We at Sughar Women Program work in tribal and rural areas of Pakistan and where amazing and inspiring stories from women each day become the reason for our continuations struggle and enthusiasm. We bring you another yet story from a small village and invite you to taste the happiness and pride that comes along with it!
The road that leads to this village seems to have no end until the dirt road starts, and then there would come the traces of life far ahead in the midst of bushes and trees. You will see trees kneeling towards the tiny path which is perhaps the only way to get there as on the right there is a beautiful river passing and on the left fields and farms run up till your sights distance.
This is the Village Baboo Khan Lashari, at about 8 Km from the town of Sakro in Tehsil Mirpur Sakro of District Thatta it is a small village where Sughar Women Program of Participatory Development Initiatives PDI operates, although surrounded by trees and the bushes this village looks as if there is miles and miles of population spread across its land, but once you get inside, a beautiful image of about 197 small hut-like houses all made of wood would come to your sight.
In these peaceful surroundings of utter silence and village life, there are many stories that surround us for their Inspiration, success as well as uniqueness that we have come across while becoming a part of their lives. One of the story is of Salma.
Salma comes in the inspiration part, at her young age of 19 and her sheer brilliance even belonging to a village where education wasn’t that much of a priority to anyone and where traditions both positive and negative strongly exist as the core values of these people. Salma was one of those fortunate girls who had had gone to receive her primary education from a nearby school with much hardships, later wishing to take her education further she requested her family and community to see for her a way to go to the town of Sakro for her middle grades but that not having been a possibility for any other girl in her village went the same for her and Salma stayed home.
Idleness was the last thing Salma enjoyed the most, running to the fields with her mother at the time of harvest in the piercing heat of summer or sweeping the house for a dozen times in a day, she still thought there was more to what she could do.
Those were the times when Sughar Women Program of Participatory Development Initiatives (PDI) supported by International Labour Organization (ILO) approached Salma and her village residents bringing for them an idea they hadn’t heard before!
Sughar mobilizers told the community men and women about their ending traditions and about their values that were being lost every day in the globalized world and so they said we want to work together with you to promote those beautiful traditions but then, in return struggle to end negative traditions like exchange marriages, child marriages, honor killings and others where women at majority become victims!
Sughar [English translation: skilled and confident woman] is a program aimed at ending the negative customs of exchange marriages, child marriages, honour killings by promoting the beautiful traditions and providing socio-economic empowerment to women in tribal communities of Pakistan. Sughar establishes Women Centers in villages offering a 6 month course to tribal women. The course involves value-adding the traditional embroidery and provides basic education and literacy skills. It raises awareness of rural women on their equal status and rights. Each course offers a minimum loan to each woman after graduating to initiate Primary Production Units at their homes thus promoting women entrepreneurship which greatly influences their power to ownership and decision making.
The whole idea of promoting traditions made the men in the community agree at the first note! Salma was awestruck; she wouldn’t believe that an organization intending to benefit women and to work with women is so welcomed in her community by men!
“It was so new for me” she says enthusiastically, “it still is! even though I have now become a part of it myself, because before this we only knew that income could only be brought home by men and earning wasn’t something we said women did”.
The best part yet came when asking where to have their Sughar Center inside the village; the tribal leader offered one of the rooms from his house!
Salma was chosen as one of the Local Facilitators among the three who would be trained in an intensive 10 days Training of Trainers (TOT) to come back and train the 30 selected women for the Sughar Center for 6 months through a module in local language.
Those days came when Salma was seen beaming to herself, her dying feelings and her dreams came back with more energy and life and she was now a girl destined to change her life as well as the lives of other women in her village! “When some of the women didn’t want to come initially to the Sughar Center for the daily 2 to 4 class, I went to their homes and told them the inspiring stories of girls that I have heard from Sughar team”, Salma explains, those girls who starting from scratch became the owners of businesses right from their homes! And the next day I see these women coming to the Sughar Center laughing and talking”!
Just recently when Sughar Women Program launched Pakistan’s first ever Rural Women Brand called Sughar via a Fashion Show in Karachi, Salma was one of the designers for the dress of a top model! Her beautiful embroidery when modeled with much grace and sophistication adding to the love she had put in every stitch while preparing it!
Although with a bright smiling face, tears are like best friends to Salma, always shinning in her eyes when she talks about progress, change and women status. When asked about how it felt to earn income, learn about rights and to teach other women the best things for their lives, she didn’t say anything…. She just cried and smiled.
++++ We at Sughar have recently been nominated for Azm-e-Alishan Awards in Pakistan, coming to the finalists now we can only get to the finals through your vote! Please go to this facebook application to vote for us! Thank you! http://apps.facebook.com/azmealishanawards/?ref=ts