Vadhri is very proud of the little kiosk she has paid for and which her father in law manages. In early 2022, this store selling household items as well as children’s snacks was just a dream.

At that time, things looked bleak with the drought of 2021 having destroyed what she and her brother in law had sowed on their eight-acre holding. With no harvest, Vadhri had purchased food on loan for herself and her three boys and over the months accumulated a debt of PKR 30,000 (Approx. USD 104). She thought herself fortunate that the loan was interest-free. Else, it would have multiplied and gone well beyond her means to repay.

The food aid provided, under the Humanitarian, Early Recovery and Development (HERD) project, in those bleak months of 2022 were a great boon. It saved her the monthly food bill and enabled her to put together a respectable sum. With that coupled with her saving from sewing the traditional heavily embroidered Sindhi hats, she spent PKR 15,000 (Approx. USD 52) for the timber kiosk to serve as the store. To her father in law, Vadhri gave PKR 2000 (Approx. USD 7) to stock up, and they were in business. It speaks well for her and her father in law that in February 2023, the store had stocks of some PKR 10,000 (Approx. USD 35), five times up from the time it started out, and was making a daily net profit of PKR 400 (Approx. USD 1).

Investing all her saving in the store was some smart thinking. She reasons that had she used it to service her debt with the provisions store, she would have had to sell some of her ten goats to start her store. And goats being ready cash for the people of Thar to be brought into play only in the direst of situations that would have been a bad move.

Had the rains of 2022 let off after the initial shower or two, she would have collected a reasonable harvest of millets, guar beans and lentils from her four acres. But two months without any sun whatsoever and a deluge that just would not cease much of the sprouting crop died and the harvest yielded barely two months’ worth of millets. At the time of tilling, she had borrowed money on interest to pay for the tractor. With reduced yield, she was obliged to sell all of her guar beans and lentils as well as two of her goats to raise the cash.

“I had ten goats in the beginning of last year. Now I have eight. The debt I owe to the village provisions store will be paid off after the millet and guar harvest in November 2023.” This cycle of recurring loans is par for the course for Vadhri.

For the time being the profit from her store pays for the daily kitchen for herself, her three boys and her father in law with who she lives since the death of her husband. The monthly profit from her hat embroidery work amounting to PKR 4800 (Approx. USD 17) is kept aside to invest in her store.

“If we had not received food aid last year, I would have been under a debt of PKR 60,000 (Approx. USD 208). I don’t know how I could have repaid that,” observed Vadhri.

Her two older boys are in primary school and in another year the youngest will be ready to join them. Vadhri has every intention of maintaining them all in school so that they can be somebody playing a role in life that she and her late husband could not.

As a child Falak Sher dreamt of completing high school and joining the army. That was only natural for a child physically fit who from age ten was a kabaddi player. Though a contact sport, kabaddi is non-violent involving tagging and tackling and serious injuries are rare. However, that rarity struck Falak Sher when he was about twelve and in grade 4 of primary school.

During a match, he was tackled and brought down as had happened several times before. But this time the pang of shooting pain told him something had gone terribly wrong. Though his village Mehr Veesar lay some 50 kilometres southwest of Khairpur town, there were nearby hospitals as well. But Falak Sher was carried home rather than being taken to a proper medical centre.

His family called in the local bone-setter, an untrained potter who boasted knowledge passed down to him through several generations of bone-setters. Using splints and bandages, the man claimed to have set the bone right, but when two months later the dressing was removed, the leg was deformed. For the next five years, Falak Sher was bed-ridden because of persistent pain and inability to walk without support.

For the youngster the dream of being in military uniform faded away and even education seemed to have come to an end at grade 4. Time heals all, however, even badly set bones. After a break of five years, Falak Sher was able to walk back to school with the help of a staff. Though the military career was out of the question, yet the young man continued his schooling to complete matriculation. In a society where able-bodied men with degrees sometimes spend years seeking suitable jobs, there was no opening for a matriculate with a disability.

