By Hina Gul, Human Resources Manager, October 2012
A first meeting was held with the forum Takra Qabayali Khwende (TQK). Takra Qabayali Khwende is a Pashto phrase that means "Empowered Tribal Sister".
TQK is a new established forum of like-minded individuals and organisations wanting to improve the situation of tribal women, children and communities in FATA. FATA is the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and SAWERA is a founding member of this forum.
Different local organisations and forums attended the meeting with SAWERA staff members in which “TQK” ideas were shared by different organisations about how to make the forum more effective.
SAWERA shared their ideas on how they can make changes in the situation of tribal women and children, and how to make connect with other networks and forums.
The workshop was very interesting and relevant to the community's needs and issues. Topics of discussion included legal implications for roles, ethics, values, and leadership. Staff members also received other information about how they can find relevant courses and how to do stakeholder's analysis. Ideas were shared among other organizations and what they did in the context of governance.
Mohsin Begam lives in village Agra Bala, UC (union council) Agra, alone.
As she has grown older, the death of her husband had made her life quite miserable. Socially neglected and marginalized, Mohsin Begam used to depend on charity from neighbours.
Mohsin told SAWERA staff that after the death of her husband, gradually all her relatives deserted her and she was all alone. Her situation further worsened when her entire savings dried up.
She says that many times, she even had to sleep without food.
Ultimately, having gone through such a miserable situation, Mohsin Begam turned quite anxious about her future as she had tested all her relatives, but she could secure no support from anyone. She realized that she could not go ahead and make any progress until she herself did something.
Lessons which she had learned after the death of her husband generated in her a commitment to improve her situation, and made her ambitious to do something about it.
Mohsin Begam has sufficient skills in tailoring, particularly in making children's clothing. She decided to start vocational training for her neighbors' girls and in this way, she has generated a small amount of income.
Now, she is planning to establish a vocational center at her home and will purchase two more sewing machines, embroidery frames, and raw materials for the center with the cash grant paid to her by SAWERA.
Initially, at the start of her endeavor, people in the area didn’t permit their daughters to participate in vocational training.
Parents with the stereotypical attitude toward girls behaved negatively and were of the view that there is no advantage to sending daughters to any such center or institution because one day, they will get married and will have to do house chores.
This was the one big challenge for Mohsin Begam; she started meeting personally with them and she motivated parents to allow their daughters to get vocational skills, as one can face financial problems at any stage of life and this skill will help their daughters in supporting their families, even after their marriages.
She gave them her own example; she proved quite convincing and cogent, and now a number of girls are getting training on stitching and embroidery.
As noted above, after the death of her husband, Mohsin was in the worst condition, both financially and socially, because of very low income. She became totally dependent on charity. She used to look to the neighbors and relatives for help; she also told SAWERA of a situation, when she was ill and she couldn’t go to the doctor because there was not a single penny at home.
Now, after starting this vocational center at her home, she is able to earn bread and butter for herself. She believes that her work has restored her dignity and respect. Today, after meeting all home expenses, she saves Rs 2000/- a month.
In union council Agra, village Agra Bala, there was no vocational institution available until Mohsin Begam had taken steps to establish vocational center for the first time.
There has been a lot of opposition from some corners; however, several needy families – particularly, widows and orphans, have wanted to acquire skills and start home-based enterprises.
Previously, due to unavailability of such vocational centers, women who were interested in gaining such skills, mostly had to move to the city or send their daughters to vocational centers located in urban centers. This added transportation costs, in addition to fees and miscellaneous expenses, incurred on a girl’s education.
With the introduction of the vocational center by Mohsin Begam, now people will have easy access, and mobility is no more a problem.
Mohsin Begam is an expert in stitching and in making clothes for children. She believes that the skill that she carries is much needed in the market, and she is disseminating her knowledge and skill that will help promote the garments sector in Charsadda.
SAWERA is a local women-led NGO in Pakistan, working in Khyber Agency (a tribal area) in particular, and in Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA).
SAWERA is also active in flood emergency relief in District Charsada.
"No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live."
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, 1944 - 'Founding Father' of Pakistan.