For many women in Pakistan’s Punjab province, whose lives have been devastated by the recent floods, the loss of life and property has been compounded by the lack of income-generation opportunities. With the help of International Medical Corps, these women are being given the tools to overcome these obstacles and rebuild their lives after the disaster.
Before the floods, most women in the flood-affected districts of Punjab had only one of two sources of income: picking cotton in the fields or selling hand-embroidered crafts. The flooding destroyed much of the cotton crop, leaving only a few areas unscathed. Women now must travel long distances to seek employment as cotton pickers, where they can earn only about 70 Rupees (less than $1) per day.
Despite the overwhelming effects of the floods, including their having to find new sources of income, women are still expected to continue performing their household duties and caring for their families. Very often this has resulted in increased anxiety levels, psychosocial problems and other health issues.
In keeping with our mission to strengthen local capacity, International Medical Corps is running livelihoods training programs to give flood-affected women the tools to achieve financial independence. Since many local women have embroidery skills that have been handed down through generations, our psychosocial team implemented an embroidery training program to improve existing skills, raise income levels and boost confidence. Women received raw materials to jumpstart their businesses and fine arts students from local universities volunteered to teach new techniques to complement the women’s traditional knowledge.
“I have lost my house and I cannot work on embroidery as financially I am not strong and cannot afford any material. I can earn money for my family with the material which I have received from (International Medical Corps). I can easily earn 200 Rupees (about $2.50), some of which I will use to buy more material and the remaining I will use to support my family,” said a woman in Rajan Pur who participated in the training.
International Medical Corps staff also contacted businesses in major cities to facilitate the sale of the embroidered products. In the future, the women will be able to work directly with shopkeepers to sell their products without our support.
Psychosocial teams are also currently training approximately 100 women in Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh, Multan, Rajan Pur and Layyah districts who were affected by the floods. Upon completion of the training program, International Medical Corps will organize an exhibition of embroidery, drawings and paintings created by women and children throughout Punjab.
Now able to work in their own homes, women who participated in our programs will have a permanent source of income while being able to take care of their households and revive hope for their families’ futures.
International Medical Corps has been operating in Pakistan since 1984, providing primary health care services and water/sanitation facilities to displaced Pakistanis as well as to Afghan refugees in the frontier areas.