Already in his twenty-fourth year, Falak Sher apprenticed himself to a master weaver of the charpoy, the wooden bedstead. Within a year, he was sufficiently trained to independently turn an empty frame into a proper bed in under five hours. In 2023, at age thirty-eight, he was a highly proficient charpoy weaver who got calls on his cell phone when there was work.

“Life was getting along all right and I would get three to four charpoys every day,” said Falak Sher. That was enough work to keep him busy through the day and at Rs 400 per frame, he was a satisfied man.

Then came the floods of the summer of 2022. Whole communities lost everything they had and if Falak Sher’s house collapsed, he could hardly say Nature had singled him out for punishment. Flood-affected or not, people needed furniture to sleep on and if he thought that the broken charpoy frames would be repaired and he would be called to do the weaving, he was mistaken. No one had the money even to procure food for their families, and getting their bedsteads repaired was a very distant priority.

“For four months, it was a very difficult time because there was no work. In this village and a couple of other nearby ones, there are four other weavers like me, and we were all without anything to do,” reported Falak Sher.

Like many others, Falak Sher and his family lived by the generosity of a kind landlord who provided flood-affected families with one meal a day. Those were three months when he, the sole bread winner for his family, forewent meals so that his two year-old son was fed. His wife too needed to be fed as she was nursing an infant daughter. It was a very hard time.

Slowly work began to trickle in. However, because of his disability, Falak Sher had to hire a motorbike taxi to take him to the work site. That cost money. For short trips the fare was PKR 30, but longer ones set him back by PKR 100 (Approx. USD 0.3). Unlike the old days when he would get three to five pieces to work on in a day, now there was never more than one and subtracting the fare from his wage of PKR 400 (Approx., USD 1.4) hurt. But the man never gave up and assiduously kept at it.

In January 2023, Falak Sher received the first instalment of Cash for Food from Community World Service Asia (CWSA) with the support of Presbyterian World Service & Development(PWS&) and Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB). Falak Sher spent the entire sum of PKR 12,000 on the purchase of food rations. For the first time in four months, he had a square meal, said the man. The following three months were the same pattern.

Being a talented craftsman, Falak Sher had not lost hope. And that paid off for in February he worked on twelve charpoys netting PKR 4800 (Approx. USD 15). The Cash for Food aid bolstered his hope and his ability to provide for his family. With work slowly picking up pace, the man was thinking of beginning to rebuild his collapsed home.

Asked how he would have fared without the cash grant, he remained silent. He had no idea how he and his family would have survived the hard months when there was so little work to be had.

Legend has it that it was a Rajput chieftain, Amar by name, who established the fort of Umerkot at a very remote time in the past and for a long time it was known as Amarkot – Eternal Fort. History does not have much on that. It only tells us that one Parmar Sodha of Ujjain, moved into this part of the desert and having displaced the Soomra ruler of Umerkot, established himself in the castle.

It was his descendant Rana Vairsal who played host to Humayun in 1542 when the Mughal fled before Sher Shah Suri. Time passed, and in the eighteenth century the Kalhoras replaced the Sodha Rajputs in Umerkot. Thereafter, Umerkot suffered a plundering raid at the hands of the Madad Khan of Kandahar before it passed into the relative but short-lived peace of Talpur reign.

In 1843, the British had replaced the Talpurs in Sindh. Strangely, even though Umerkot lay on the trade highroad from Shikarpur in the north to Kutch by the sea, it was neglected while other parts of Thar received significant British attention. In the last two centuries, Umerkot was just another town of the district of ‘Thurr and Parkar’ as British officials knew it. The western part of the district gained some little from British-built irrigation off the Nara Canal, while on the east the desert sprawled virtually untouched by the march of time.

In 1993, Umerkot was established as a district. However, in 2000, this new district was abolished and re-merged with Mirpur Khas only to be established all over again in 2004. With four talukas (sub-divisions), the district of Umerkot is among the poorest in Sindh. While the western sub-divisions are somewhat better off being in the irrigated part, the eastern parts are as disadvantaged as any in the Thar Desert.

Written and Contributed by Samina Jamshaid, CWSA Staff, Professional Art Therapist, and Visual Artist

What springs to mind when we see a pair of hands?

