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Ratni is a 70-year-old widow who lives with her son and his family in Senate John Colony, located in Pithoro of Umerkot district in Sindh, Pakistan. They all live together in a cob house made of mud and straw.

“My son, Khemchand, is a teacher at a local private school. He used to earn a reasonable monthly income of PKR 8000 before COVID-19 forced all schools in the region to shut down. The school administration discontinued paying its teachers as the school was not equipped to carry out online classes and there were no incoming student fees that could cover teachers’ salaries. However, the recent monsoons brought some relief to us agrarian communities. The rains have revived the agricultural activities and have given us opportunities to work on the fields. My son and daughter-in-law started working on the fields and were able to bring home some income through that. It was not much but was better than nothing. Sometimes, I would also assist them on the field to earn a bit more to make ends meets.”

The harvest season lasts three months in rain-fed areas of Umerkot and until the next monsoon season arrives, there will be less or no opportunities to work on the fields. Therefore, Ratni, Khemchand and his wife had no work to do once the three-month period ended in August.

“We had no livelihood by then and were forced to sell some of our household possessions to buy essential food supplies for the house and particularly for my four young grand-children. We also had to take some loan from our neighbours when there was nothing left to sell.”

Community World Service Asia (CWSA), with support of United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), is implementing a Humanitarian Assistance project responding to the immediate needs of drought affected Communities in Umerkot. As part of the project, 1, 206 families will be provided with two cash grants, each of PKR 12,000 in September through mobile cash transfer services to address food insecurity caused by drought, repeated locust-attacks and the economic implications of COVID-19.

Senate John Colony’s Village Committeeⁱ provided a list of families living in the area who were most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and other natural disasters to be supported through the project. As a result, CWSA’s emergency response team contacted Ratni as a project participant and she received the first cash assistance of PKR 12000 (Approx. USD 72).

“Through the money I received, I paid back the loans I had taken from neigbhours to survive in the last months and bought some food essentials for home. I have also saved some money to buy school books for my grandchildren for when the schools resume.”


ⁱ Village Committees are voluntary associations established for local administration. They are extra constitutional authorities comprised of 7-8 members including male and female from different caste in the village.

Dodo (far right) with his family

Dodo Maru Bheel is a 74-year-old father of two children, a son and a daughter, and a resident of Moriya village in UC Sekhro district of Umerkot, Sindh. He and his wife and younger daughter currently live with their son and his family (of six members, a wife and four children). Dodo has a visual impairment but he has never considered that as a disability or something that would hinder his life plans or goals. He is as resilient as can be and everyone in the village admires his determination and strength.

Dodo experienced a fatal road accident a few years ago. Due to an unavailability of an ambulance or timely first aid in the area, Dodo was unable to access appropriate medical facilities which further worsened his injuries from the accident. Since his financial conditions were unfavourable, he could not even afford most of the prescribed treatment at a bigger health centre in the nearest urban city. Dodo suffered a severe head injury which eventually lead him to lose his eye-sight completely.

With his sudden visual impairment, Dodo was unable to find any employment or paid work. He used to work as a daily labourer in the Umerkot city and surrounding areas. The elderly couple, along with their daughter, hence became financially dependent on their son. Their son, a daily wager, worked as a mason and the money he earnt barely met his own family’s basic day-to-day expenses, let alone a whole household of now nine members.

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit Pakistan, the government imposed a country-wide lockdown to restrict the spread of the virus. Many daily wagers lost their jobs during the lockdown; Dodo’s son was among them. The family could barely afford a single meal a day. Dodo and his son were struggling to keep their house running and their families fed. This dire situation prompted Dodo to sell a few of his goats during the days leading up to Eid-ul-Adha in late July 2020. His goats were his only remaining livestock and a supporting income means. Dodo also borrowed some money during the early days of the lockdown from a local landlord to meet their household expenses.

In April 2020, Dodo’s wife had received cash assistance of PKR 12000 (approx. US $ 71) from Ehsaas Kafalat Program as a part of the government’s COVID-19 relief fund. With that amount, Dodo and his wife planned to run a small scale, home-based business but his former creditors pushed him to pay back his loans with that amount so he was unable to use it for anything else.

The lockdown in the country has now eased but COVID-19 has left the country in a severe economic crisis that has pushed many underprivileged communities into poverty. Dodo and his son sold almost all the resources they had to sustain their family’s survival needs and are left with nothing now.

