Despite stiff resistance from orthodox people, some educated women in the Upper Sindh are silently struggling to bring about a significant social change in their area. Pursuing their goal of protecting women’s rights, women from conservative districts like, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kashmore-Kandhkot, Khairpur and Ghotki are doing their best to break some shackles.
According to the survey, several villages of the remote areas of the Upper Sindh-from Hamid Abad Village in Khairpur to Wazir Abad Shikarpur- from Shiakrpur to Kashmore Kandhkot and Ghtotki are undergoing a change with women doing the hard job of arranging funds from international donor agencies for carrying out small development schemes.
Apart from winning donors’ support, at several places in the clergy-dominated these rural areas, women groups organized by Sindh Rural Support Orgnization (SRSO have undertaken small development projects with men extending a helping hand in various endeavors.
In the Union Council Based Poverty Reduction Programme (UCBPRP), communities in the districts will be organized at the village level into Village Organizations (VOs). By having their own organizations, the communities (especially the poorest) are able to present themselves in a unified manner and will have the ability to voice their developmental concerns to relevant bodies, like Provincial and District Governments, Taluka and Union Administrations etc. Eventually, it is envisaged that these Village Organizations will be able to develop their own linkages with external organizations in order to cater for their needs. At the same time, by managing their own organizations, the confidence and skills of these communities are being greatly increased.
Though women venturing into the development sector are a recent phenomenon in Shikarpur and Kashmore-Kandhkot areas of the upper Sindh, the Shikarpur district has hundreds of examples of women having done incredible jobs that brought common good to the whole community.
Their involvement in social mobilization efforts at the grassroots level has not only helped local people, it has also helped the country in winning international donors’ confidence as well as Present Government.
“Social mobilization helps low-income communities make use of the economy in the production and marketing processes and compete effectively in markets,” says Chief Operating Officer (CEO) SRSO Hashim Laghari, while talking to APP on Tuesday.
Laghari says that communities involved in social work on a voluntary basis in the far-off areas of the province need little support from the government in the form of subsidies as they are capable enough to improve their living conditions given proper patronage from the quarters concerned.
However, for Ms Suhagin of 42 Years old of UC Tangwani of kashmore district and Nazia of Ghulam Pur village,, hailing from the Shikarpur, it has not been an easy journey to make people extend support to their endeavours in areas as remotely situated. Women like theses have taken overall responsibilities of her village on her shoulders.
Zohra Bibi of village Chaho Labano in Wazirabad union council of Shikarpur district, who belongs to a very poor family and is absolutely illiterate but quite dynamic, has become the leader of her village. She has organised 323 women in 22 community organisations.
Nasim took the initiative and lead a delegation of women of her tribe; they went to the houses of their rival tribe and invited their females to be the part of their organisation.
“They said to me that male members of my tribe will kill them if they came up to them,” according to Nasim, who then took the responsibility for their security.
When those ladies came to Nasim’s house, they were given a lot of respect. Then, the women of both the tribes compelled their male members to settle their feud. The bone of contention was over when the disputed land was distributed to heirs of those killed in the clashes.
The intervention is being termed as a silent revolution, which has empowered the most suppressed sections of the society.
There are so many such stories that happen every day in the northern part of Sindh, where commonly women are treated at the subhuman level.
They are hopeful that from next year the move would start paying dividends for dozens of families whose female members have been given the training to apply vocational trainings.
The UCBPRP aims at improving the quality of life of the rural communities, especially of the poorest of the poor, through the conceptual package of social mobilization, organizing them into “organizations of the poor” at the community, village and union council level.
As many as 153,189 women belonging to various COs, 35,496 of VOs and 371 LSO members and office-bearers are being trained in management and Community Investment Fund (CIF) record-keeping.
These organisations have not only empowered the most neglected sections of the society, ie, women, but also made positive impacts on the social fabric of the society.
Nasim is the elected head of the organisation in her village Mudd Khoso. Their tribe had a conflict with another, residing in their neighbourhood, over a piece of land. That feud had taken the lives of as many as 38 people from either side.
According to COO Mr Lqaghari, included a component whereby the youth from economically and chronically poor segments of the society were given stipends for receiving vocational training.
The most effective powerful and result-oriented intervention of the project was setting up of a village-based revolving fund at the community level.
Under this component of the programme, 29,547 participants had been trained in different trades. After training many of them have started earning by starting their workshops of motor rewinding, fridge, mobile repairing, beauty parlours, etc. The poorest of the poor, including widows and people living with
chronic disabilities, are provided grants to purchase livestock or something that can help them eke out a living on a daily basis
Community Investment Fund (CIF) in Kshmore-Kandhkot and Shikarpur has ultimately resulted in a Provincial Government funding one of the most groundbreaking projects in the history of Sindh as well analysis shows the findings of CIF which had been recorded in other areas of the country, proved the fact that a community-managed microfinance project could indeed be implemented with only the poorest of women and at such a large scale.
Haseena lives in village Ali Mohammad Khoso, UC Dolatpur, District Kashmore-Kandhkot with her husband, Israr and their two sons and three daughters. Israr is a labourer who works in the fields in his village while their two sons go to school. Their daughters were not educated because they could not afford to send them to school. Instead they work with Haseena at home in maintaining the house and doing embroidery work for the women in the village, earning around Rs. 500 per suit.
When Haseena first heard about the CIF programme, she had no doubts at all about the benefits.
Immediately she knew that she wanted to get a buffalo because not only would it bring offspring but she could also sell its milk. Haseena realised that she would not be able to repay a loan such as that required to purchase a buffalo. Instead she and two of the women in her CO discussed the matter and decided to purchase the buffalo by combining their loans. Each woman put in her Rs. 20,000 loan and used it to purchase a mature buffalo for Rs. 60,000. Within seven months, the buffalo had given birth to a calf.
The women decided to sell the adult buffalo after five months and obtained a price of Rs. 85,000 for it. The amount was distributed equally with each woman receiving around Rs. 26,666. With the amount, they repaid their 18 month loan back including Rs. 1,000 service charge per loan. All three women are very happy with their investment, including their husbands! What they feel most proud of is the fact that they were able to help each other out, obtain a great profit and are all owners of a young buffalo. Haseena and her companions intend on maturing the buffalo and then selling it for a profit. If given the opportunity, all the women said that they would want to take another CIF loan for the same purpose in order to continue to increase their returns.
“ We prays for the Vilage Orgnization that they remained me greatest hour of desperation” said by Mai Arbab, a 60 year old woman of Village Abdul Rehman Mangi, UC Malheer, Kashmore. She took out a Rs. 20,000 loan for duration of one year. She used her loan to purchase a young buffalo with her son, at a total cost of Rs. 40,000 which after five months gave a calf. Six months later, the floods came. She remembers that it started off as heavy rain. For two whole days, it rained in her village. On the second night, she and other women in her village had to leave upon hearing of the news of surrounding villages which had been wiped away with flood waters.
“I want to take another CIF loan out in order to build our livelihood, by setting up a shop where they can sell coconuts” said Fahmida, 30 years of aged, lives in Village Makkha, UC Lakhi, District Shikarpur with her husband Kamal Din and their six children.
Nonetheless, in their effort to contribute towards the social well-being of their areas, women venturing into the development sector are contributing to the social cause by adhering to the social norms and values of their areas.
The trust in women social workers is evident from the support they are getting from SRSO spearheading development activities in the rural areas.