For me, a hand is that magic that constantly creates miracles, and turns dreams into reality.
During my visit to Umerkot, I came across multiple pairs of such fascinating hands, young and old. Every wrinkle and mark on those hands had a story to tell about the journey it ventured – some of their own and others of the hands used to accomplish someone’s dream. Yes! You read that right. Someone’s dream living far away, whom they have never seen or met but with the artistry of their hands and a smile on their face, made their dreams into reality; a momento for them to cherish for the rest of their life.

These are the women of rural interior Sindh; no matter which small or remote village in the Province they live in, these women work tirelessly to create miracles with threads and needles and their skillful hands.

A beautiful, warm smile greeted me in a remote village on my first ever visit to Umerkot. While I was waiting in the courtyard of a far-away village, with hundreds of eyes fixated on me and astonished smiles of a handful of children, I saw a lady walking towards us, dressed in mustard yellow traditional Sindhi attire. She had the most mesmerising smile, and a sparkle of contentment in her eyes. The pride of being a bread earner for her family and a supporting hand for her husband, was clearly evident in her walk. She is Kalawanti from Kharoro Charan. Her name means “Talent”, making her a walking definition of her name.

Kalawanti’s talent and skill was identified by Community World Service Asia’s (CWSA) livelihoods team that leads the organisation’s skill enhancement and social enterprise programs which are envisioned to empower women and strengthen their roles as key household decision makers and sustainable livelihoods sources. CWSA also launched a social enterprise brand, Taanka1 meaning “Stitch” of which Kalawanti is a part of as an active member of its Women Enterprise Groups (WEG).

My day with the community and the villages that are supported through Taanka showed me the relevance of the name as it was not only about the literal craftsmanship of the community but the idea is to stitch the communities together with acceptance, love, care for each other and promoting each other’s good work. CWSA’s Livelihoods program binds the communities together in a way that they become inseparable.

Many of us in Pakistan wear reputed clothing brands and designer fashion wear but do we stop to think twice about the intricate, delicate embroidery and embellishments on our apparel and fashion accessories and whose craftsmanship this is. Many times, it is the creation of women like Kalawanti living in remote villages.

As it is said behind every successful woman there is a man, but I would say behind every progressive community there is a group of dedicated humans and in this case, it is the group of artisans working together under the umbrella of Taanka. Taanka has faced its challenges and took risks but always tried to make things work so that the livelihoods of the artisans behind it don’t stop. This is true perseverance.

Artisans like Kalawanti are hard working and resilient. They are not only artisans but housewives as well. They take care of their families, leading all household chores, ensuring everyone is fed, in good health, children going to school. Their everyday struggles are endless but the output of their work as artisans makes all their hard work worth it. The support they get from CWSA through linkages with markets, quality control, and product development ensures their hard work is paid off and valued.

This visit to villages in Umerkot made my heart and soul smile with pride! And i couldn’t help but share about it with the world.

  1. Taanka is a social enterprise launched by Community World Service Asia in 2016, to develop sustainable market linkages for rural women artisans in Sindh. The brand promotes the finest handcrafted amalgamation of contemporary designs with traditional stitches, produced by rural women artisans from interior Sindh, Pakistan and facilitate collaboration between the women artisans and urban designers, design students, commercial textile companies and fashion brands, to reflect consumers’ demands in ethnic designs.

The memory of the drought of 2021 was fresh in her mind even a year later. That year, as she had always hoped and prayed, Sohdi was looking forward to good rains when she sowed her three-acre spread with millets, guar and lentils. But no rain fell and her seedlings withered under the merciless sun.

The next year, she underwent agricultural training by Community World Service Asia and with it received an 8-kilogram bag of millet seeds. She sowed half of that, saving the remainder to be used in 2023. But if 2021 was the year of the drought, 2022 turned out to be the year of the floods. In July when her seedlings seemed to be coming along nicely, the rain began and for the next eight weeks it did not let up. In fact, when it did pause for a couple of hours, the sun did not show because of the thick, dark overcast. Sohdi knew it then that there would be little or nothing to harvest. No surprise then that in November she reaped a mere 40 kilograms from her entire millet patch. That was less than a quarter of the usual yield when rains come on time.