Community World Service Asia and UMCOR have initiated a project to respond to the needs of hazard and COVID-19 affected marginalised communities in rural Sindh. As part of the project, together with the support of village committees, the project selected Dodo as a participant of its cash-assistance. This will ensure that Dodo receives PKR 24000/- in two monthly installments to start his own small scale, home-based business.

Dodo and his family are happy to be selected and are looking forward to efficiently utilising the cash that they will receive next week and returning to a somewhat normal semblance of their life, as they did before the COVID-19 crisis. Dodo also hopes to save some of this money to consult an eye specialist for his eye-sight treatment.

Champa and her family outside their home in St. John’s colony earlier this year.

Thirty-eight-year-old Champa is a mother to six children and a wife of a daily-wage carpenter belonging to St. John Colony in Umerkot. Both Champa and her husband are physically impaired and the family’s only source of income is her husband’s daily labour.

St. John’s colony is basically a remote village that has a difficult access and hardly any basic facilities like health centers, schools or market places. With a meagre income that is insufficient to meet the needs of a family of eight, Champa has always been struggling to feed her children well and fulfill their everyday needs.

“My husband works only when someone requests for him or there is a general call for carpentry.  The days that he does work, he earns PKR 600 (US $ 3.5) a day, which is immediately consumed to purchase kitchen essentials such as flour, oil and lentils. We cannot afford to send our children to school with this income.  We barely make ends meet and sometimes save a small amount to meet our healthcare expenses when needed.”

In early March this year, Champa had not been feeling well and was advised by her relatives to visit the health facility located in Samaro village of Umerkot district. This health facility is set up and operational under Community World Service Asia and Act for Peace’s health project. Under the said project, CWSA is providing clinical health support in two Taulka Headquarter Hospitals (THQs) in district Umerkot with focus on Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Services. The health services includes routine outpatient services (OPD), provision of free of cost essential medication and a full range of preventive and curative health services and continuum of care including family planning, newborn care, and child health. Other community based interventions includes formation of Village Health Management Committees and their capacity building. The health centers are facilitating in addressing the health needs of the community and in raising awareness on health issues and rights of women and children. At the Samaro health center, which is, just two kilometers away, Champa was diagnosed with and treated for diarrhea and was straightaway delivered a wheelchair as well.

Like many other families in Pakistan and even across the globe, Champa’s family has also been gravely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has multiplied the economically struggling family’s challenges and have left them penniless.

“There is no work and no income now. Most of the days, my children sleep with an empty stomach because we cannot even afford a single meal in a day. We have no money to buy flour, rice or even a few vegetables. We did attempt to loan off some money from our relatives and friends but everyone around us is in a tough spot. COVID-19 has affected everyone, mostly financially.”

Sindh’s merciless summer has not made it any easier for Champa’s family. Extreme heat and sky-rocketing temperatures have left her children dehydrated and with little or no food, their immune systems have become very weak, catching infections easily. Her children have suffered from heat induced diarrhea, throat infections and high fevers ever since the pandemic hit the region. Alarmingly, Champa has nowhere to take her children for health care as the nearest health centre in Samaro is now closed due to the pandemic driven lockdown. Travel bans and financial limitations have restricted them from accessing other hospitals or clinics located farther off.

I cannot even think of taking my children to any other hospital other than the one in Samaro because we cannot afford it. We do not have the money to pay consultation fees, buy medicines or travel,” shared Champa.

Despite the temporary closure of the health centre, Community World Service Asia’s teams have initiated awareness sessions on prevention and safety from Coronaviruses 19 for many communities living in the Umerkot district. These sessions are planned and conducted in coordination with local government health departments, Community Health Management and Village Health[1] committees. Working collaboratively, the teams are raising awareness as part of a larger effort to unify communities to prevent the further spread of the virus in the area.

The health sessions on coronavirus focus on limiting movement, avoiding small or large gatherings, maintaining social distancing and healthy hygiene and sanitation practices. The teams utilised the vast array of informational educational material (IEC) available on the COVID-19 and translated it in local languages and thoroughly oriented the communities on it.

Village Health Committee members of St. John Colony delivered a training on COVID-19 awareness and safety measures against it and shared relevant awareness raising material with their fellow community members. Champa and her family participated in one of the sessions conducted in April, 2020.

