Pakistan

"Electric fan was no better than a handheld fan!"

by Hazeen Latif

Picture this: a village with around 120 households; men, women, children and elderly all living together in conditions very few would dare to live. As the night falls the world beyond the village illuminates with lights glowing from house windows and on the streets. Cool air wafts from air conditioners and fans are blowing. But this village in KPK looks like a campsite with candle lights getting dimmer and dimmer as night get deeper.

 “We can’t sleep at night as the children cry of mosquito bites and heat,” says a local resident. Because of low electricity voltage and power cuts, electric fan speed is no better than a handheld fan. The problem was caused by a 25 kVA transformer with weak and rusted links, which connected the village to the national electricity supply grid. The transformer has been repaired over two dozen times and cannot be repaired anymore.

But thanks to our partner’s community radio program “Naway Saher”, which highlighted this issue before summer reached peak temperatures, a brand new 50kVA transformer has been installed replacing the older one. The voltage is very stable and community houses are much happier places to be. Residents say “this good fan speed is much better than hand fan!”

New transformer in Majukay village, May 2019. HCR Pakistan

New transformer in Majukay village, May 2019. HCR Pakistan

Spraying for peace ...

By Johnny Fisher and Hazeen Latif

These community volunteers in Majukay are amazing! Despite the intense summer heat and the fasting period, they got out and sprayed mosquito hotspots in their community to prevent Dengue fever infections.

Has it made a difference? This year we heard people saying, more people are gathering together again in the places where community happens. In previous years there were too many mosquitoes and people avoided their normal meeting places in mosquito season. People meeting together is a big win for peacebuilding and the mosquito numbers are down - that’s a big win in the battle against disease.

Local government funded the spraying activities after hearing HCR Pakistan’s partner Naway Saher (NSCSG) talk about community concerns on local radio.

“We didn’t realize that our voice was so effective and strong!”

By Hazeen Latif

Change is happening and its infectious! The development changes we have seen in the last few months in Majukay, a community in Charsadda, Pakistan, were almost unimaginable 4 years ago when the community members set ambitious goals for being a healthy thriving society. It feels like a corner has been turned, and the change is gaining momentum.

  • The main street leading into the village is being upgraded with a concrete surface. Until a few months ago it was a rough, soil track scarred with ditches and puddles.

Concreting the road surface. Majukay, April 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Concreting the road surface. Majukay, April 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

  • A new transformer is soon to be installed. This summer people can enjoy a cool breeze from their fans. Previously the low capacity in the electricity supply meant people suffered in the heat with fans running at tortoise speed.

  • The local administration has agreed to spray the community to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and spreading Dengue fever. Summer heat is on its way and with it the risk of Dengue increases.

Structural development like this doesn’t happen easily because of bureaucratic inertia. But something new has happened in the last year few months. Local authorities have started to release funds for development as they pay new attention to the community needs, and to the appetite for change.  Other are taking notice too. Nearby villages want to know how to bring similar changes to their own communities.

“It is all due to our radio program and WhatsApp group”

Zahid Ullah Zahid, who heads the Naway Saher Community Services Group.

Councillor in NS Studio, April 2019. HCR Pakistan

Councillor in NS Studio, April 2019. HCR Pakistan

Naway Saher formed a small radio production team, trained by HCR Pakistan, and, since November 2018, they have been broadcasting a community radio programme in Pushto language on a local FM station. The village voice is getting louder and stronger through radio and it reached the ears of the district councillor.  He decided to support the new structural developments and even came to be interviewed in the radio studio.

“We didn’t realize that our voice was so effective and strong”

One of the newly trained production team members.

So far the Majukay story has been one of gradual change. People have been coming together to discuss issues and establish unity. Less and less people have the mindset that nothing will happen and only the government should do everything. Naway Saher (New Dawn) Community Services Group, supported by HCR Pakistan, has held community workshops, village committees, and youth sports events. Village elders have given their support. Families have started boiling water for drinking to avoid illness from contaminated water sources. In 2016 HCR Pakistan supported the community to dig a well and the well has been giving clean water since. People come from far away to get the only clean drinking water and are claiming that it is a miracle as the water never stops giving odorless good water.

The Majukay story is spreading – upwards, outwards and inwards.