The land she had under guar, mong and sesame did only marginally better. The entire crop which with less but timely rain should have fetched upward of PKR 60,000 (Approx. USD 208) accrued her a mere PKR 20,000 (Approx. USD 69). The last instalment of food aid was behind her, but she still had rations to see her and her five sons through another month. Ever judicious, Sohdi invested PKR 6000 (Approx. USD 21) to purchase a goat. A little paid for dry rations and clothing for her boys. The remaining amount was given away as a wedding gift to a relative. Why couldn’t this unnecessary expense be avoided in these difficult times?

“This had to be done because when my sons wed, they will receive similar presents. This is our age-old way. It has to be followed,” she explained.

Meanwhile, over the past six months when she did not have to purchase rations, Sohdi had saved up nearly PKR 14,000 (Approx. USD 49) from her eldest son Chanesar’s earning. The boy, an unskilled construction labourer, is an expert in building thorn hedges that surround the compound of most houses in Umerkot. But one of the goats died of illness following the non-stop rain. Nevertheless, things looked reasonable for Sohdi and her boys because she was not under debt when the new year dawned.

“I and so many others like me who faced the same situation in 2021, were lucky that we had food assistance. Had that not been in place, we would all have owed the local storekeeper nothing less than PKR 60,000 each,” she said with hands held together in a gesture of thankfulness.

In early February 2023, Sohdi knew there was no more food assistance, and so she had plans. In four weeks she and Chanesar will leave for the canal-irrigated region to the west of Umerkot district. For four weeks thereafter they will help in the wheat harvest and return home with about 360 kilograms of wheat as their wages. Earlier, since the death of her husband and the boys being too young to work, Sohdi had always gone alone to the harvest. The wages for a single person had never added up to more than 120 kilograms.

What she and her boy will earn in wheat grain will last them just two months. Then, said Sohdi, it will be time to sow the summer crops and hope that neither deluge nor drought hits them again. Meanwhile, Chanesar will be hard at work building his thorn hedges not just for his own village but he will even go to neighbouring ones wherever his expertise is needed.

“He’ll have to work hard because he is engaged to be married next winter,” Sohdi disclosed. Cutting every nonessential expense, Sohdi planned to save for the big day when Chanesar dresses as the groom.

But despite all one’s good wishes for the people of Umerkot, one could not say how nature would treat them next summer. What if, God forbid, the rains do not help?

“I am fortunate to be totally free of loan right now. If the crop is a success in November, we will have plenty of food and cash for the wedding. If not, I can always borrow as I have done in the past.”

For Sohdi and so many others like her, the loan is a cyclical burden: she goes under debt, harvests a good crop and repays. A year goes by without it and then if need be, she borrows again. For her, a widow, the other fall back is the kindness of relatives who always come forward to help her in dire situations. And so life goes on for Sohdi, her five boys and innumerable other people of Umerkot who depend on summer rains for survival.

The Floods of 2022 have left entire districts sunk and 1/3rd of Pakistan submerged in water. Now even after nine months of surviving unprecedented rainfall, water still stands over acres of land, leaving the country economically and developmentally paralysed.

Khairpur district is among the areas left almost completely devastated. The rain that by some accounts did not cease for two months have left villages here under more than a metre of water even today.

Community World Service Asia, with the support of CAFOD and Disasters Emergency Committee, UK, responded to the needs of some of the most vulnerable affected communities through immediate cash assistance and emergency health support.

Home to 50.4 million people and vast agricultural lands, Sindh is vital to Pakistan’s economyⁱ. About 37 percent of Sindh’s rural population which is almost half of the province’s entire populace, lives below the poverty lineⁱⁱ. The province is particularly vulnerable to natural hazards due to its geographical location, socioeconomic vulnerability, and extreme climatic conditions.