“We know what the coronavirus is now. We learnt to keep our loved ones safe at home and adopt clean hygiene to avoid the spread of the virus. My children wash their hands frequently and do not play outside their home. They are mostly engaged in small indoor games now. My husband and I only go outside our home when there is a dire need. This is a dangerous virus and we have to stop the spread so that everything can be as normal as it was in 2019 for my husband to start work again and earn a living for our family,” expressed Champa.


[1] CWSA formed Health Management Committees (HMCs) at Taulka Level and Village Health Committees (VHCs) with equal representation of women and men (5 women and 5 men). The purpose of these Committees is to build and maintain accountability mechanisms for community-level health services provided by the Community World Service Asia and Government Health Department. The Committees play an important role in planning and monitoring of the health care services in collaboration with CWSA health team.

Photo credit: Unicef Pakistan

Prays for the virus to go away
“My name is Nitesh Kumar. I am a Grade 4 student at the Nationalized Muslim School. My school is located in Maheshwari Para district in Umerkot city. I believe that schools are a place of learning, a safe atmosphere where children can connect and have fun. Now, when we are all restricted to our homes and unable to see our friends and study together at classes, I feel frustrated and sad. It's not easy to stay away from school as I enjoy studying and attending school.. I have heard from my parents about coronavirus. They tell me it is spreading from person to person very rapidly around the world. We have also seen on the Television how this virus is particularly harmful for children like me and the elderly. To prevent this disease from spreading, we wash our hands a lot of times a day. My mother has also asked my siblings and I to stay indoors and not play outside. My family has seven members, and I am the eldest. My father worked as a labourer and earned a daily wage. He does not work very often now as there is little work nowadays. We received PKR 12,000 under the Ehsaas Program with which my father purchased essential food items and feed for our farm annimals. The food will last us for a couple of months. I miss going outside to play with my friends. I also miss attending Mathematics class as I enjoy solving tricky math equations assigned to us by our teacher. We have not even met or seen our relatives and cousins in many days due to the limitations on public transport imposed during the lockdown in Umerkot. We do not go out much anywhere anymore. I was looking forward to my aunt’s wedding which was planned to take place in my summer holidays. I was excited to meet my cousins and enjoy the wedding festivities. The wedding has now been postponed as the preparations for the wedding were not complete due to closure of shops.I am sad to hear that. Since we are at home the whole day, we play different games such as playing with marbles or ludo to keep ourselves entertained. It is difficult to spend time at home with no homework and limited activities. I pray for this virus to end so that I can meet my friends and relatives and enjoy like I use to with them.”

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to engulf more cities and rural communities, all and any kind of travel and movement between cities and external borders has been halted in Pakistan. Before the travel restrictions were imposed, Community World Service Asia’s (CWSA) team working on a Food Security and Disaster Risk Reduction(DRR) project supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan, conducted awareness-raising sessions on preventive measures against COVID-19 with the communities that they work with. With the imposed lockdown, those activities had to be stopped as well.

As an alternate way to continue raising awareness and minimize the threat of the virus further spreading our teams decided to engage Village Committees[1] (VC) in the mobilization processes. CWSA project staff teams conducted online sessions over mobile telephones with members of Community Based Organisations(CBOs) and Disaster Risk Reduction Committees, both community-based structures established by the project to ensure community ownership and engagement, of eight villages in Umerkot. The sessions aimed at enhancing knowledge of community members on the COVID-19 disease, its signs and symptoms and precautionary measures to be taken. Through these sessions, selected community members were trained and were asked to replicate the same trainings within their communities.

We received soaps from the  Chairman of the Union Council, which we distributed door to door in Surto Oad village. We also informed the people in the village on frequent hand washing to maintain cleanliness at homes and the surrounding environment. We were told to maintain social distancing and avoid participation in social gatherings to reduce the chances of being infected,

 shared Shiva Ram President and DRR Committee Member in Surto Oad village of Umerkot.

To share our learning ahead, we are mobilizing people to avoid unnecessary movement during the lockdown situation. With the help and guidance of the CWSA’s team, we have identified an isolated place where any suspect of the coronavirus will be quarantined. These isolation rooms have been identified and set up in various villages where awareness sessions have been conducted. The villagers have converted their Otaqs, which are drawing rooms or guest rooms located at a distance from family homes in rural household settings, into isolation rooms. All community members been made aware of signs and symptoms of coronavirus and are advised to immediately shift suspected people to the isolated place identified in the village. We have also updated our DRR plan with the emergency contact details of government and other line departments to be used in case of suspected patients or emergency,

added Shiva.

