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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.

In response to the severe climate change lead drought in the Sindh and Baluchistan provinces of Pakistan, Community World Service Asia activated its emergency food security and nutrition project in Umerkot last month. This initiative, which is supported by the Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) and the Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB), aims to assist 1,600 most vulnerable drought affected families through food distribution and nutritional programs for six months.

Since most of the affected families belong to purely agrarian communities, millet seeds will also be distributed among them for the next sowing season to ensure their nutritional and livelihood sustainability. The first round of this project’s food distribution was conducted during the last week of April at four different villages, namely Rohiraro, Bhadi, Dhalo Jo Tarr and Ramsar, in Umerkot District. The distribution points were selected in consultation with the local communities to ensure easy access for all selected project participants.

Food packages distributed under this project are developed using the Sphere minimum standards for food security which ensures the provision of 2,100 kilo calories per person per day. 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 for every family until they start harvesting their own produce. These families will also be provided16kgs of millet crop seed in June.

Community Voices:

“During the last few months, our family could barely afford three meals a day as due to our poor financial conditions. We had limited availability of food at home, most of which was borrowed at high interest rates. The small amount of money that my four daughters earn by embroidering traditional Sindhi caps is not enough to even cover the expense of my medicines as I am a patient of Epilepsy. A few days ago my husband fractured his hand in an accident, increasing our problems and expenses further. In this difficult time, the food aid provided to us through this project has been a blessing for our family.  The quality of food has been good and will be sufficient to serve my family three meals a day for more than a month. We are hopeful that there will be a good downpour this year and we will have sufficient harvest from our fields.”

Reshama, wife of Kirshan, resident of Ranhar village, UC Kaplore, Umerkot District

“The past two years have been very difficult for my family as there have been limited work opportunities in the area and there have been no harvests from our fields. We have bee surviving with limited resources. Access to food has been challenging. My elder son earns a meager income which is not sufficient to provide food to a six-member family thrice a day. Some community members lend us food sometimes.

We are now eating three meals daily for four consecutive days as a result of the food assistance provided under the food aid project. The food items received from the team are of good quality and quantity. I am glad to see my children sleeping with their stomachs full.”

Kheian, wife of Pargho, residing in Ranhar village, UC Kaplore, Umerkot District

“Due to my physical disability, I manage and try to earn through the little livestock we own. Providing basic necessities for my family of eight people was becoming very difficult. The drought in the area further worsened our living conditions, making our lives more difficult. We barely had any means of income or food. We were not even able to migrate to other areas due to lack of resources.  In order to feed my family, I had to sell some of my livestock, leaving me with only three goats. The situation was getting worst by the day. My miseries came to an end when Community World Service Asia came knocking at my door to provide food assistance. The food package provided is enough to meet the food needs of my family for an entire month.”

Chander Singh, resident of Bhadi village, UC Kaplore, Umerkot District

Two in-house orientation sessions for forty-four staff members on Training Evaluation Methodology, Complaint Response Mechanisms and Theory of change (ToC) were conducted by our MEAL unit in Umerkot this February. The day-long orientations[1] aimed at developing ToC documents for new projects together with participating staff members, strengthen their capacity on CRM and introduce them to new and simple evaluations process, tools and methodologies.

Revising Evaluation Methodologies

Program teams of CWSA have been evaluating trainings conducted under the various thematic areas that the organization works in through a variety of approaches and tools in the past. During these evaluations, certain gaps were identified in the existing methodologies applied which lead to incomplete information and to an extent challenges in measuring project impact. To address this gap, CWSA’s MEAL unit revised the organization’s evaluation and monitoring system and planned thorough orientations of it to different program teams so that a common methodology is consistently applied through all projects and division of responsibilities, through the process, is clarified among all relevant staff members.

During the orientation,  the guidelines of the methodology and its process flowchart was discussed with all participants in detail and the development of the Learning Outcome form to measure training objectives was explained. Participants were briefed on the standardization of a training evaluation methodology and the learning outcome form within the organization.

This new form (Learning outcome) has been designed to identify between four to six learning outcomes from the objectives of each training. The form will be completed by every training participants at the pre and post stage, resulting in a systematic comparison of the participants learning before and after a training conducted by CWSA. The previous forms used by the training teams included lengthy questions that were not reflecting the training objectives or provide a clear learning impact.

