Community Dialogue – village 435/EB Teshil Burewala, District Vehari

“Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”

In the wake of International Women Day, on March 10, 2021, Transparency International Pakistan organized a community dialogue in Teshil Burewala, District Vehari Punjab. This year the theme is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. The session was organized by our local partner in District Vehari, Sudhar Development Organization. It was arranged in a village 435/EB, where 31 females participated in the session and discussed their challenges in this COVID-19 world. The women speakers who represented different segments of society discussed their issues and shared experience how they cope up with them.

The speakers included: Ms. Muqadas, a private school teacher; Saima Batool, a social worker; Ms. Fatima, Lady Health Visitor; Ms. Yasmeen; Ex. Lady Councilor; and Ms. Samina Rashid, a Women Entrepreneur. The participants were mainly house women, teachers, women working in agriculture fields.

Ms. Muqadas pointed out that more female teachers are teaching in private schools than men. Their wages are very low making it very hard for them to barely support their families. But due to COVID these private schools were closed, and the school administration stopped paying their salaries causing these teachers a huge financial setback. Their families went under debt now. Another problem she mentioned was the learning lost of children. Their routine has been upset, and the incidents of their misbehaves and fighting with other children have been increased. When schools resumed, children faced suffocation problems due to keeping up mask.

Ms. Fatima Lady Health Visitor: During COVID pregnant women faced lots of health issues. Due to fear, these women were not going to government hospitals for delivery cases and private hospitals were not taking their cases or asking at a very exorbitant amount which was impossible for these families. The Lady Health Visitors have to perform their jobs during COVID-19 risking their lives and the lives of their families for possible infection. In most of the times when transport was unavailable and petrol pumps were also closed, these Lady Health Workers faced huge problems in visiting patients’ homes. She said that the government should take steps to at least provide these women protective gears against COVID-19 virus.

Ms. Yasmeen who was an Ex-Lady Councilor spoke about how the absence of a Local Govt system complicated the COVID problem. When government and other social organizations distributed Rashans the local councilors who are very closed to the communities, can help government in identifying the deserving families for receiving this food aid and saved money. But in the absence of a local government structure, these aid programs missed remained off targets and lots of food and money had been wasted due to corruption.

Ms. Samina Rahsid who was a business woman, running a beauty parlor, and selling ladies’ clothes, spoke on behalf of all those women entrepreneurs running their business from homes and supporting their families. Samina is the only bread winner of her family and looking after her old parents who were ill. COVID badly affected her business and she came under debt. She said that she could not afford to pay her rents and lots of clothes stock she purchased before COVID could not be sold out due to low buying power of families after the financial losses due to COVID. She said that COVID also brought some opportunities during these dark times and urged government to start programs related to women entrepreneurship at village level and educate women doing online business.

In the end, Saima Batool who was facilitating the program, appreciated Transparency International Pakistan efforts to organize such events to support village women and highlight their issues. She said there are lots of challenges the women in villages are facing, and organizations like TI Pakistan should guide and support us to address these challenges.