The online sessions not only focused on sharing practical information on COVID-19 but also sensitized communities on building societies grounded in solidarity, equity, and care for one another. Motan, a DRR committee member from Haji Chenasar village in Umerkot said,

Farmers are busy hoeing and harvesting Okra crop. While working in the fields, all farmers wear masks or take over a cloth to cover their mouth and maintain six feet distance. Our earnings have decreased as a result of the lockdown as work opportunities are limited. There is limited aid from the government and civil society organizations. We are being offered to work in agricultural fields but at very low wages. If the situation is prolonged and markets do not open, the food security and livelihood situation will become challenging for us.

In order to minimize the spread of the virus, I wash my hands with soap at least 10 times a day and also teach the same to my children and other children of the village. We wear masks whenever we step outside our homes and cover our mouth when sneezing or coughing. My family and I are not going out or visiting our relatives now. We only go outside when we need to purchase food or household items. When a guest arrives at our place, we ensure social distancing and sit six feet away from each other,

shared Hurmi, who is a member of the Village Committee in Haji Chensar Mari village.

Some Village Committees’ members in Umerkot are forced to discontinue their jobs and stay at home until the situation is contained. Social distancing and home isolation are effective measures to control the spread of the virus but is simultaneously having adverse impacts on women and children in terms of gender-based violence (GBV), child-abuse and increased manual labour.

In Pakistan, figures on GBV are expected to rise as the poorest of communities are continuing to lose their livelihoods and income. Women are categorized as the more vulnerable in the current crisis and need to be at the forefront in all awareness-raising, mental and physical health activities associated with COVID-19 response. To ensure their inclusion and to address the risks associated with the pandemic for women, twenty-four sessions on gender implications of COVID-19 and best practices on minimizing these risks were conducted among rural communities (both men and women) in Umerkot in the month of April.

Establishing and strengthening village committees in target villages has proven to be effective in terms of awareness and knowledge building on COVID-19 among communities. This would not have been possible without the communities showing keen interest and being proactive in learning, practicing and sharing the information to reduce the risks of the virus spreading in their homeland.

While rural communities are struggling to make ends meet and to ensure a means of food security for their families, the pandemic is indiscriminately impacting both rural and urban communities in terms of businesses closing down and unemployment rising rapidly. It is expected that between 12.3 million and 18.5 million people in various sectors may lose their jobs in Pakistan. In Punjab province alone, at least half a million textile and garment-industry workers have lost their jobs[2].


[1] A body of like-minded people representing households in a certain locality for to help in improving the localities in terms of progress and awareness building on different matters. These community groups have been established by CWSA through its projects to ensure community participation and ownership of programs.

[2] Pakistan Workers’ Federation (since March 28th)

Empty streets outside Rukhsana’s home in Umerkot.

Rukhsana Yasmeen is a primary school teacher based in Umerkot city of Sindh Province in Pakistan. She teaches at the Government Boys Primary School, Police Thana, and is a participant of the Education and Teachers Training project implemented by Community World Service Asia (CWSA) and supported by PWS&D and Act for Peace. Rukhsana worries about her students who are all forced to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic and shares her own personal thoughts of her experiences in lockdown so far.

The lockdown imposed by the government to control the spread of the coronavirus is having a drastic impact on the education of children here in Umerkot. They will forget all that was taught to them. Schools not only serve the purpose of providing education, but also gives children a chance to interact socially and keeps them energized and fresh. With this shutdown situation, children are frustrated and baffled. It is difficult to say whether the students will be able to perform well in the final examinations to be held in June.

Rukhsana and her family of 5 have confined themselves to home. She has three children including two daughters and a son.

At home, we try to maintain a sufficient distance between each other. However, living in a small, two-room house makes it challenging to avoid complete contact. The practicality of social distancing at home is difficult.

The economic situation in Umerkot is tense and most businesses have come to a standstill. Daily wage laborers are most at risk of poverty and food insecurity as their incomes have completely stalled. Before the crisis, their most basic expenses were met on a day to day basis, but now their daily needs are unmet.

Sitting at home without any money or very little money leads to anxiety and results in many conflicts among family members at home. This adds to the stress and uncertainty that looms over all these families that are completely homebound and affects the children at home too.