It is good that some responsibilities are shared among different departments for this new training evaluation methodology and we will definitely get support from MEAL Unit”. Shahab Anjum, Program Coordinator, exclaimed.

Reinforcing Complaint Response Mechanisms

There was a need for a detailed orientation on CRM as new staff are recruited under CWSA’s latest Drought Response and Emergency Food Relief projects[2] in the Sindh province. This was also a good opportunity for existing staff to receive a refresher course on CRM as it is vital for our accountability processes to the communities we serve.

In the session on CRM, staff was oriented on the different procedures and channel processes of lodging and addressing complaints. These included complaints made internally, by CWSA employees and consultants, and externally, by community members, vendors and partnering organizations. Participants were thoroughly oriented on the complaint form with each being provided a hard copy for review and input.

Staff members raised questions on the timelines set for responding to complaints, processes of logging and redress and conditions of appeal, which were all addressed and carefully explained by the MEAL team.

Older staff members shared their experiences of receiving and responding to complaints on different occasions of projects’ deliverance processes which was important learning for newer employees.

Initially the complaint boxes were rarely used by project participants. As their learning grew, they started to share their hurdles with us. This has built trust in the communities we work in as we aim to address the issues timely,” shared Lata Kumari Khatri, Enterprise Development Officer.

Introducing Theory of Change (ToC)

The session on Theory of Change took the last slot in the day-long orientation session but was the most labour intensive and engaging for the participants. Taking the format of a mini workshop, the session focused on the concept and purpose of ToC and its significance in the successful evaluation of projects.

The task of planning and carrying out evaluation research that provides information on the fieldwork practices and lessons learnt in general is a challenge.  Within the wider TOC framework, logic or outcomes models were identified to be very closely related, often being used to take a more narrowly practical look at the relationship between inputs and results.

The approach of ToC was explained briefly with the inclusion of its difference from Logical Framework Approach (LFA) and other project progress tracking documents. Participants reviewed how Theory of Change allows staff members to see the bigger picture, including issues related to the environment or social contexts that you cannot control. During the session, the staff learnt of all the different pathways that might lead to change, even if those pathways are not related to each of their program.

Participants were divided in groups of two to develop their own ToC document for the projects they are directly engaged in. A sample of an ideal ToC was shared with them for reference prior the activity.

By the end of the sessions, participating staff members developed specific skills on integrating ToC in organizational planning and evaluation processes.

We learned a different perspective to view our project proceedings and outcomes. This tool will be very useful in guiding teams to maximize inputs in bringing greater change through the projects we work on,” expressed Sardar Shah, Project Officers.

[1] The orientation was divided into two sessions so that the group is divided into 22 participants each and a session each is dedicated to each group.

[2] Financially supported by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, & Canadian Foodgrains Bank

A group photo of all training participants with lead facilitator, Nadia Riasat.

A four-day teachers’ training was held under our education program, supported by Act for Peace and Australian Aid for public schools’ teachers from the Umerkot district of Sindh province. The training focused on amplifying the skills of these teachers on early childhood care (ECCE) and advanced teaching methodologies. Thirteen teachers from different schools participated in this workshop that took place in Umerkot from January 29th to February 1st.

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is a new teaching approach that was introduced to the teachers in the training in Umerkot. Early childhood, defined as the age between a child’s birth uptil eight years, is scientifically identified as a time of remarkable cognitive growth, with brain development at its peak. During this stage, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them. The ECCE approach does not only relates to teaching practices in primary schools. It aims at the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and robust foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing. Since August 2018, the Umerkot district government has initiated the application of ECCE as compulsory in all primary government schools of the district.

Nadia Riasat, program officer and trainer at CWSA facilitated the workshop, emphasizing on the dire need to increase knowledge on holistic development of children and together with the participants identified key learning areas to help develop child-friendly learning environments in classrooms. During the four-day training, she elaborated on the teaching methodologies available to promote ECCE and how these would help teachers keep the students’ interest and attendance consistent.

