Women of a remote village are actively involved in the development of their community. They started their journey about four years ago. At that time they had no idea about their basic rights or the importance of working together. Today, they manage an established community-based organisation that provides loans to the poorest women in their community to start small businesses or even to loan to their brothers or husbands for business purposes.
Umeed Welfare Dahi Traqiati Tanzeem (Hope Welfare Rural Development Organization) is a community-based organisation (CBO) focused on women. This female-run CBO was established in June, 2011 thanks, in part, to the support of World Vision Pakistan. Today it has nearly 90 members.
The organisation is being run and managed entirely by women from Phulkot village, a small community of approximately 1,500 people, including 465 men, 435 women and 600 children. There is only one primary school for boys and one Basic Health Unit for the entire population. Before the formation of the CBO, there were many issues related to women and children, such as poverty, lack of information about their basic rights as well as health and hygiene and little attention given towards their problems.
Additionally, according to Ms. Rabia, the finance secretary of the organization, females were not allowed to take part in any social activity or to establish any organisation at village level. “We were not allowed to take part in decision making or establish any organisation headed or run by women. This was all because of ignorance and lack of awareness,” she explains, noting that they had never thought of starting their own organisation. “We did not think. We were not allowed to go outside alone or to meet in a group and discuss our issues and find out their solutions or ways for solutions,” she explains.
In 2011, World Vision Pakistan initiated the formation of community-based organisations in five remote Union Councils, covering 15 villages as part of the “Galliat Area Integrated Programme (GAIP). A programme that address health and educational needs of the most vulnerable children as well as building the capacity of the community to advocate for the rights of women and children.
During the formation of the CBOs, World Vision Pakistan’s field teams visited these 15 villages where they started meetings, distributed posters, flyers and leaflets containing information about the basic rights of women and children, their role in the society and the importance of education as well as conducted orientation sessions with communities where they explained the importance of CBOs, their role in development activities as well as the future aspects of these CBOs.
The female staff of World Vision Pakistan also arranged separate meetings and sessions with women of the targeted areas. At the same time, the male staff of World Vision Pakistan motivated community leaders to allow women in their community to take part in the making of decision through their female CBOs. As a result of these trainings, orientation sessions and meetings, the communities agreed to form male as well as females CBOs.
Once the CBOs were formed on a village level, World Vision Pakistan initiated different trainings on child protection, disabilities, women rights, leadership management skills, and community development. Ms. Shazia Shamraiz, president of the women’s CBO explained that as a result of these capacity building trainings and advocacy efforts, the whole community including men, women and children now understands their different roles and responsibilities in a progressive society.
The men welcomed ideas coming from women and extended their support whenever required. “[That men acknowledged and supported ideas from the women] was a result of these trainings and advocacy,” explains Shazia. “There was a time when women were not allowed to stand up for their rights or raise their voices against any kind of violence,” she remembers. “But now the situation is entirely changed and this is because of awareness and advocacy,” she adds.
Umeed Welfare Dhai Traqiati Tanzeem remained involved in different social activities carried out at village level, including the rehabilitation of their link road, the rehabilitation of the Basic Health Unit and some other major activities which have been completed by the male CBOs, with the technical and financial support of Word Vision Pakistan.
One of the most significant changes, according Ms. Rabia Naveed, is the level of awareness and participation by women in her community. “The level of understanding about our basic rights, roles and responsibilities as women was less,” she explains. ”[Today] not only has their understanding increased, women also have proper platform to raise their voices for their rights.” Knowing their rights has led to practical changes, such as the ability to discuss pregnancy-related issues with their husbands and being able to visit a clinic for a check-up.
These women have made their CBO very active and have collected funds from multiple sources, beginning with their own example, each of the members donate 100 PKR to 200 PKR (about $1-$2 USD) each month. This money is invested in the well-being of the most marginalized segments of their community.
Over the years, the organisation has also collected 100,000 PKR (about $1,000 USD). which it uses to provide small grants to women in their villages who want to start small businesses, such as kitchen gardens or livelihood activities. Women can even take out a loan of up to 10,000 PKR (about $100 USD) for her husband or brother to start their own small business. All small business loans must be repaid within two months. And, for the sake of transparency, all disbursements and payments are made through a local bank account.
The president of Umeed Welfare Dahi Traiati Tanzeem also highlighted that steps are being taken to ensure the sustainability of their organisation, noting that they worked with the local government to ensure their organisation is registered at a district level. Members of the group have also been tasked with identifying and exploring additional funding opportunities
Although they have already come so far, Shazia was quick to note that they hope this is just the beginning; they also want to establish women’s vocational training Centre and Girls high school in their community, efforts for which advocacy activities have already begun. “We are thankful to World Vision Pakistan and donors for enabling us well informed and organized communities,” concluded Shazia.