Fighting the poverty trap

  • 20 March, 2017

By Mansoor Khoso

This is the story of a resilient woman, having extraordinary will-power, dedication and strength to fight all the difficulties of life. She aims to improve the life of her family and fellow villagers; she wants to break the cycle of poverty in her flood prone village.

We are talking about  a woman who is living in one of the most disaster prone areas of Sindh, in village Muhammad Hussain Samoon, situated along the the Indus River in District Sujawal. The village suffers annual riverine floods.

Adan, 45, tells her story in these words:

“I remember from my childhood that life is a continuous cycle of miseries, hardships, and fighting with calamities and diseases. This is what we have to live with it, because we can’t win against nature. This is my land, my home and my community. Our source of income is seasonal; most of us are labourers in fields, or herd cattle, while others are engaged in small scale fishing. Our situation is very fragile. Most of the time, when the Indus River is flooded, all our means of livelihoods disappear. At times, we have to cut back on our food intake. It is very difficult to see the suffering of our children. This was the life that I remember. After every calamity, we would start rebuilding, bit by bit, work hard and build our huts, and then wait for the next disaster. And that is the cycle we are trapped in there is no way out.”

“In such situations, our children suffer the most”, she says, adding, ” For example, education is a dream to all of us. I am illiterate and most of my villagers are the same. We have never thought about education; we have been busy just surviving.  I remember that in 2011 flood washed away our village. We were left with nothing; everyone lost their homes and livestock. After the flood waters came the diseases that affected both the young and the old. Diarrhea was very common as all water sources became contaminated.”

Adan photographed with students of the newly reopened school

“After the floods, the government and many NGOs came in and helped us to build our huts, provided shelter, water, medicines and food items. Among them, one NGO opened a school in our village for girls after consultation with our elders. Our elders agreed and I personally showed my interest to help build this school in our village. The day we built the school was very special for me. My children had started going to the school, and i hoped that one day they will get good jobs and get out of the poverty trap that has consumed my entire life.”

“I used to see that the NGO people who visited us were educated and I wished that one day my children will be like them – having good health, good livelihood and an overall better life. I believe that only education can help us escape our situation. The NGO operated the school for three years. But then one day, the NGO decided to shut the school down. It was a shocking day for all of us. All our dreams were in tatters”, says Adan.

“Today we have regained our hope because of NRSP”, said Adan. “They came and supported us to get together and foster our own Community Organisation. My fellow community women have selected me as the president of CO. Just like me, other mothers were also concerned about the closed school. So the first thing that our CO did was to mobilise ourselves for reopening of the school after a gap of several years,”, she adds. The CO was able to reopen the school, through advocacy.

Continuing her story, Adan expresses happiness and satisfaction over reopening of the school. “It is our school now, and no one can close it any more.  We are running the school and part of CO savings are being used to cover the expenses. While the women are leading from the front, the men are also supporting us in maintaining the school. I have seven children and all my younger children are going to school today. The training provided by NRSP to CO leaders also boosted our confidence. It gave us hope. We think we cannot fail anymore. It is our own institution, and we feel very powerful, by making decision important decision on behalf of our small village”.

Fellow villagers also recognise Adan as a very active leader. People in the village acknowledge that without all the households getting together and fostering the CO, the school could not have reopened. This example of power of social mobilisation encourages the CO members and they are planning to do more to improve their own lives and livelihoods.

The contributor is District Monitoring and Reporting Officer at NRSP.

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