Through various interactive exercises, the teachers were kept engaged throughout the training and were encouraged to share the challenges they face in teaching and maintaining positive and conducive learning environments. ECCE was identified as one of the key approaches to sustain productive classroom settings as it adopts play-way and activity-based approaches to promote effective knowledge and character building among children. To inculcate the ECCE teaching approaches among the participants, the teachers were engaged in various activities such as role-plays, storytelling, poem recitals, presentations and production of low-cost teaching models. They also learnt new and creative ways of teaching mathematics and topics of general knowledge through applying arts and craft skills.

Naheed, a teacher at the GGPS[1] in Abdul Wahid Colony, Umerkot shared,

The training material we received and the content delivered during CWSA’s training were very useful to us in terms of engaging students in study through fun activities. The knowledge on ECCE has boosted the teachers’ confidence and enhanced their skills to overcome the hurdles we faced in keeping children interested in the subjects we taught. I will apply these methodologies and hope to achieve positive outcomes. Making creative art and craft through low-cost material is very useful, especially in rural areas like Umerkot. Most of the families that the students belong to are living in poor financial conditions and cannot bear extra expenses of additional stationary and learning material demanded by schools on certain occasions. For this reason, the use of extra material that is easily available in many of the children’s homes makes it easier for us teachers to engage children in such activities.

I was not willing to attend the training initially as I had not attended such trainings before. However, today I am glad that my other teacher colleagues convinced me to take part in the training as it gave me an opportunity to build upon my knowledge and develop specific skills to provide quality and fun education. Children learn fast when they are having fun and applying the techniques I learnt at the training will definitely result in positive outcomes for my classes.  I will encourage other teachers to attend such trainings as it is very useful in enhancing the teaching skills of teachers,

expressed Hajra, who has been teaching since 1992 and is currently a teacher at the GGPS in Main Samaro village of Umerkot.

During the training, the teachers were guided on how to develop action plans to implement their learnings and apply them in their day-to-day classrooms. The plans they developed included regular morning meetings in their classes, delegation and balanced division of work among students to build a sense of responsibility as recommended in the ECCE manual[2]. Many of the teachers planned to share their learnings with fellow teachers at their respective schools to mainstream ECCE and positive learning environments across all classes.

Naseem Ahmed Jogi, District Education Officer (DEO), was invited as a chief guest on the last day of the training to award appreciation and participation certificates. Gracing the occasion, Naseer Ahmed remarked,

This initiative by Community World Service Asia is changing the rigid environment of schools, and converting them into fun places for children to learn more effectively and enjoy education. We highly appreciate the strong support of CWSA in promoting the implementation of ECCE in school programs in this region. Our plan is to recruit more teachers specializing in ECCE and to construct separate classrooms for ECCE learning. These kind of trainings will speed up the ECCE application and inclusion processes which is why I encourage all of you here to continue taking such courses and encourage others to do the same.

[1] Government Girls Primary School

[2] ECCE Training Manual entails information on concept of ECCE, holistic development of children through ECCE, key learning areas, competencies of subject arithmetic, Urdu, culture and scheme of work on these subjects with methodologies.

The Perbhat theater group with the team of community World Service Asia.

Sphere Regional Focal Point, Community World Service Asia organized a theater performance on the Sphere standard #6.3 Food Assistance. Two theater performances were conducted in Ratan Bheel and Mandhal Thakur villages of Umerkot district in Sindh, Pakistan on December 6th! A total of 130 men and women participated in the community-level event.

The play highlighted some challenges faced during the targeting, distribution and delivery processes of food assistance. Perbhat, a local theater group and local partner of CWSA, performed an interactive theater play to highlight the food distribution methods or direct cash/voucher delivery mechanisms that are efficient, equitable, secure, safe, accessible and effective and are in line with the Sphere standards. The play emphasized on the guidelines derived from the Sphere Handbook 2018 that guides the CSOs to use the minimum standards to protect the rights of all groups of society to promote their dignity and ensure their inclusiveness and protection.

Voices of the Community:

Savetri from Ratan Bheel village in Umerkot shared, “The play promoted the importance and respect of differently able and children in the community. These two groups are mostly overlooked but today we learnt that the new Sphere Handbook promotes the inclusion of all groups including men, women, children, youth and the differently able members of communities.”

