Wrinkles have taken over her face now, especially when she smiles the folds gather around her mouth giving away a feeling of warmth and affection. While her frail body have refused for her to move around much now but her hands constantly rise up in prayers for her grandchildren, for her family and for all the human beings. That is why she isn’t called Jiji (granny) just by her family but everyone who knows her calls her Jiji.
Jiji belongs to a small village called Mehon Khan Khoso outside of Johi Tehsil in District Dadu, Sindh, Pakistan, surrounded by her family of about 28 members with countless little children who are always gathered around her, listening to her stories from long ago, stories that belong to her own childhood which according to Jiji was the time when Sindh flourished with endless beauties. When problems seemed to be the last thing to arrive and where, summer, winter, autumn and spring were seasons of celebration.
In those times of great cultural empowerment and merriments Jiji with her family lived a content life working on landlords lands that surrounded their village.“When I was a little child merely 8, I used to follow around my mother to make sure I do as she says”….Jiji explains. “All those days when I did the smallest of chores I saw my mother running around from dawn to dusk doing hundreds of tasks”….. Jiji stops for a second as if contemplating on her words and says: “I used to wonder why anyone doesn’t ever praise her for her abilities because to me she had hundreds”.
Jiji took after her mother’s abilities and like all the girls in her community she was married off in a very small age to a family who was a hundred times larger than hers and where she like her mother ran around whole day to fulfill her duty of being a woman.
This wasn’t new for Jiji, her fate was like thousands of other girls or perhaps more, who too followed the circle of deprivations not only in decisions that affected their lives but even in eating their daily meals….because like all families Jiji and the other woman of the house were supposed to eat after all the men in the family ate. And that was perfectly normal for her.
Jiji soon had her own children, time went by and Sindh began to change, a box called TV was seen speaking in each house and people began to talk about health, education, electricity and other essentials, but of course not yet for women and girls because when you listened close they were talking about “schools for boys”.“One day my husband came home and informed me where he wants our girl to be married”, shares Jiji, this also was perfectly normal for me as my decisions had too been made by my father and not by my mother”.
Marrying her girls off, soon her sons brought home brides and it wasn’t long when little stars began to shine in the surroundings of her home, laughter of little children started to ring through the walls and little feet began dancing in the house premises….these were the years when Jiji began to lose her strength as old age dawned on her, her struggles began to lessen and all that she usually did, was taken up by her daughter-in-laws….while life went on.
But when Jiji’s grandchildren started on their feet, then is when the usual circle of her life was shifted, rather “twisted” from a side when Jiji decided to send her granddaughters to school, combing their golden brown hair each morning, Jiji started to make her own history.
Right in this time of Jiji’s life when it moved like a wheel set on speed, on the 16th of August 2010 Pakistan Floods broke in the district of Dadu, things changed from all aspects. In the matter of hours their whole village residents fled out of Johi as gusts of water climbed on top of the brick houses, breaking through the tall meadows taking the whole area in sea-like waves. The family traveled on already stuffed vans to a long distance in camps of Johi.“I had never in my whole life seen so many people at move”, shares Jiji “People were running around, clutching their loved ones, some even lost and many women without shoes and dupattas”.
Hot weather, lack of clean drinking water, non availability of adequate food and most of all the suffocating conditions of camps led Jiji to a poor health condition, soon the color in her smiling face drained out and her body already weak from age became almost unable to move.
In 2 months when waters receded, Jiji and her family moved back to her village which had become a sight of complete disorder and the once lively atmosphere had vanished leaving behind fallen walls, washed out belongings and broken tree stems.
That is the time when the team of Participatory Development Initiatives (PDI) with the support of Oxfam arrived for the aid of Jiji’s family along with 8,000 other families in Dadu providing recovery support aswell as regeneration of the lost lifestyles by providing cash for work, Clean up campaigns, Winter Kits, Hygiene Kits, establishing latrines andlaundry spaces, repairing water sources (hand pumps) and providing cash grants of 12,000 rupees to 3000 families.
Eventually clean-up campaigns began in Jiji’s village in which women, men, boys and girls took part, filling the pits and holes, cleaning the veranda’s,placing dry dirt on clay packed earth, throwing away washed in waste and putting away scattered bricks from fallen walls. Hygiene sessions were carried on, demonstrations on washing up and cleaning up of self were done, sessions on brushing teeth, cleaning nails and keeping the cloths clean were carried out before distributing the kits. People were selected out to be provided 12,000 rupees of cash grants and the construction of toilets and laundry spaces soon began while hand pumps were repaired.
PDI team kept on with all these activities in about 50 villages in Dadu district, keeping the routine visits going where mobilization and other activities were under process.
On their recent visit to her family, Jiji amazed the PDI team by asking if PDI could re-construct the schools so her grandchildren can start on their education once again…..and may this have been Jiji’s blessings or the great luck of those little girls in Dadu that PDI and Oxfam have recently launched their Education Rehabilitation Program to improve the primary education especially girl education conditions in Dadu as well as to re-habilitate a number of schools starting from February 2011!
Sharing this to Jiji was like answering her most needed questions and while sheis as happy as others in her community, PDI looks forward to this initiative as a successful endeavor for the lives of little girls and their educational empowerment.
Jiji turned 85 this year; each year that passes steals away some of the strength in her body but her affection still glows far across that village where she lives and today as the world celebrates women’s day in various forms, we at PDI send our heartiest wishes for Jiji and all those women like her who choose to make a dent in the universe, may that be any size: Happy Women’s Day Jiji!
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