A Woman’s Hope

  • 6 January, 2017

Marvi Ahmad

“Me? You’re asking me what I can do to reduce my households’ poverty?”

She sat there with a wide smile on her face, slightly amused and slightly confused. Strange things have been happening around her recently.

First, a random group of people showed up asking her questions about her family’s household, their assets and their general social and economic status. They said they wanted to determine the ‘poverty status’ of the household. They didn’t offer her anything though, just came for information, and since they seemed eager and well meaning enough, she complied.

“What was there to lose anyway”, she thought.

Some time passed, she forgot about them and thought that maybe they had too, when another little group of people showed up to their settlement and asked that the households assemble at a common meeting place so that they may speak with them, especially the women. Curious as to what they wanted, or what they would offer now, she went.

They spoke to them about the benefits of mobilising, of coming together to solve their problems, of tackling their poverty head on and coming together to fight it. Poverty. She thought about this word – was it that simple to define our reality, she wondered. But giving them the benefit of doubt, she attentively listened to what they came here to say. After all, they seem to keep returning; maybe they really did want to help.

The rhetoric got more enthusiastic, and soon all the women were raising their hands in unison, some of them still not entirely sure what they were agreeing to do. They were asked to consider if they wanted to form one of their own little community institutions in the settlement as a means to bettering their lives. The interesting thing was that they insisted that this institution will be run by women only; now that’s something she hadn’t heard of before.

Soon after this meeting, the women gathered at the house that was big enough to accommodate everyone, and the same group of people came back and began busily setting up banners and arranging their things. “They seem to have a lot of information about us”, she thought. They repeated some of the things spoken about before, and this time also emphasised the importance of saving and how a little can go a long way. They asked them to pick a President and Manager of their little institution and even whatever name they liked. Finally realising what they were building up to, the women began to nod and interact with more determination.

These meetings began to happen on a monthly basis and little by little, their collective savings began to increase as well. She noticed that they marked attendance, noted the proceedings in a register, at least the more literate of them did, and they felt like maybe, they really were doing something to better their lives.

In the last meeting, they were told to start thinking about their own household poverty, and what new activity they can do to increase their household incomes. She waived it off, until they showed up at her house. Here they were, asking her to bring everyone together so that they can decide what to do, and how they can help them.

She was a little nervous as she thought about her limitations; “What would I know, I am a middle-aged, simple woman who has only heard stories of what cities may look like, how can I make these decisions, why were these people so insistent?” she wondered. “My day begins and ends with my children, taking care of the animals and cooking whatever I can to feed my family”, she told them. They asked her what skills she had, she could not think of anything more amusing, so she smiled.

But somehow, they were not backing down. They asked her to consult with her family and see what they could come up with their available resources and what was the extra push they required to make it happen. There was some back and forth, and soon their household’s Micro Investment Plan was penned down.

She could not help but wonder, someone asked ‘me’ about an important household matter. They were here at our home because I was the member of an institution, and maybe because of me, this poverty that we are in, the poverty these people continue to speak of – may reduce.

Her confusion grew into appreciation, and her smile shifted from amusement to the slightest bit of empowerment – and hope.

This story is inspired from a field visit to a community institution formed in a rural village by women under the Sindh Union Council and Community Economic Strengthening Support (SUCCESS) Programme, being implemented in eight districts of Sindh by the Rural Support Programmes and their Network and funded by the European Union.

Marvi Ahmed is the Monitoring & Evaluation Officer at SUCCESS Programme (RSPN component).

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