Khatoon from Ratan Bheel village in Umerkot quoted, “The needs of men, women, children, youth and differently able members of the communities were given importance. None of the group was disregarded as all are served equally during emergency crisis.”

Dhano, Ratan Bheel village, Umerkot. “We learnt an important message today stating that the food assistance provided by various organizations should be according to the needs of community members”

Kiran Bashir, Project Manager, Community World Service Asia. “Sphere Handbook 2018 promotes the inclusion of all women, youth, elders and differently able members of local communities. Every voice counts so let us raise our voices together and share the message of equal participation.”

Jai Ram Dhaas, Ratan Bheel village, Umerkot. “We learnt that the Sphere Handbook 2018 caters the needs of all women, children and most importantly of the differently able members in the community who are mostly gone unnoticed.”

Reshma, a thirty-five-year-old artisan from Haji Chanesar village in Umerkot, Sindh, has been working with Community World Service Asia as an artisan and Women Enterprise Group (WEG) member since May 2016. Reshma has been very active in the skills-building classes and order completion activities at the vocational center in Haji Chanesar under the livelihoods project*.

Living with eight family members, her seven children and her husband, Reshma is responsible for all household chores and seasonal farming activities. Her husband is a mason who earns a daily income of PKR 500 to 600, however this earning is entirely dependent on the demand of his masonry work in the area; if there is ongoing construction, then his services are required, otherwise not. Hence, the income varies and is insufficient to last the family for a whole month. On an average, the monthly income is less than PKR 10,000 (Approx. 86 U$D).

My husband’s income is mostly spent on daily household expenses and our children’s education. Two of my (four) sons go to school and one of (my four) daughters is married. My younger two daughters have only studied till class 5 and now they stay at home helping with home chores mostly. While two of my elder sons work in Umerkot city at a mobile repairing shop through which they earn a daily income of PKR 300. Their income is insufficient as it also depends on repairing services, a demand for which also fluctuates.

Another artisan from Haji Chanesar village, named Maya, introduced Reshma to the vocational center.

Initially, I used to stitch at home for my children mostly. Sometimes on neighbor’s request, I worked on their clothing and stitched a few, minimal pieces. I did not know that I could earn so well through this skill.

According to Reshma, the skill development training taught her new stitching and designing techniques.

I learnt how to make new designs with a series of vast color combinations and different threads. The products we produced lacked tidiness as we worked with dirty hands sometimes or accidently put cuts on the clothes; often ignoring the quality of the products. After the training, every Women Enterprise Group** (WEG) is assigned a Quality Assurance Supervisor*** (QAS) who ensures the quality of work of every product made in the center. In addition, we also incorporate new patterns and color combinations to meet the consumer demands in the markets.

After furnishing my stitching skills, I started to receive multiple orders from local and city markets. I made embroidered apparels including shirts, pants and scarves and home accessories like cushions covers and rillis. I earnt a good amount of PKR 40,000 from all the orders I worked on. I invested my earnings in setting up a raw materials shop, for artisans and tailors, in my house. My shop provides raw material for stitching garments to retailer. There are different colored threads, needles, decorative ornaments, mirror pieces, a sewing machine, cloth pieces, laces buttons and other stitching accessories available in my shop for selling. I founded the shop six months ago and continuously invested the earnings I made through the sales of my handicrafts and the raw materials I provided. Today, I am proud to admit that I have raw materials worth Rs. one lakh in my shop up for sale.

I travel to Umerkot and Mirpurkhas city to purchase raw material to further sell at my retail shop. My son or my husband accompanies me as I need someone to help me with carrying all the material back home. I am happy to see that my sales are increasing. I now plan to travel to Karachi to purchase even more different raw materials.

It is a challenge for home-based artisans, especially women, in remote Sindh to travel to other cities to purchase a variety or good quality of raw materials needed to produce new, competitive and superior handicraft products.

My shop has a variety of products for women to purchase and some also place orders with me for bulk or specific material as they know that I am able to travel to other cities and will be able to bring them what they require for high making quality products.

