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Positive change: Empowering women, transforming lives

By: Sarfaraz Memon

SUKKUR: Gone are the days when Sardar Khatoon of the Muhammad Ibrahim Soomro village in Shikarpur was entirely dependent upon her husband. With the help of the Sindh Rural Support Organisation’s (SRSO) community organisation, she has not only become self-sufficient by making appliquéd bed sheets but is earning enough to feed her family.

Gulshad, who studied only till Matric, works on agricultural land as a peasant. With the help of the community organisation, she used an interest-free micro loan from the SRSO to purchase fertiliser and seeds. Today, she is farming over three acres, instead of the previous one-and-a-half-acres, and earning far more than before.

She explained that under this programme, the villagers have constructed a protective embankment of 5,200 feet around the village, not only to keep themselves safe from flooding but also to ward off thieves. They have purchased cauldrons, dishes, plates and other utensils so residents do not have to rent them out for special occasions.

SRSO chairperson Shoaib Sultan Khan said that the programme is aimed at empowering rural women so they can earn respectable livelihoods on their own. These women, who become well-trained in community organisation, then bring the entire union council in the loop, he said.

“Community development is a distant dream without the active participation and empowerment of women and, therefore, our programme is focused on rural women who can perform miracles,” he added. Khan said that after getting interest-free micro loans from the SRSO, the women have utilised the money wisely, due to which today they are able to help others by advancing interest-free loans.

Had we given this opportunity to the men, the results would have been dismal, he felt. Women are capable of managing not only the household but the whole community, he claimed.

Similarly, Sakina used to be dependent on the male members of her family but now she is earning enough to take care of their daily expenses. There is even a primary school in the village where girls and boys are educated, according to her. After completing their primary education, the students have to walk around seven kilometres to Rustam village to seek further education, which was not possible for the girls, she pointed out. “We have arranged tuitions at home for them with the help of local teachers,” she said. “We are badly in need of a middle school and health facilities.”

In her village, child marriages are discouraged. Therefore most of the girls are married at the age of 18 or even later, said Sakina. Interestingly, the village has 21 blood donors, both male and female, who donate blood as and when needed. Sakina has kept a record of the blood donors along with their blood groups.

In the Bhirkan union council of Lakhi Ghulam Shah, the community programme has given loans worth Rs12 million to 1,174 households in 29 villages.

These loans are interest-free and are to be paid back in six-monthly installments. Many women of this union council have been trained in community management and aside from visiting many areas of Pakistan, have also been to Ahmedabad in India.

Under the Local Support Organisation, these already trained women help others get loans of Rs10,000 but also pay back the loans on their own, if the family fails to do so themselves. Under this programme, girls are being trained in stitching, embroidery, appliqué work and others, while boys are provided vocational training for mobile, computer and motorcycle repairs.

Express Tribune