Sindh has been disproportionately affected by different climatic hazards in recent years, including flash floods, droughts, cyclones and heatwaves. In 2022 alone, different regions of the province were simultaneously hit by a drought, heatwave and floods. These disasters significantly damaged people’s houses, livelihoods, livestock, agricultural and irrigation systems and the overall infrastructure, leaving millions displaced and in need of immediate humanitarian and long-term assistance.

Umerkot’s food insecurity in driven by underlying poverty, locust invasion, COVID-19, droughts and the recent floods. In the recent floods, a total of 1,860 houses have been damaged, affecting a population of 109,246 and displacing 18,207 men, women and children in Mirpurkhas and Umerkot. In response to the crises, Community World Service Asia (CWSA) with the support of Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH) is supporting disaster affected communities by promoting kitchen gardening as an integral part of the farming system among women in Umerkot. Though, most families in the target villages were primarily small-scale agrarian households, many of them did not keep or maintain vegetable gardens before.

Rural women in this part of the province are solely engaged in domestic chores such as cooking and ensuring that the family is well-fed and taken care of. To increase their household decision-making role and ensure a sustainable livelihood and food security source, our project focused on the women of the affected communities as key participants of the kitchen gardening activities planned under the projectⁱⁱⁱ. Since July (2022), 500 men and women, out of which 56% are women, have been trained on sustainable farming and kitchen gardening.

Jamna, a mother of three children, lives in Revo Kolhi village of Umerkot district. Jamna’s husband, Jagsi, worked in the agricultural lands near their home in return for a small share of crops or daily wages. “He was unable to work in the fields due to continuous rains and floods this year. That meant no source of livelihood for our family. When I learned about the kitchen gardening training from the village leader, I was eager to be part of it as this initiative would allow us access to fresh vegetables and fruits at our doorstep and would give us a chance to improve the food security of our family and our growing children.”

After participating in the kitchen gardening training in July, Jamna prepared her patch of land from the kitchen gardening seedsⁱᵛ she received along with a gardening tool kitᵛ.

“At the training, I learnt household techniques for effective plantation of seasonal vegetables and fruits using minimum land and water. Today, I am a skilled and confident woman, proudly supporting my family financially and putting healthy food on the table. My two children under four years help me in the garden as well. They enjoy taking care of the vegetables and sharing with their friends their contribution towards growing healthy food.”

Jamna began to sell the surplus of her garden’s produce in the village, which helped her earn an estimate of PKR 500 every week (Approx. USD 2). “Okra, ridged gourd seed, indian squash, wild melon, bottle gourd, bitter gourd and brinjal are among the vegetables I am growing in the garden. I cook these vegetables at home, allowing me to serve diverse dishes every day. I began to save the money I used to spend to buy vegetables from the market and have saved additionally by selling the surplus. Eventually, I bought a goat from the savings. I plan to buy more livestock in the near future from saving more money. This way I will sustain my livelihoods. In times of future emergencies, my husband will not have to stress over looking for work. Our garden and livestock will help us provide for food and keep us healthy.”

This project is helping increase food security and resilience of local agrarian communities affected by extreme climate conditions. Jamna’s husband, Jagsi, received cash assistance, in July and August 2022, under the same project of PKR 24,000 for three consecutive months. “From the cash support, Jagsi bought groceries including flour, sugar, tea and other staple goods to compliment the dishes I am making from the home grown fresh vegetables,” says Jamna. The kitchen gardening and cash support is helping affected families like Jamna’s to overcome food insecurity and rebuild their lives.

ⁱⁱ Worldbank fact sheet 2022
ⁱⁱⁱ Strengthening the livelihoods and resilience of vulnerable agricultural communities in rural Sindh, Pakistan
ⁱᵛ All the participants in the trainings received 50 grams of diverse vegetable seeds including okra, Indian squash, bottle ground, bitter ground, wild melon, eggplant seed and ridged guard.
ᵛ Including Hand sprinkler, Hoe, Rake, Sickle, Hay rake and Green Net

One of the worst affected district was Khairpur. Houses were swept away, livestock was lost and many farming lands have lost their crops. The situation is still evolving, with flood waters stagnant in many areas, causing water-borne and vector-borne diseases to spread, and more than 8 million displaced people now facing a health and livelihoods crisis.