My journey of becoming an entrepreneur has not been easy. After getting involved in the vocational center, it became a bit difficult to balance out all my tasks. I had to leave home chores behind and come later in the day after my class to complete them. As an elder responsible for the house, I had many errands to take care of at home too. Therefore, I aimed at working fast and starting the day early at home to finish all my home tasks before going to the center. Moreover, urgent orders for handicrafts made my life even more exhausting and busy.

Depending on design and the type of embroidery, there were products that required more time and attention.  Some buyers give very short deadlines which makes it difficult for us to meet. We have to work late and seek help from other artisans, whom we also pay for their contribution. It takes twice as much effort but we manage to deliver the orders within given timelines. However, urgent orders affect the quality of our products and our health. We need to earn money that’s why we accept urgent orders as well, as it’s a good source of income. Opportunities are limited for rural people like us, therefore, we grab any opportunity we get instead of refusing it,

narrated Resham.

Despite these challenges, I believe, this initiative has brought positivity and a good change in our lives. Before, the men in our family did not permit women to go to other cities while today we travel in groups of women and our husbands encourage us to expand our businesses. It is important for a woman to earn; when a woman has money in her hands, she is not overly dependent on anyone. We can buy clothes of our choice.  Today our choices matter as much that of the men in the family. Whenever the need arises, I spend on my healthcare as well instead of waiting for my husband’s income to come,

concluded Reshma.

* The livelihoods project titled “Increasing financial resilience and economic empowerment” in Umerkot is implemented by Community World Service Asia and supported by YCare International and UKAID.

** A WEG is a group formed of artisans in every vocational center, to produce marketable products and link them to high-end markets for income generation.

*** A trained production supervisor to manage groups to produce quality products in line with market trends.

 

Final Selection of project participants in a meeting held in collaboration with the Village Committee.

Our Emergencies Program is addressing food security needs of drought-affected communities in district Umerkot of Sindh, Pakistan. Food items have been distributed to 280 drought-affected families through voucher schemes at a “market day” that was organized by the project team in Sekhro, a union council of Umerkot.  The food package has been designed in line with Sphere food security standards and includes wheat flour (60kg), basmati rice (15kg), pulses (7kg), cooking oil (6 liters), sugar (6kg), tea leaves (600 grams), iodized salt (1kg) and matchboxes (pack of 10).

During the planning stage of the project, introductory meetings with affected communities were held to form village committees and train them, on project participant selection, use of voucher and complaint response mechanism, to participate in and take ownership of project activities. With the help of the village committees, women-headed households, families with low and no income, orphan children, elderly and the disabled village members were identified as key recipients of the food packages.

The village committee facilitated the entire voucher distribution process that took place a day prior to the “market day” and ensured that the food vouchers were distributed to the identified and most-vulnerable drought-affected families. The selected families were also oriented on how to use the voucher to buy the food items and about the venue and process of distribution on the “market day”. All the project participants were informed of the code of conduct of ACT Alliance and the process of registering complaints as well.

A total of 140 women, 138 men and 2 differently abled individuals took part in the “Market Day”, where they were given a range of food items to choose from with their vouchers for their respective household and family needs.

Community Voices:

“Due to the severe drought in our area we were unable to harvest a single grain. It was difficult to find other labour opportunities in the vicinity as well. I was worried about feeding my family with no work and zero harvest. I was just about to sell my livestock when Community World Service Asia came to our door to provide food assistance in these difficult times. We received quality food items that are enough to cater to the nutritional needs of my family for more than a month.”

Deepo, son of Muko, Sadamani Village, Umerkot District

“I have been unable to feed my children adequately since the last couple of months. With the onslaught draught and lack of fodder for our animals, we barely had any means of income or food.  Many families had to migrate from this area, as they were unable to grow anything or find other work.  This relief project has come to us as a blessing. The method of selecting project participants and the distribution method at the market day was very organized and hassle free.”

Jaman Khatton, wife of late Vishno, New Sobahani Village, Umerkot District

“My wife and I were dependent on our neighbors and other villagers who would provide us with little food assistance as my poor health does not allow me to work and earn a living. The food assistance provided by the project team of the relief project catered to our immediate needs. We now have food items stored in our house, which will last us more than two months. The food package includes a sufficient amount of basic food items required to cook a good meal.”

