Women of Hari Goth Find Hope in ‘Roshni’

  • 10 January, 2017

By Noor Muhammad & Filza Nasir

Hari Goth  is a small settlement located in the middle of a vast barren land in Sonu Laal Revenue Village of Union Council Dabhou, District Jamshoro. Hari Goth is home to 70 households that have been freed from bonded labour and brought here from various parts of Sindh including Mirpur, Badin, Thar and Umarkot. Some of the people were brought to the goth 14 years ago, while others came later in subsequent years.

The government has temporarily provided three-room, small houses to the now free ‘haris’ (farmers). However, even though they have a place to live, their living conditions have not improved significantly. Though the people believe they are now free to live as they please, earn how they want, and eat what they want, even today their earnings are meagre, and they barely make the ends meet. Most of them work as daily wagers, whenever they can find semi-skilled or non-skilled labour.

The state’s incapacity to provide basic necessities of life to the citizens, coupled with the inability of the masses to come together for resolution of their longstanding issues, affects the impoverished people, especially the women, the most.

The women of this goth have, however, recently felt a glimmer of hope after forming a Community Organisation (CO) they call “Roshni”, the Urdu word for light. The women of Hari Goth formed the CO under the European Union -funded SUCCESS Programme, after Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP) came to their baste, urging them to organise and informing them about the importance of self-reliance, saving money, and creating synergies at the local level to resolve individual and collective issues.

The awareness messages given by the activists touched the right chords, and set in motion a process that led to the formation of CO Roshni.  Selena, a middle age woman, was chosen as the Manager of the CO by the women members of the organisation, while another elderly woman, Noor Jahan was chosen as Roshni’s President.


Another day at the shop

The women of Hari Goth are now getting trained in keeping their village clean, and living a healthy life. However, the most significant change in the women has been that of awareness and attitude. The women believe that they can achieve anything and can get out of the cycle of poverty if they combine their resources and use them efficiently. In this regard, they have started saving Rs, 10 per day in a joint pool managed by the CO. This contribution of Rs. 300 rupees per member per  month has allowed them to save Rs. 16,200 within three months of the CO formation.

Members of Roshni are now working trying to open bank account for their organisation, where they will keep their savings. Meanwhile, in an inspirational display of entrepreneurial spirit, and financial intelligence, the women of Hari Goth have purchased prize bonds issued by the State of Bank of Pakistan. The women bought 25 bonds of Rs. 200 each. They believe that this investment of Rs. 5,000 from their savings is in fact the smart way to save as well as earn money.

“By purchasing the Prize Bond we are able to keep the money safe”, said Noor Jahan, President of Roshni CO, who is responsible for handling the cash collected. “My husband checks in the newspaper for the numbers of our prize bonds. If and when there will be a prize, we will distribute the money equally among the members of the CO”, she adds.

Other women say that they will keep saving money, and create a loaning system to help the members of Roshni in their hours of need. “Nowadays we have got work. We pick cotton from the fields and this is a busy season”, says another woman, who is wearing several dozen white bangles on her both arms. “We are saving Rs. 10 each day because in this season we can afford it. In other times we will save whatever we can”, she explains.

Taking another step forward towards financial independence, the Roshni members have invested Rs. 7,000 in a small shop where residents of the 70 households of Hari Goth can purchase basic food and household use items. Earlier they used to travel to Kotri town, paying Rs.40 for each side of travel in a public vehicle. The members of Roshni CO have appointed Mirgah, a cheerful lady, as the shop attendant. She sells goods worth Rs. 700 a day, on average, out of which Rs. 100 per day is given to Roshni, and added to the joint saving pool.

The women of Hari Goth have found a new confidence by forming their own organisation, and starting saving money collectively. They feel empowered and independent.

The women said that when they were working for the landlords, they were not free. Later they became liberated from the clutches of the landlord, but their economic situation did not improve. They said that they now feel unbound, as they have started saving money and discussing their common issues.

“We are hopeful that our efforts will work, and with the passage of time we will be able to do more work for ourselves and our village”, says Noor Jahan, Roshni’s President.

“If you are stuck inside a well and others are telling you how to get out, then you have to be happy and hopeful”, Noor Jahan added, when asked why she felt hopeful.

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