Despite the challenges being faced by the women in terms of access to education and health facilities, their social and economic empowerment is inevitable.
By Nadir Ali Shah | Fazal Ali Saadi
Rural women’s leadership role is a key to achieve economic and social changes for sustainable development after their participation in decision making in local development and at household level. Despite the challenges being faced by them in terms of access to education and health facilities yet their social and economic empowerment is inevitable. This is what is happening in rural Sindh where women-led organizations are making a difference with the leadership qualities of rural women which have become the source of inspiration for their male counterparts. Shabiran bibi* is a president of Community Organization (CO), formed under the EU-SUCCESS program, at settlement Khalid Khan Loond Hari, district Tando Allahyar. She holds a monthly meeting with her CO members to discuss the local issues and sheds light on their solutions. At the end of the meeting, decisions are taken with the consent of all CO members.
Ahmed* is the husband of Shabiran bibi who noticed a big change in her communication skills and a way of expressing her point of view after attending the regular CO meetings. Her husband believed that the leadership role of his spouse in the Community Organization has become the source of inspiration for him. He also shared that how he got an idea of starting his own small business in the village as an observer in the CO meetings at his household.
“A few years ago, I was unemployed and looking for a government job, even I was ready to pay the amount of money as a bribe to the local political agent for the job but could not succeed to receive it. My wife used to arrange the meetings of Community Organization at our home as she was a CO President. Women members regularly came to our home for attending these meetings. I was so surprised to see my wife presiding over the meetings and their discussion on different topics like improving education, health, sanitation and exploring income generating opportunities that inspired me to open a small shop (flour mill) in the nearby village Dad Khan Jarwar. After realizing the active leadership role of my wife, I consulted with her about my decision to engage myself in the small business and she stood by my decision and encouraged me to pursue it instead of wasting time running behind the government job,” said Ahmed. Nowadays, he is running his flour mill shop successfully in the village and earning a handsome amount of money PKR 1,500 to 2,000 daily. He attributed this success to his wife and now consults with her in every decision about the children’s education, household saving, health and family events.
There is another case of Rahema bibi* who is the CO President at Mohammad Saleh Otho village, district Tando Allahyar. Her CO members believe that Raheema is leading their CO activities very well and she makes decisions after taking them into confidence which they consider as a good quality in a leader. Rehema bibi shared an interesting event that his husband, Ghulam Ali* was a daily wage laborer and a patient of high blood pressure. She used to be afraid of talking to him about any matter. Further, she said, “One day, my husband was at home and worried about the daily wage work so I went near to him and suggested opening the tuck shop in the village to get rid of the daily wage labor. He raised eyebrows and looked at my face with slight anger and shouted that opening of shop required money which he did not have so how it was possible. I gave him money that I received PKR 20,000 under Community Investment Fund (CIF) for income generating purpose.”
Ghulam Ali shared that he observed a positive change in his wife’s way of thinking which gave him motivation and impetus to open the tuck shop. Now he was able to earn PKR 400 to 500 on daily basis and some of it goes to his wife who saved it and after some time returned the CIF loan. As per the words of Ghulam Ali, “My wife also got CIF amount the second time and suggested me to open another tuck shop at Fazil stop on the main road outside the village and I appreciated her for this idea. I have now bought a small cabin which will be placed at Fazil stop to run it as a tuck shop. We are so happy on increasing our tuck-shop from one to two.”
The case of Anita* also highlights her leadership role in her Community Organization as a president. She conducts every month CO meeting at village Masoo Bozdar in which she discusses about the children’s enrolment in the school, administration of polio drops, vaccination of pregnant women and identification of poor households to facilitate them with Community Investment Fund for starting a small business to generate some income. Her husband, Bhemo* worked as a daily wage farm laborer in the village and when his wife received the first amount of CIF PKR 15,000 then her husband scolded her that why she took it as the household was poor and could not return the loan. His wife told him not to worry as she received Leadership Management Skills Training (LMST) so she knew what to do. Her husband was surprised to see a social change in her and got convinced that she would do something better for the household. She bought a goat which delivered two baby goats and her livestock increased from one goat to three goats.
Anita received CIF three times under the EU-SUCCESS program and reports, “I received first time CIF amount of PKR 15,000 and bought a goat which gave birth to two baby goats. After some time, I sold one goat in PKR 8,000 to return the loan as it was on a lump-sum instalment. Then I received a second time CIF amount of PKR 20,000 and my husband opened the tuck shop and we were able to return the amount in due time. I also received a third time CIF amount of PKR 27,000 which my husband used in the tuck shop. The tuck shop is stocked with PKR 50,000. We have got more benefit from the CIF as PKR 1,500 is the daily earning from the shop. I have also applied for a fourth time CIF and want to further extend the shop with stocks that are in demand. I am expecting to receive the CIF soon after the application process is complete. Now, my husband has more faith in my leadership qualities as he consults with me before taking any decision.”
It is evident from the field that if rural women are provided with an opportunity and platform to perform their leadership role in the community then they can do wonders as they possess great potential to prove that they are not too small to make a difference. In the end, it is pertinent to quote here a Chinese proverb, “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.”
*Names changed to protect privacy
Nadir Ali Shah is an Anthropologist and working as Field Researcher at Rural Support Programs Network (RSPN). He can be reached at email@example.com.
Fazal Ali Saadi is development professional and working as Program Manager at Rural Support Programs Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org