Mr. and Mrs. Adho, Sadmani Village, Umerkot District

As Media Coordinator, my main responsibilities include management, editing and publishing the visibility material of AWAREⁱ. My team and I also provide coverage to program teams across the five districts that AWARE is working in the Sindh province. Till date, we have published a number of press releases, organizational reports and updates of project activities,

 shared Abdul Karim.

Employed at AWARE since 2015, Abdul Karim has provided communications support to the organization’s projects being implemented in the five districts of Umerkot, Tharparkar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Badin and Tando Allahyaar.

We publish news articles in local newspapers. We also use social media as a popular platform to exhibit our work and publications. Different groups on WhatsApp about project activity updates are also formed with community members, district stakeholders and government officials, giving immediate visibility to our work,

added Abdul Karim.

Shewaram, Program Manager at AWARE, however felt that there was still a need for more effective visibility of their projects.

Under our various thematic areas such as gender sensitization, education and water sanitation, our project teams are doing a lot of work but it is usually not represented as successfully. We were not able to deliver the right messages and promote our work the way it should be, 

commented Shewaram.

Despite having an official website and a Facebook page, Shewaram consistently advocated for improved program and organizational visibility within AWARE. He believed that the relevant teams at their organization needed to strengthen their capacity on utilizing the platforms more strategically.

We have 2000 followers on Facebook. To engage and increase this followers’ number, I felt we needed to have more updates on all our external platforms. We were unaware of proper strategy building on social media and other platforms in order to publish our news/updates. Who is our target audience? Are they decision-makers or community people or stakeholders? All these questions needed to be addressed and thought of. This is why we nominated Abdul Karim to participate in the Advocacy for Change training organized by Community World Service Asia in Mirpurkhas in May last year (2018).

Training Experience:

Abdul Karim was excited about the training and held high expectations about his learnings from it. He wanted to learn about new advocacy tools and guidelines on developing successful visibility campaigns.

This training was an opportunity to learn more about advocating and publishing effectively. To increase our digital presence, we needed the knowledge and technical skills of advocacy and digital communications.

Through the training, Abdul Karim and other participants learnt about the advocacy planning cycle.

To strategize for effective advocacy, we learnt to be flexible and be able to adjust our plans to changing circumstances. The training helped us understand that advocacy is a repetitive process; with ongoing monitoring and review, the plan can be updated and adjusted according to the different reactions perceived from the target audience. The contexts in which we work are unpredictable and often changing, and we need to be able to respond accordingly,

 shared Abdul Karim.

Twenty-four participants from 14 organizations participated in this training to enhance their digital marketing and campaigning skills.

We learnt how to develop, refine and deliver potent and productive messages. The group exercise on advocacy strategy building allowed building a good understanding on the practicalities of resourcing, implementing and monitoring an advocacy plan.

Abdul Karim also built his knowledge on effective media engagement techniques.

The mock interview session with media and the activity on preparing a press release taught us strategic utilization of media which will help in creating a favourable environment for change.

Way Forward:

After the training, Abdul Karim shared key points of the advocacy planning cycle with his team at AWARE and informed them of the many media engagement and resource mobilization techniques for advocacy that he learnt.

The Twitter account of our organization was not actively used as we did not understand how to manage it very well before. At the training, we learnt how to use Twitter as a tool for campaigning and advocacy. It taught us how to deliver strong messages and tag relevant stakeholders, followers and government officials to our posts for an increased impact, 

quoted Abdul Karim.

Since the training, we have launched two campaigns in collaboration with Oxfam Pakistan on twitter. Our communications team uploaded powerful messages on girls’ education and tax justice. This twitter campaign emphasized on amending education laws and increasing awareness on the importance of girls’ education. Relevant government departments and officials were tagged in the posts. We also shared this with our WhatsApp group members and requested them to retweet, ‘like’ and comment on our posts for mass coverage. Within an hour, the messages were retweeted several times. We received positive feedback from a large group of people on twitter, 

narrated Shewaram. Through the campaigns, important issues reached relevant government departments, demanding a call for action from them.