Rukhsana’s husband also worked as a daily-wage laborer. Due to the lock down, he is unable to go out of the house to find work.

I am worried about managing our monthly expenses, such as house rent, food and other household essentials with only my salary. I am not sure for how long my salary will be able to sustain our family. Our future seems uncertain

Rukhsana also recently found out that the Government of Sindh has deducted five percent of all government employee salaries as contribution to the COVID-19 relief funds. Rukhsana also falls in that category of government workers and has further strained their financial conditions.

Keeping her own children entertained and engaged in their studies at home has also been quite a challenge for Rukhsana.

There are very few entertainment resources at home. They do study for a while but cannot be engaged in school work the whole day. All their outdoor activities have been put to an end so there is no way for them to vent out their energy.

At the precautionary end, we are try to wash hands from time to time and use clean kitchen utensils when cooking and eating. Moreover, we are not drinking cold water nor taking a bath daily but instead bathe on alternative days. We ensure cleanliness at home as it the only way of keeping us safe at home from this pandemic.

We are happy to see how efficiently our government is working to control the spread of this infectious disease. All shops, malls and other public places have been shutdown to avoid social gatherings. Never did we think that we will experience such a stressful situation in our lifetime. Nonetheless, we have faith that we will overcome this positively and safely.

The Lady Health Worker and Community Mobilizer conducting a session on COVID-19 and sensitizing community to reduce the spread of the virus in Umerkot.

Community World Service Asia’s (CWSA) Health and Livelihood program teams initiated awareness sessions on prevention and safety from Coronaviruses 19 for the communities that they work with in the region. These sessions were planned and conducted in coordination with local government health departments, community Health Management and Village Health committees

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, the health teams are raising awareness as part of a larger effort to drive social change and prevent the further spread of the virus in the countries. The health sessions on coronavirus focused on limiting movement, avoiding small or large gatherings and maintaining hygiene and good sanitation. The teams ensured to use informational educational material translated in local languages and delivered the sessions, in local languages too. Communities were thoroughly sensitized on the signs and symptoms of the COVID – 19 and the precautionary measures to be taken individually and as communities.

Children, woman and families were particularly advised on the safest and most thorough ways of washing hands with soap and use of alcohol-based washes and sanitizers and the need to wear masks and staying home and away from all public contact and travel.

A total of thirty-two awareness sessions with staff, health workers and communities have been conducted by CWSA’s program teams so far.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is providing Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) services, under its Health program, in collaboration with the district health department at two Taluka Hospitals (THQs) in Umerkot and one Mother Neonatal Child Health Centre in Sujawal district. The MNCH caters to thirty surrounding villages in the two districts.

CWSA implements long-term health programs for vulnerable and marginalized communities in the region. The projects under this program operate through static health units within the provincial health structures, Preventive and curative health services, vaccination campaigns, mother and child health, and health education are some of the key components of these projects.

In most remote areas of Pakistan, cultural barriers prevent women from seeking medical treatment from male nurses and doctors and as a result prolong their illnesses or leave themselves undiagnosed. The health centers set up by CWSA are equipped with women medical staff to ensure that women and girls in the communities have equal and easy access to health services.

These rural health centers employ women medical staff that provide vaccinations, pre and postnatal care, education and awareness on sexual reproductive health and family planning, and delivery services to women and young girls in the villages.

Since January 2020, the health team has organized and facilitated eleven awareness sessions on polio eradication, HIV/AIDS, Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI), hepatitis, family planning, antenatal and postnatal check-ups, breast-feeding benefits and healthy nutrition for pregnant women in the catchment areas of both THQs, namely Samaro and Pithoro. In addition, the health team participated in a ‘Family Mela’ organized by the Population Welfare Department in Umerkot.  Through the awareness activities, communities, Health Management Committees, local schools and children were sensitized on the major causes of epidemic diseases and their signs and symptoms and precautionary measures. Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material was also distributed and displayed among communities on related topics during the sessions. Baby kits were also distributed for the mothers of newborns and pregnant women. Whereas, Hygiene Kits were distributed among school children and wheel-chairs among disable persons in the community.

Moreover, the health teams collaborated and supported a government lead polio vaccination program in Yousaf Bhatti village to help them mobilize communities and convince them to take the vaccinations as many local communities were against the campaigns. The medical staff sensitized the community members on severe effects of polio and how it could lead to permanent disabilities, with vaccination being the best prevention. The community was convinced and agreed for their children to get vaccinated.

