distances to access radiology services which become very costly as well. We are still writing to concerned higher authorities highlighting the challenges of the hospital and have not given up yet.

Dr. Kailash recommended that the existing medical staff (women) at the hospital are given advanced trainings in sonology so that the ultrasound equipment available at the hospital can be utilized and patients can be tested here, instead of being referred to city hospitals. He also suggested for establishing a small laboratory where hemoglobin testing and blood transfusion is possible for pregnant mothers and child patients.

Our hopes are high and we believe that things will improve,

quoted Dr. Kailash positively.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fozia declared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a staff member of the project assured.

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

I was the only one who could support my family at the time

. Seeta, 17-year-old artisan, Umerkot.

In a remote village of Umerkot, Seeta lives with her two brothers and parents. Their father used to work as a chef in Karachi where he earned a monthly income of PKR 10,000 (approx. US$ 100). However, a couple of months ago, his head was injured and he was admitted at a hospital where he had to be treated immediately. The medical treatment, though necessary was extremely expensive. Since Seeta’s elder brother had his own children and wife to support and their younger brother was too young to work and was studying, all the medical expenses of their father’s treatment landed on Seeta’s fragile shoulders. Seeta became her family’s strongest and only support; emotionally and financially, at this difficult time.

During this crisis, a Women Enterprise Group (WEG) (under the CWSA & Ycare project) was established in Seeta’s home village, Panju Meghwar. Though it was difficult for Seeta to take time out of all the household chores she was responsible for, she recognized this as the perfect opportunity to enhance her handicraft skills and improve livelihood prospects for the family. Upon joining the WEG, Seeta learned various handicraft skills, such as different stitches, color combinations, and use of assorted fabrics and threads. After the WEG participants learned these skills, the project team helped the women in linking them to urban markets from which they would receive orders with fair profits.

Through feedback from the trainers and project team it has been observed that Seeta is evidently a highly talented artisan. She easily understands design, has the ability to handle any type of fabric, and has excellent time management and quality control.

None of the artisans from the WEG were confident or willing to take orders for embroidery on different fabrics, such as organza or crape, as they were all afraid of the material being easily damaged and being too thin. However, Seeta was the only one among the artisans who took up the challenge and completed the given orders in time and in very good quality. Inspired by her, the other artisans have now also started taking orders on fabric and material that’s new to them.

Seeta has learnt to produce new products like cushions, short shirts, trousers and stationary pouches. The chevron dupattas, with exquisite mirror work and hurmutch stitch, are her most popular and most sold products.

I have started working on orders that require varied types of threads and fabrics and have generated PKR 30,000 in the last three months for my family. I have used this money on my brother’s education, household expenses, and on my father’s treatment. Thankfully, my father is beginning to feel better now.

Seeta feels, and rightly so, that this is only the start. She confessed that at times one needs a push only and that she got from the trainings and by being part of the WEG. Once you get the push, there is no looking back, She plans to continue practicing and perfecting her skills and teach other girls in her village as well. Not only is this a convenient and acceptable business for women in their community, but also something that will remain with them through generations. Seeta further expressed,

I’m thankful to Community World Service Asia because it made me realize that a girl can also be independent and support her family. I am proud of myself for the achievements I have made, and I am more confident after participating in the Women Enterprise Group.

Group photo of Participants with EVC Team and Sofia Noreen in Mirpurkhas.

Community World Service Asia, through its networks and alliances, continuously seeks new and effective ways to maximize program impact, by utilizing the influence and ideas of specialized experts, including government officials, consultants, civil society workers, media personnel and academia,  who can make a difference.

By partnering with government departments, we assist vulnerable communities to work together on shared goals and actions. Our teams use this network of partnerships to encourage different communities to work towards bringing change, improve their lives and that of others.

To strengthen these partnerships and collaborations, two trainings, each of one day, were organized with government departments in Sindh.  Representatives from various departments such as the Social Welfare team, Women Development, Police, Education, Health, District Councils, and Population welfare teams were trained in a series of information sharing and capacity strengthening sessions on Gender laws and mainstreaming in districts Umerkot and Mirpurkhas in April this year. The trainings focused on enhancing Women’s Empowerment through increasing knowledge on and implementation of Gender Related Policies and Laws for the various line departments.

Sofia Noreen, a consultant with over 27 years of professional experience in research, programme designing and execution, monitoring, international development and liaison & coordination, facilitated the sessions.  Having practical experience on work around gender, women empowerment and governance, she had many interesting examples and exercises to share with the group of participants to ensure effective learning.

The training sessions were designed to enhance engagement and interaction among participants, while providing them sufficient space to share their personal experiences and professional learnings. By the end of the training, participants understood the role of social institutions in formation of gender roles and impact of gender roles towards gender discrimination in accessing nutrition, health, education, income/resources and decision-making forums at all levels. Participants were able to identify and differentiate between the various roles each official and department had to play towards development and gender mainstreaming considering the Gender Development Index and Gender Empowerment measures.

The training was very relevant to our field of work. The training introduced the patriarchy system and how it plays an important role in assigning different roles, keeping in view the gender perspective,” shared Saroop Chand, Assistant Director Social Welfare, Umerkot.

Group exercises, individual reflections, role plays and presentations highlighted Pakistani and Sindhi women’s status of empowerment on education, health, income and decision-making. To further enhance the participants knowledge, some sessions focused on teaching basic definitions, frameworks, policies and laws relevant to the governing various sectors.

I mostly decline training proposals I receive. However, the agenda of this training was quite appealing and relevant to my work. Sofia stressed on implementing the existing laws and policies in the country. Through proper implementation, we can omit the gender difference in every field of life and encourage empowerment of both men and women equally for the betterment of our society,” positively expressed Afroza Chohan, Incharge Women Complaint Cell, Mirpurkhas and Umerkot.

An exercise on clarifying the difference between gender and sex was one of the key topics of one of the sessions. Key institutions, such as family, academia, peer groups, religious institutes and media that play a vital role in establishing societal gender roles were identified as well. “On basis of these roles, some sections of society are given powerful status within societal structures while others are considered subordinate and subjugated. Hence, it is important to emphasize on the difference between gender and sex,” shared Sofia Noreen.

“The content of the training was unique and informative. I was unaware of many of the laws and policies related to Gender but this experience built a strong perspective towards women empowerment. The training stressed on how the process of socialization shapes our thoughts and actions and at which level one needs to work on changing the unjust mindsets,” said Junaid Mirza, Assistant Director Social Welfare, Mirpurkhas.