“More people are joining with us” says Zahid Ullah. Not only are surrounding villages wanting to see similar changes, but more people from within the community want to get involved.

Help keep this viral effect going! HCR Pakistan is seeking funding to help Naway Saher become even more inclusive, with more media content created for and by women and girls. We are also seeking funding to help two more communities in nearby districts to develop community-centred media projects. Please contact us if you want to know more, or you can Donate via this web site.

“You have given us courage to speak”

 “You have given us courage to speak and express our views in front of men!”

One female participant’s words express the exciting outcome of a recent HCR Pakistan workshop on creating community-centred radio. Five women and nine men took part in the workshop in a rural village in Pakistan.

At the start of the workshop, the participants said they wanted to raise their voices on behalf of the poor. One woman said she wanted to be a champion for those who are marginalised.

Participant and facilitator at community-centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Participant and facilitator at community-centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

A health worker in the community is already using radio to include marginalised voices in community conversations. He goes around the village speaking to a variety of people, recording their opinions on health and development topics. He and the HCR Pakistan director, Mr Hazeen Latif are eager for the radio to be even more inclusive by building a team of volunteers within the community to help design and produce the programmes too.

The group learned the basic principles of community centred radio, how to make Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and how to interview people for radio. The quality of the practical work was very high, one team’s work reaching what we call ABS – Above Broadcast Standard.

Male participants prepare a PSA incommunity centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Male participants prepare a PSA incommunity centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Yet a big challenge in this traditionally male-dominated culture was how to have men and women participating in the workshop together. Sitting in the same room for a public event is not the norm.

As the practical exercises began, the women’s voices were too quiet to be heard. The women realised that if they wanted to be inclusive activists, they had to overcome their fears of speaking out. As the course continued, they found more confidence. They said later that they began to see the facilitator as a friendly, fatherly figure, making the workshop a safe environment for speaking. The men were impressed at how passionately the women would argue their points publicly.

Confidence grew within the workshop, but the trust that led to this has been growing over several years. Mr Latif and the community health worker have collaborated on the Naway Saher project for about four years, facilitating a variety of community development activities. They have patiently built trust with each other and with the community.

Trust has been essential in arriving at the point where the workshop was possible. Trust was also essential for the workshop to become truly inclusive. Trust gives hope that the new team will be successful in their goal to be champions for the poor and marginalised.

Mr Hazeen Latif and Naway Saher project coordinator, Pakistan, Jan 2019 (HCR Pakistan)

Mr Hazeen Latif and Naway Saher project coordinator, Pakistan, Jan 2019 (HCR Pakistan)

Women have a voice

Day 11 of #16DaysofActivism

By Johnny Fisher and Hazeen Latif

This year the UK celebrated 100 years of women being able to vote. Before that democracy was interpreted to mean “rule by the men” rather than “rule by the people”. This development has been repeated over and over again. Women around the world are be able to participate fully and equally in decision-making at community and national level. Sadly, in many communities, people are unaware of these national developments and the threat of violence is often used to prevent women from speaking out in public conversations. 

In Pakistan women do participate in public life and Pakistan is one of an increasing number of countries to have had a female prime minister. But in some Pakistani communities it would be considered offensive for a woman to engage in influential conversations at community or family level. Women who try to do so face threats of violence and exclusion. 

HCR supports a community-centred radio project in one such community. Community activists have worked together to get training and put community radio programmes on air. However, the participants in the radio work are all men. Women do participate in complementary off-air activities, and one lady, Zakia*, has been running health and hygiene workshops for women and girls. Another older lady in the community has offered her home for Zakia to run vocational groups for women and girls. The older lady said, “We have to do this, whatever the cost to me”.  Inspired by this Zakia also spoke to an HCR associate about getting involved in radio. She realised it could be very dangerous for her as it might invite repercussions from the wider community. But she believes that radio by women and girls, for women and girls would extend the benefits of the workshops to more people. Zakia said to our associate, “Someone must stand up and speak, and I will do it”. 

HCR is supporting women who want to engage in public life through radio. We are also speaking up for the many women whose voices are not heard because they have been intimidated into silence by the threat of violence.

*Not her real name

in some Pakistani communities it would be considered offensive for a woman to engage in influential conversations at community or family level.

in some Pakistani communities it would be considered offensive for a woman to engage in influential conversations at community or family level.