Engagement on AWARE’s official Facebook page has increased noticeably and the page now features more regular updates. The organization’s webpage is also frequently updated and receives more traffic now.

Organizational documentaries and videos were only uploaded on Vimeo before. Now, while we have launched a YouTube account and post all our videos on that as well. This has increased our visibility a lot. We now cater to a larger viewership, who appreciate our work and share feedback with us. Our teams confidently approach government officials to liaise and hold meetings with decision and policy makers. They work through a proper channel. Moreover, our higher management team is also appearing on talk shows and participating in policy amendment processes which has increased the impact of our work,

concluded Shewaram positively.

ⁱ The Association for Water, Applied Education & Renewable Energy.

My husband, Utham, takes care of the village chief’s livestock. He earns a monthly income of PKR 5000 (approx. USD 42) through it. This income amount served to be insufficient for a household of seven members. All of the PKR 5000 was mostly consumed in purchasing grocery items to run the family kitchen and there was barely anything left to spend on other household expenses,

voiced Bhaga gloomily. Bhaga is a thiry-five-year-old mother of four children and lives with her husband and mother-in-law in Kharoro Charan village located in district Umerkot, Sindh.

Bhaga’s family was among the few assigned to Kenwal, a trained gender activist in Kharoro Charan, to work with on raising awareness on gender rights and equality. Kenwal visited Utham and Bhaga’s family to encourage Bhaga to join the vocational center to enhance her handicraft skills and develop literacy and marketing skills.

Utham and my mother-in-law supported and motivated me to take the skills assessment in order to join the center. Upon passing the assessment, I joined the center in June 2016.

The three months Adult Literacy Training which was part of the vocational centre classes helped me build upon my basic learning skills. Growing up as part of a financially poor family, I did not get the chance to attend school when I was young. This training gave me the opportunity to learn how to read and write. It also helped build my confidence. I was quite dependent on my husband before. I did not go anywhere without him accompanying me. After taking the trainings, I have now started to commute to nearby markets and to the health center on my own whenever the need arises. I do not wait for Utham to return from work and escort me,” shared a confident Bhaga, “The Skills Development Training on the other hand brought new colors to my life altogether. I did not know what color combinations to make in embroidery making and how to use them while designing apparel. I realized that the use of vibrant and mellow color combinations could increase the value of our handcrafts. I have worked on many orders from local and urban markets since I graduated from the centre. I have produced various apparels and home accessories.

Bhaga did not own a sewing machine. She saved money from what she earned through handicraft sales and order delivery at the center and bought herself a sewing machine. She works on orders received for her products at her home now as well.

I work as a tailor in the village now. I earn a good amount of around PKR 6000-7000 a month. I also teach stitching and embroidery to three young girls who come to learn from me at my house. Amarta, Devi and Savita are their names and they between the ages of 12 and 14 years. I am happy to teach them without charging them any fee. I believe it is best to share my learning so that others can benefit from it just like I did.

Utham used to be an ardent alcoholic. Bhaga said there were times when Utham spent a heavy portion of his income on purchasing alcohol.

He would come home drunk very late in the nights. I felt disappointed as I was not able to stop him from drinking so much

added Bhaga. Kewal took a lead to work with Bhaga’s family. As a trained gender activist, Kewal was given five households with whom to start work with. He held meetings with the family, highlighting many disadvantages of alcoholism and being one of the root causes of many gender based discriminatory practices and mindsets in their community.

Utham used to beat Bhaga when he was drunk. His behavior was affecting entire family very gravely and it had to stop. I met with the family a couple of times and continuously persuaded Utham to reduce his drinking. I made him realize that this could become the future of his children if he continued to drink this abusively,

expressed Kewal. As a result, Utham reduced his consumption of alcohol. He has also stopped physically abusing Bhaga.

I am more relaxed and the environment of my home has improved due to this initiative. I am glad to see how responsible Utham has become. He takes care of his children more. He respects me now.