Rural communities facing poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, and inaccessibility to basic services, often put health-care as their last priority. Community World Service Asia is committed to helping such communities access their health rights, find sustainable solutions and reduce disaster risks as they survive and find ways to earn livelihoods.

 Most families in Anwar Pathan live in a joint family system. Early marriages and living in a big family bring along a lot of responsibilities for new and young brides in this community. The new bride is expected to take on all the home chores, go to the field and harvest the seasonal crops in addition to taking care of all the family members living in the house. A tremendous amount of burden is put on the little shoulders of a child bride. This naturally deteriorates her health. As you see, there are very few or almost no woman here who is overweight. This is because all women here work a lot and are weak due to the many burdens they bear since a very young age. If these women or girls complain even a little, it results in conflicts among family members,

shared a young man, named Gom Chand, who is a member of the Steering Committeeⁱ and Community Group set up in Anwar Pathan village, located in Umerkot district of Sindh province.

Gom Chand and his wife were only 14 years old when they got married. Four years on, now 18 years old, Gom Chand teaches at a local private school in Anwar Pathan.

Women in this village are not educated as most have not attended school and those who did get the opportunity, have only studied up till class 5. Even as a boy, I was forced to marry at a young age and had to leave my education, with no one encouraging me to continue studying. Instead, I was told to earn a living as I had to bring home money for my wife and bear family responsibilities. Soon after my wedding, I began work as a daily labourer, and earned a mere income of PKR 200 a day.

For many centuries, it has been a cultural norm to wed off young couples aged between 12 and 16 years in villages such as Anwar Pathan. Just as a child would be born, their families would start searching for a perfect matrimonial match for them and in many cases even engage them at birth and as soon as they would turn 12 years or reach their teens, they would be married off.

I never supported this idea though,

shared Gom Chand,

And as it turned out, I also suffered a lot by being married so young.

We are a family of six members, including my parents, wife and siblings. My relative, Chander, told me about the EVCⁱⁱ project as the team visited for an orientation meeting at the village. He shared the main objective of the project which was eliminating and discouraging the practice of early and childhood marriages. This convinced me to join the Steering Committee. I saw this as a platform to share my experiences and motivate the youth to gain education and build a bright future for themselves.

Fifteen of us, seven men and eight women, joined the Steering Committee of Anwar Pathan. As members of the committee, we largely work towards achieving for four key objectives. Firstly, we will build awareness on the importance and access to health care for men, women and children. We encourage women and children to avail proper healthcare treatments from the nearest health facility instead of always adopting traditional home remedies. Secondly, we discourage the practice of early childhood marriages. Thirdly, we are advocating for increasing girls’ education in the village.   Since this is not encouraged much in our village, we are conducting meetings with parents who do not send their girls to school and are urging them to educate their daughters and sisters as it is equally important as is educating boys. Lastly, we are promoting the role of women in decision-making.

Gom Chand watched a theater play in Bharo Mil village which highlighted the disadvantages of early childhood marriage and encouraged communities to educate their children instead. The play exhibited how societies would flourish if their people and youth were well educated. Upon his return from Bharo Mil, Gom Chand felt the need of opening up a school for girls in his village. And he did as he had planned and did inaugurate a school in Anwar Pathan in March 2019. Gom Chand teaches at this school and earns a monthly income of PKR 14000.

There was no school in our village so no girl in our village ever went. With the help of a friend working in another welfare organization, I registered the school and encouraged parents to specially send their daughters and sisters to the school. Today, 45 girls and 12 boys are enrolled in this school and attend classes every day.

There are 10 pairs of Community Groups established in each village, each pair consisting of a man and a woman. Every one of these pairs is assigned five households to work with and build awareness on the same objectives as the Steering Committee. Gom Chand and his Shama, another resident of Anwar Pathan village, make up one these pairs.

The training that was organized on Gender and Women Empowerment on November 2018, and a refresher course that followed a year later in 2019,  delivered sufficient information on the fundamental rights of women and the importance of education, especially for girls. We understood how the existing gender issues in our community adversely affected the lives of.

 Gom Chand and Shama held meetings with the five households allotted to them and encouraged women in those families to voice out their concerns and participate in decision-making processes.

