Oxfam and Lasoona Cash for Work program

Besides rural villages, the floods in Pakistan devastated the lives and livelihoods of people living in urban areas like Aman Kot near Mingora, Swat.

Oxfam in Pakistan ‘…a great solution to some of our problems.’

Besides rural villages, the floods in Pakistan devastated the lives and livelihoods of people living in urban areas like Aman Kot near Mingora, Swat. Here Oxfam, with local partner Lasoona are the only non-governmental organizations working with people who have lost everything. In the privacy of a small courtyard Jane Beasley and others meet some of the women who knitted sweaters, as part of Oxfam’s Cash for Work program, to find out what they thought of the program, and to hear about their current situation and prospects.

After the initial damage of the floods, these women found themselves in situations that required them to be the sole provider in their homes, coming from poor livelihoods before, the devastation exacerbated their insecurity, deepened their debts and left them without the tools to start back up again. Maryum, who has three daughters and a son, explains, “before the flood I stitched clothes for our neighbors and others but the flood totally destroyed my sewing machine”, Dilshad’s sewing machine too was destroyed beyond repair. A motorized sewing machine costs around 5,000 Rupees (approx 60CAD), a manual one 3- 4,000 (approx 30-40CAD), both women do not have enough money to replace theirs.

With a daughter who is recovering from an illness and a husband whose mechanic business was destroyed by the flood, forced to find work in a situation where “there is no one employing” , Dilshad was pleased to receive cash from the program to use it to tend to her families first priorities. “We were going to borrow money from neighbor but were worrying about how we could pay it back because my husband is jobless and we have no income. With the money we received we were able to repay our neighbors.”

Maryum, whose husband is bedridden after an operation on his spleen, explained, “ In our culture women are unable to work outside the home and I can’t read or write. Although I have skills, like sewing and knitting there are no opportunities.” The program’s success was based on the fact that women like Dilshad and Maryum, who already had the know-how, were given the tools to work from home. Where, while making money, they were able to be with their children daily and care for their ailing family members.

Along with allowing the women to work from home for cash, the program offered them the opportunity to help their neighbors. Dilshad expresses, “I feel this program was very good because we are poor people and you gave us money and then you gave the sweaters we made to other poor people. It made us feel good to be making something and you paid us, but because we were making them for others in need that made us feel good too”

Oxfam and Lasoona Cash for Work program involved 807 women making shawls, quilts or knitting jumpers. Each woman made 4 items. They produced 390 quilts, 400 shawls and 1,860 jumpers. These were distributed to 482 people, as part of Oxfam’s winterization kit.

At program’s end the struggle to rebuild their lives is ongoing. Miryum says “now we are forced to rest in the hands of our relatives to meet some of these needs and take loans.” People in Swat, and throughout Pakistan, are working hard to reconstruct their lives. But many people both in rural and urban areas have lost the means to earn their livelihoods, and are forced to take on more debt to meet their daily and essential needs.

By Jane Beasley
Edited by Courtney-Anne Craft

Photo of Maryum taken by Jane Beesley