Pakistan: One year later, working together to recover
August 2, 2011 by Euan Robinson
|With education from IRC protection teams, community-based committees in Pakistan's Sindh province are helping local women to learn about their rights, talk about their problems and rebuild their lives after last year's floods. Peter Biro/IRC|
Euan Robinson, IRC-UK policy officer, recently visited Sindh province in Pakistan, one of the regions hit the worst by last year’s floods.
“The day the floods came, we lost everything we had – our houses, money, cattle and infrastructure were all totally destroyed.” - Razia Sultana
For people across Sindh province, last year’s floods changed everything. Today, I visited Tart Moriyo, a village near Shikarpur which, like so many communities across Sindh, saw its way of life washed away by the rising water.
Walking down the dusty path through the village, the impact of the floods on people’s lives is still clear even twelve months on. The rough outlines of four walls are all that is left of homes swept away by the power of the floodwater. For many families, home is now a canvas tent where their house once stood.
The local school stands locked and boarded, its classrooms and corridors gutted by the water and now filled with mud and silt. Children play cricket in the shade of the school, its only practical use at the moment. Visible watermarks on the outer walls show how high the floods reached – a full meter and a half off the ground in places.
Razia Sultana is the information secretary of the women’s protection beneficiary committee (PBC), established by the IRC. IRC protection teams educate the community-based PBCs on rights under Islamic, national and international laws. The PBCs then pass this knowledge around the community, helping their neighbors access any help and support that is available. Tearfully, Razia explains to me how the committees helped local women through the trauma of the floods.
“When we created the PBCs we focused on helping people in the worst-hit areas. As the information secretary, my job is to find those women who are most vulnerable – widows and the disabled. I identify who they are and make sure that they get the help they need.”
As well as identifying the most vulnerable, the PBC’s provide opportunities for women to get together to discuss their concerns, learn their rights and entitlements, and take collective action to access available assistance.
“When the committee meets we talk about the difficulties we have educating our children and accessing healthcare,” explained Razia. “Through the PBC, we have told the local authorities with one voice that we want to be able to educate our children and reopen the school.”
“Before we had these committees we were very afraid and had no idea how we would be able to rebuild our lives. But through the IRC we learn about our rights, talk about our problems and try to solve them together.”