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Shamshad Bibi
Shamshad Bibi

‘A woman’s place is in the house, devoting her life to take care of her husband and her children’, this was the mindset that Shamshad bibi was raised in. Married at the age of 20 she is now a mother of one daughter and three sons, traditionally her life was supposed to be centered on her family but Shamshad bibi did not conform to the societal expectations and worked to make lives of women in her village better.

Shamshad bibi has worked with HANDS for four years to spread awareness about childbirth, family planning and maternal health. Working for this cause is not just a passion for her but rather it stems from personal experience. Her fourth pregnancy was filled with complications which became fatal during childbirth, and despite being able to go to the hospital people in her community suggested to not waste money on her as ‘she is going to die anyways’. The reason she survived her pregnancy was because her husband took her to the hospital when her condition became too serious. But instead of resenting her community she decided to help other women in need of help. Several women in her village have lost their lives due to complications during childbirth and not being able to get professional maternal healthcare in time.

With the help of HANDS Shamshad bibi carried out door to door intervention going to more than 300 houses to spread awareness on the importance of mother’s health during pregnancy and birth, and the importance of having a gap of three to four year between children. Despite facing backlash from the people in her community who accused her of ‘trying to end their bloodlines’, Shamshad bibi braved on and her efforts were paid off in the coming years. Women were now adamant about going to the hospital during childbirth which was possible through an ambulance service and under the pretext of buying household items women will buy contraceptives from her. The number of deaths in her village due to childbirth has decreased accredited to her efforts.

Her generous efforts were not only limited to helping women and expecting mothers but in the time of need, she joined the HANDS intervention for COVID prevention and advocated for better hygiene and washing habits among her community. Community like hers was affected severely due to COVID where around 20,000 people were unemployed and many had to sell their personal items or take loans to put food on the table. Even though Shamshad bibi was not able to help her community financially, she made sure to protect the health of the people in her community.
Now at the age of just 35 Shamshad bibi is a respected member of the community, especially for women, and her unfailing efforts have paid off for the betterment of women in her community.

Empowered Marvi as a Change Agent
Empowered Marvi as a Change Agent

Village Allah Ditto Lashari is a remote village in district Sujawal, Sindh, Pakistan with 165 households and population of around 1000. Marvi worker Ameena is resident of this village, she is 45 years old with four children, and had a wish to educate her children but could not because of lack of resources as her husband was an agricultural laborer.

As Ameena was committed to serve her community, she was selected to work as Marvi worker and was provided skill-based training to provide counselling service for Reproductive Health and Family Planning through use of videos in local Sindhi language on digital tablets.

Ameena provides counselling services to Married Women of Reproductive Age (MWRAs) on FP methods especially to young couples, and encourages inter-spousal communication and women participation in decision-making about FP. A Marvi Markaz was established at her house where a Lady Health Visitor visits every fortnight to provide skill based FP services including insertion and removal of Intra Uterine Contraceptive Device (IUCD) and injectable contraceptives while Ameena provides Condoms and replenish dose of contraceptive pills.

She established an enterprise at Marvi Markaz with the support of HANDS. She sells health, nutrition, and hygiene products as well as basic food items and vegetables at affordable prices. The women who were previously dependent on their male relatives for their basic purchases are now Ameena’s customers, enabling her to start earning an income.

From her income and savings, she purchased a motorbike for her husband which is now being used for taking her children to school and her wish to educate her children has come true with her financial gains. Whenever required, the motorbike is also being used to take sick people from the village to a health facility. Her husband also supplies milk to the nearby town, which further supplements their family income. For Ameena it is not only source of earning money but she also gained respect and recognition in village for which she feels delighted.

Today, the program has extended from 300 Marvi workers in one district to 3,950 Marvi workers in 15 districts across the country, serving a total population of more than 4 million including more than 850,000 women and adolescent girls.

Azhar Abbas – Unstoppable courage
Azhar Abbas – Unstoppable courage

Introduction

HANDS has championed laws to encourage the inclusion of people with disability in all walks of life. Azhar Abbas was losing hope of being independent, but the support of HANDS has enabled him to help himself and others like him.

Case

I am a teacher, brother, father, shop owner, and a family man. These are the things that define me, not my disability. I am Azhar Abbas from Jhandewali Muzaffargarh, and while people might think that my life is not worth much, I have proved them wrong.
Muscular Dystrophy is a progressive disease that has afflicted three of my six brothers and me. I found out about my condition when I was studying in the city for my FSC exams. I was sad, but I did not let it pull me down. I continued with my studies and got admitted to attend a local university to do my PHMSC (homeopathic degree). But here, I was unable to continue because there was no disability access.
As my health deteriorated, I was forced to come back home. But I didn’t want to give up, so I did a diploma in homeopathy, studied for my Bachelors in Arts (BA) degree, and also completed a dispensary course. I started work as a teacher when I cleared the test and got approved on the disabled quota in 2017.
My studies, work, and home life was being adversely affected with time. I was fortunate then, that the HANDS team visited my village. They offered my brothers and me, wheelchairs to help us become independent. But when they saw that my house was not wheelchair accessible, they renovated it so that now we can do many things without support from other people. Moreover, I can easily commute to school and also to the small shop I have opened for homeopathic and allopathic medicines and other items.
I am working with the HANDS team to create awareness about the causes of my condition – inter-family marriages. With the help of HANDS, I encourage people to marry out of their families.
I am grateful to HANDS because they have taken a long-term perspective. Not only have they helped people like me individually, but have also actively lobbied for better laws that help persons with disabilities to be a constructive part of society.

Success Story of Dr. Zaib Taj
Success Story of Dr. Zaib Taj

Zaib Taj d/o Tufail Ahmed Jumani (Rtd. Secretary Gov. Sindh) started her journey as beneficiary (user) of HANDS-DWA Independent Living Center from 15-April-2019. She was depressed & isolated in her home for 7 years because of her disability and lost her self-confidence completely She became disabled by a gunshot from police mobile which damaged her spinal cord and left her paralyzed. A qualified doctor moving independently suddenly became a totally dependent person which was a big shock along with the shock of getting divorced just after her marriage.

After 7 years of isolation and despair one of the colleague of Mr. Tufail Jumani met Zaib and observed her condition and referred her to “HANDS-DWA ILC” where she was treated as guest of honor. Dr. Zaib Taj visited the ILC she was shocked to see that a large number activist were serving humanity on a wheelchairs and have learned to live with their disabilities and making themselves useful for humanity. She received “Peer Counseling” by a Spinal Cord Peer counselor with the same disability and within few days Dr. Zaib started coming back to life. She started to teach the children with disabilities of HANDS-DWA ILC which helped to get her back in her professional life. Team HANDS-DWA ILC nominated her for the skill training for which she went to Islamabad and exhibited self- confidence as she did air travel with the support of personal attendant. She is now part of HANDS- DWA – ILC team as full time doctor.

Dr. Zaib Taj is now a role model for other women with disabilities and running women wing of HANDS-DWA ILC and a symbol of empowerment