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Friday, September 2, 2016

Overcoming challenges in rural Pakistan

People living in communities stuck in poverty find it a challenge to raise their voices and ask for even the most basic of services or opportunities when the basic needs of the day are constantly pressing in on them.

HOPE International Development Agency is working with people living in impoverished communities in Pakistan using a two-pronged approach to overcoming the challenge.

The first is to improve the economic independence of people who have been relegated to the margins of their communities.

The second is to help people learn how to lift their voices together to enact change in their communities.

Bottom up economic independence

Entrepreneurship training, creating groups with a common interest, and helping new entrepreneurs start income-earning businesses have proven very successful. To date, 350 people have been become entrepreneurs and are taking part in business ventures.

In five rural districts of Pakistan, these initiatives have led to new businesses in goat rearing, sewing, tailoring, and food processing (mostly through the creation of flour mills). The common interest groups of each of these business sectors decide how their businesses are run, and what resources will be combined in order to make them more efficient and profitable.

Creating change by speaking with one voice

Rural people now combine their voices to ensure that local leaders in their community are listening and acting on their concerns. This amazing transformation was accomplished by creating Community Action Groups, which work closely with other civil society organizations engaged in creating positive change that benefits the most marginalized.

The groups bring concerns forward and help their fellow community members resolve issues of shared importance, such as obtaining national identification and birth registration documents, school enrollment campaigns, community infrastructure such as roads and bridges, resolving community conflicts, and animal vaccination programs.

Speaking and acting together brings positive change

Some of the many successes Community Action Groups have achieved include the construction of a new road, relief and rehabilitation support for flood-affected families, medical camps to address health emergencies, and heightened awareness regarding the rights of farmers.

These initiatives in Pakistan have allowed people on the margins of society to gain economic independence and demand better from those in leadership positions.

The learning continues and so does the success

The 350 entrepreneurs recently visited other business leaders and others involved in local markets, learning more about the ins and outs of their trades, and sharing stories of their successes and failures.

The Community Action Groups enabled people to come together, share common challenges they face in their communities, and work together on solutions that were meaningful and sustainable.

The two-pronged approach of the work is creating new economic opportunities and enabling people to speak with one voice on issues that are important to their communities, as well as creating positive change today and improving prospects for the future.