Pakistan’s 2022 monsoon season produced significant rainfall, devastating floods and landslides, affecting millions of people. At the beginning of 2023 and several months after one of the worst flooding experienced in the country, an estimated 4.5 million people remain exposed to or are living close to flooded areas. Displaced people have started to return to their places of origin, but they are returning to challenging situations and almost zero infrastructure.

During these floods, Hafiza Bibi, a single mother of four children, not only saw her home crumbling down in front of her eyes but also experienced the grief of two dear family members passing away. “My husband was suffering from cancer. We could barely afford his medicines. He passed away in August during the middle of all the heavy rains. While I was struggling to get over the loss of my husband, my daughter also suffered from a nervous breakdown in October due to the trauma and stress of the floods. It took us a whole day just to reach to the nearest hospital when she fell to the ground. She stayed in the hospital for ten days but did not survive. She was only 21years old.”

Hafiza’s husband worked as a farmer and a labourer. Hafiza stayed at home, taking care of her four children, dedicated to household and care-taking chores. She watched water daily and ensured the family consumed their meals. “Our relatives would sometimes help us by giving wheat or money as charity. However, after the floods everyone suffered badly and no one we know was in a position to help.”

Many homes were washed away in Muhammad Fazal Khokar village where Hafiza lived. And her house was one of the many totally destroyed. She now lives with her brother-in-law in the same village but she knows that this living situation cannot not be continued for a long time. “I live in a makeshift tent just outside the house. It scares me that one day my brother-in-law will ask me to leave his place. This thought terrifies me as I have no money to build a place of my own”. Hafiza and her children have struggled to survive and slept for days on an empty stomach since everything she once owned had vanished within a blink of an eye.

“We went door to door assessing flood affected people who were in dire need during our visits to the most remote villages of Khairpur district. That is when we came across Hafiza Bibi. Members of the village committee were kind enough to inform us that a widow with four young children was in urgent need of money and assistance,” shared Hassan, Community Mobiliser in Community World Service Asia.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) with the support of Canadian Foodgrains Bank(CFGB) and Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) is supporting flood affected families with Cash for Food (CFF) in some of the most remote and climatically vulnerable villages of Khairpur district in Sindh, Pakistan. Under the initiative, flood survivors are provided cash to meet their immediate food and other essential needs.

Hafiza Bibi received PKR 12,000 in three tranches under the project so far(a total of PKR 36,000). “I bought essential food items such as wheat flour, rice, sugar, tea, milk and vegetables. This assistance has provided me some relief and allowed me to put food on the table for my children. At least for now. The rising prices are a huge concern and we do not know how we are going to make ends meets with no source of livelihood. I wanted to save some amount in case of emergency but I could not. A small packet of rice costs in hundreds these days. We need opportunities to revive our livelihoods.”

Shaista, a widow and mother of two sons. Shaista suffers from paralysis but stands strong in the face of all and any calamity and earns for her children despite all odds.

As many other disasters and crises, the Pakistan floods have had a disproportionate impact on women and young girls. Deep-rooted gender inequality, exacerbated by poverty and illiteracy has widened the gap in impact between men and women affected by this climate change-led disaster.

Heightened tensions, fear and uncertainty coupled with loss of income are driving increased violence against women and girls. Cases of harassment and sexual violence have also been reported, fueled by disputes over food and other essential items. As food insecurity rises, young girls in particular are at higher risk of violence, including sexual exploitation and forced marriage in exchange for money to buy food for the rest of the family[1].

Even before the floods, many of these women from affected communities were often recognised as “Lone Survivors”, being the sole breadwinners for their families or households headed by single mothers or grandmothers.

Shaista lost her husband to cancer last year. He was the only male member in their family, leaving Shaista to care for their children as well as his mother and sister. During the floods, Shaista and her family found their way to a relief camp to seek help as their house had been completely damaged and they were left without a home. Despite her illness and now without a home, Shaista still runs a small stall (tuck shop) which is right outside the one room house given to her family by the other villagers, where she sells goods for an income. Now 8 members reside in a one bedroom house and she sometimes sleeps in the tuck shop with her children because the space in her house is cram-full.

