Arts Foundation working to empower widows of Sindh

Monday 12 June 2017 2 weeks ago 29   Hyderabad   Print

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Blogger  Kaleem Butt : Hyderabad: Widows in the society usually live in social isolation and face economic challenges. Like the world over the situation in Sindh province is not better and may be the worst than it, because of religious and cultural barriers for women. During frequent meetings with widows in Mirpurkhas city and suburbs, some of them narrated the issues they face at home, which are enough to understand the gravity of situation. Most of them believe that the deaths of their husbands left them in helpless situation to nurture small kids without having any source of income. Because, mostly the society dominated by religious and cultural taboos does not allow women to get employment independently. It happens often in low-income families in the province. Hence, husbands are considered only bread earners to feed their families performing different works, ranging from doing jobs or working as daily wagers. In case of their deaths the women bear the loss and usually live in isolation. Aneesa Begum widow of Muhammad Furqan belongs to Punjab province and shifted to Mirpurkhas city, Sindh province after getting marriage, recalls the blissful days she enjoyed during the marital life with husband and four children in this city. But it was deplorable situation for her family when her husband got illness, which caused his death within some time, leaving the family in helpless situation. Since then the family started facing problems of different nature, mainly they did not generate suitable earning source to live safely. Luckily some neighbouring women informed Aneesa that a newly center was looking for widows for skill development program. They not only provide teaching, stitching and other work but also offer stipend amount for daily travel cost. It was inspiring for her and she joined the center happily with a larger group of widows to learn skills. She accredits the women teachers, who always adopted polite attitude, encouraging them to learn and live a life safely. She took three months to learn entire process of cutting suits and stitching with new designs for market. The dedication put her on the right track to earn little amount through this work. Now she feeds her small children and lives without being dependent. "After learning now I have set up my own center at my home, where I work hard to sew dresses of neighboring women clients and also guide girls, who are interested to learn," she said with confidence. Another young lady Noureen widow of Asghar has almost the similar tale, saying she had two kids when her husband died in a road accident. After that she shifted to her parents home in the city neighborhood to live with children. But again, "I realised that since my father is watchman and earns little salary, I should do something if I can find," she told. She was also motivated by a group of active girls from Arts Foundation, a local organisation, who came to her home, showing as if they are conducting survey to identify the issues widows are facing and offered little intensive of learning skills. After three-month course they provided her sewing machine with other tools and raw clothes to continue this work to ease family. She takes it turning point in her life when she overpowered the difficulties. "And now I feel easy, sending my children to school, taking care of my parents and above all home." "It was my willpower to help my poor parents and children to live with dignity instead of sitting idle at home," she said. The issues of these women may be different within households but the common problems they face are social isolation and economic challenges. Because males are bread earners of families and when they leave this world only their widows can narrate their difficulties. During the conversation with these vulnerable women, psychological effects and the social consequences were much more clear over their faces. Some women said losing spouse means losing a social circle as well. They feel uncomfortable. Some narrate that widowhood brings on self-imposed isolation from the community. Shahzado Malik, Director Arts Foundation sharing his success to motivate a larger group, comprising 200 vulnerable widows, says "credit goes to the teachers (all women), who too care and put these widows out of social isolation and made them economically beneficial." "Now all of them have their self work at homes, earn little and live with dignity," he said. "We identified 200 widows belonging to Mirpurkhas city and suburbs to mainstream them within eight months through provision of three months garment making and tailoring training, provided them toolkits and developed market linkages with garment vendors, boutiques and shopkeepers in the area," he said. It was our objective to make them able to launch their own businesses and so we have achieved after looking them so proud to deal with clients and market people, he added. It has been witnessed that the socio-economic conditions and political activism of women in rural Sindh is deplorable. They do not have easy access to take part in the socio-economic as well as political activities. It happens when many international agreements affirming their human rights but these women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They usually have less access than men to medical care, property ownership, credit, training and employment. In this situation widows are most vulnerable in terms of acceptance in the society and access to works to live safe with dignity. The reports reveal that it is common phenomenon that women in particular have a very difficult time with finances after the loss of their husbands. In this regard religious and cultural taboos set in societies contribute more to exploit them. They were pushed to live alone suddenly and face financial crisis to run domestic affairs. Mostly these women residing in Mirpurkhas has experienced natural calamities, specially rain and food disaster 2011, which devastated them further to live in isolation. Sakeena Rajput is among these women who faces the alarming situation. Now she puts up her hands, praying for the organisation, which extended help and made her capable to live a safe life and take care of her children. "To me challenges always come but the determination encourages me all times to make the life easy," she concluded. 02