As parents, we have never stopped our girls from gaining education. They are intelligent and have been very confident in pursuing education and we support them in every step of the way,

expressed Shahida, a thirty-two-year-old mother of six children living in Umerkot district of Sindh province. Shahida has been the chairman of the School ManagementCommittee (SMC) since 2017. Bushra and Dua, two of Shahida’s daughters, study at the Government Girls Primary School of Abdul Wahid Colony, Umerkot.

The SMC was established in 2016 but was not actively working. Each year when the funds were released by the government, the SMC members, a handful of teachers, the headmaster and the General Secretary of the SMC, would hold a meeting and decide where to spend the money. No parent or student was involved in the meeting. Following the teachers trainings last year and beginning of this year, the trained teachers came to me and emphasized on strengthening the role of SMC for the further development of the school,

 narrated Sami, Head Master at the GGPS Abdul Wahid Colony.

The SMC, comprising of a General Secretary, a chairman, two teachers, two parents and two students, held a meeting soon after to highlight the role of each member and encouraged active participation to strengthen its role towards improving the education standards of the school.

Abdul Razzaque, consultant at Community World Service Asia, conducted a session for the SMC in February 2018, emphasizing on the key role of the SMC in strengthening relationships between the schools and local communities. As parents and children are the primary stakeholders of an education system, they need to be given opportunities to be involved in bringing about a change for themselves.

At the session we were briefed on what the prime functions of the SMC should be. Educationally, we are expected to monitor teachers’ attendance, increase the enrolment of children and build awareness amongst parents on the importance of education for their children. Administratively, we are expected to actively participate in organizing co-curriculum activities, monitor provision of free textbooks and disburse the SMC fund for the improvement of the school, Shahida shared. Furthermore, Sir Razzaque emphasized on having a clean school to promote a healthy environment. Keeping the facility clean will prevent spreading of germs, resulting in healthier students. Healthy students are able to focus better at school and experience less absenteeism.

The government revived the structure of theSMC in 2015 but did not provide formal trainings for its’ members to work proactively for the advancement of the schools. It was after the teachers’ training that the SMC of Abdul Wahid Colony was actively involved in the school’s operations and academic decisions. The learnings provided by CommunityWorld Service Asia further built on our capacities to work towards better outcomes for our students, teachers and the entire school systems. As a SMC member and a parent, I learnt the fundamental role we can play in improving teaching quality and infrastructure of the school to create a productive academic environment for the students, especially the girls, sharing her learnings, Shahida added, Most importantly, we learnt to make a budget of the annual fund received from the government. Budgeting is an important process that allows delegation of financial tasks and responsibility in schools. Developing and maintaining a budget is key to achieving secure and successful outcomes for the school.

In the near future, we are planning a SMC meeting to plan out a budget to utilize the funds sufficiently. This is a good practice for record keeping as well and will be very beneficial while planning future budgets. We can compare previous budgets and prioritize activities accordingly every year.

The space for girls’ education in rural areas like Umerkot is limited. Parents here lay more importance on the education of boys, believing they will be heading households and financially supporting their families in the future. Whereas girls are predestined to take care of their homes and family for which, they think, education is not compulsory.

It is sad to see that parents think way. We encourage parents, neighbors and friends in social gatherings to send their daughters to schools. Things are improving gradually but there is still a long way to go.

One of my daughter’s, Dua, primary schoolteachers, Naheed, was part of the Teachers and Master Teachers training conducted by Community World Service Asia under its’ Girls Education Project supported byAct for Peace, in 2017 and 2018. The change I saw in my daughter’s learning and interest was commendable. And similar improvements and increased interest of students was observed in other classes

I witnessed the enthusiasm children had when they participated in the Creative Art Competition held in May 2018. They were overwhelmed. Students in rural areas are rarely involved in such activities and this is one of the main reasons why parents do not send their children to school as they only see a child studying off a textbook with little motivation. Activities like the seen courage parents to send their children to school. Children are also motivated to come to school as these platforms provide an opportunity to stand out. I would like to request Community World Service Asia to conduct more child centered activities and competitions with different school participating, leading to provincial based competitions. The art competition exhibited that the students in Umerkot have great potential. They only need a platform to exhibit their talent. Moreover, there can be joint ventures where parents can be involved in the management of competitions as this will allow student and parent participation which will be a completely unique and motivating experience for all.