Gom Chand’s brother, Prem Chand, was to be married at the end of 2019.

When I heard about the wedding preparations, I could not hold myself back from standing against this decision and lifelong tradition. He was just a 16-year-old boy and his bride to be was only 15-years-old. My father did not want to go forward with the wedding either but due to the pressure from my brother’s in-laws to be, my family decided to go with it. Shama and I visited the in-laws’ and tried to convince them on postponing the wedding. After hearing about my early marriage experience and the challenges my wife and I faced, the bride’s family postponed the wedding for three years.

In terms of contributing to women empowerment, Gom Chand encouraged his wife to further enhance her embroidery skills by enrolling her at a nearby vocational center. A District Engagement Group member, named Shanti, helped him identify this center and facilitated them with the enrolment process.

A skill building training was held in Mirpurkhas to which I accompanied my wife, Pooja, every day for fifteen days as it is difficult to commute alone in this area. After successfully completing the training, Pooja received five sewing machines.

I am very proud of my wife as she teaches embroidery and stitching skills to other girls and women from our village at our home now. Fourteen woman and girls come to learn the use of different threads, design methods and colors. For running this home-based coaching center and working on orders, Pooja receives PKR 4000 monthly from PCDPⁱⁱⁱ. The attendees of the centre pay a monthly fee of PKR 100. I can see the happiness in the eyes of my wife as this initiative has brought new meaning to her life.

Hina, 16 years, and Seeta, 15 years old, are two of Pooja’s students at the center.

Miss Pooja teaches us stitching and embroidery. We come to the center for four hours daily. If it wasn’t for this center, we would be doing home chores the whole day. This is a fun activity and us friends get to sit together, share jokes and learn new skills of designing and stitching,

 shared Hina.

A video screening, highlighting the goals of the Steering Committee and its role in promoting positive change in the communities by reducing early childhood marriage and motivating women towards decision-making, was organized on December 18th, 2019 in Anwar Pathan, by the Steering committee members.

The members of the committee invited the Chairman of the Union Council as a special guest at the screening. It was an honor to welcome a higher official in our village. The community members were excited to see the video as these visuals are appealing and conveyed the message very clearly. More than 250 people attended the video screening. It was a very proud moment for us.


ⁱ 22 Steering committees are formed in each village, comprising of 15 representatives with equal representation of male and female participants. The steering committee works on different issues of the village and supervises the Community Groups. They represent grass root level issues with civil society and local authorities at district level and work towards resolutions in collaboration with the EVC Team. The committees were formed in the month of August 2018.

ⁱⁱ   Every Voice Counts – Community World Service Asia’s project

ⁱⁱⁱ Parkari Community Development Program

Seventy-three-year old Kasi, from village Ranahar of Umerkot district, takes care and provides for her bed-ridden son and his family. She works for agricultural produce on their local fields.

While sharing her challenges and talking about her sufferings of recent years, Kasi could not help but reminisce about their better days,

Just a few years ago we were leading a very happy life. My son earned PKR. 15,000 per month as a tractor driver. His monthly income was sufficient to meet our family’s needs. However, those days were short-lived as our happiness turned to sorrow when my husband started experiencing frequent chest pains and fever and had to leave his job. Soon after, just four years from today, he was diagnosed with asthma and severe lung illness which could lead to chest cancer within years if not treated properly. With his job gone and barely any income, we could not afford his medication which further aggravated his illness.

Kasi added,

Our worries further heightened when our agricultural fields completely dried up. The drought had struck our lands.  I was not even able to collect a single grain from our field in the last two years.  Only my God knows my struggle and how I was trying to feed my family since the last two years. Not even our neighbours or relatives were able to help us.

On March 2019 Kasi and her family were selected as participants of a drought response project implemented by Community World Service Asia and supported by Presbyterian World Service & Development and Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Through the project, Kasi’s family, along with ninety more severely drought-affected families in Ranahar village of Umerkot received six rounds of food packages.

Before receiving this food assistance, I used to start worrying about what we would eat each day at the first light of dawn. Having even a single nutritional meal seemed to be a challenge each day. But thankfully, I do not need to worry about that anymore. The food provided to us has saved us from many sufferings. The quality and quantity of food provided is much appreciated by all of us.

Kasi is happy that her family and other families affected by drought in the area will be assisted with food supplies for the next six months. This support will be sufficient to feed the families until their own agricultural produce can be harvested in September.

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