Hawa Khatun – Lost her eyesight, but not her will to survive.

Hawa lost her husband and son in a span of the last three years. She was left widowed and without any heir to support her.  With time, as she grew older,  she also lost her eyesight. As the horrifying rains hit their village (Golo Uner), Hawa, without any immediate family, sat on her Charpai (bed) and waited for help because she could not move. The villagers who loved her like their own, being one of the elders members in her village, came to help and took good care of her. Once families returned back to their village, the conditions were worse since almost everyone had lost their livelihoods, their homes and their livestock.  Hawa, even in her condition, tried to help fellow villagers by offering to sell her only left household items.

Shehnaz, the brave mother of 3 young children.

Shehnaz is a mother to three young children.  Her husband worked as a daily-wage labourer. They are from Nawab Machi Village but her husband used to go to Old Hala and worked in a small shop where they used to sell wheat, but the local market and economy has been badly hit by the floods as well and he is left at home without any source of livelihood. Shehnaz and her husband’s house was washed away in the floods and they now live in a make-shift shelter made of bricks in their little piece of land outside what was once their home. The agrarian lands and open-grounds surrounding their house are still in ruins and under water. The floods have in fact formed a little pond around their new house now. Everyday, one or the other of Shehnaz’s children fall in the little pond and injure themselves or catch an infection or disease from the dirty water surrounding them. It is Shehnaz who has to run to the clinic situated an hour and a half away from their village ever so often to ensure the safety and health of her children. Besides her usual motherly duties, Shehnaz is also selling small household items which she brings from the city every now and then to ensure some income is earned for the family to survive this difficult time.

Banu, the talented Ralli-crafter

Banu’s husband abandoned her, as a new bride, just two months after their wedding. It is eight years since that fateful day but loyal as she is, Banu still waits for him. While she waits for her husband, she does not sit idle – she earns as the only income-bearer for her own family. Without a father to care for her other sisters and mother, Banu cares and provides for her family. As a talented craftswomen, Banu is an expert in applique and patchwork. She sews different coloured cloth patches and makes an exquisite ethnic blanket out of it, called a Ralli in Sindhi. Painstakingly exhausting and intricate, Banu makes two rallis a month on an average and sells each for up to PKR 3000.  This costs Banu her health as her fingers end up swollen and she endures weeks of backaches as her slip disc has been displaced with hours of working in one position. The amount she receives is in no way a fair compensation for her hard work but she has to settle for it as this is their only source of livelihood. As being a Ralli crafter Banu would easily get the goods to stitch a Ralli from Old Hala (she used to walk 2 kms to get on the road and would take a bus from there to reach the market in Old Hala) but due to the floods , the prices in the market have increased and the necessary items are hard to find which makes it difficult for her to buy these items. Banu also lost her threads and patches which she had collected over the period of time, as the flood ruined their quality and the threads were lost.

Pahno – An empath leader

 A mother of four children, the youngest only one year old, Pahno fractured her foot when their house wall collapsed in Nawab Machi Village, on her leg during the heavy rain showers in August. Pahno’s husband is not home most of the time as he works in Hala and is hardly available for her wife and kids. Their family is struggling to survive since the floods hit their home and village but Pahno has not lost hope. Even in the most difficult of times, she not only takes good care of her children but also worries for her entire community, especially the women. Realising that the health of the women in their community has suffered the most since the floods, she encourages all of them to visit the mobile health clinic established by CWSA and partners. She takes it upon herself to ensure each one of the women she knows go to the OPD for health care.  Despite her limping leg, she leads them to the clinic every time. That is true leadership.

Women in Pakistan are silently suffering since the floods hit their homes and their communities. Their houses have washed away, their family and neighbours have died in front of their eyes and they have witnessed unbearable loss but they stand strong. In many ways they were alone before and they are alone now but that does not make them lose their will to survive.

[1]  UN Women stories – Nov 22