Kazbano-a tale of resilience and determination
Amir Hussain and Savaila A Hunzai
Kazbano Bibi aged 32 is one of 10 children of a peasant family from village Budho Samejo of district Jacobabad. Born into a wretched and conservative family Kazbano could not have the opportunity and wherewithal to attend a school. She was confined to thatched hut of her parents lending a hand to her mother in cooking and making Rillis (traditional embellished wall and floor sheets)
Kazbano was only 15 when she was married into a landless poor family where she spent most of her time tending to the extended family in a cramped mud room. Her over-indebted in laws were sharecroppers of 10% yield on a farm which was far less to feed the extended family. Kazbano says’ “The family owned five goats which used to give milk for household consumption while they were dependent on neighbours, who had buffalo, for butter and daytime meals.
Kazbano gave birth to her son one year after her marriage followed by six children each with a gap of one year. She says, “All children were born in the house without the help of any midwife. I did not know about pre-delivery medical check-ups that the local Community Health Workers suggest pregnant women nowadays. In sickness, we had to travel to Thul, a place 5 km away from our village. We were not allowed to go out without a male companion. Also, unlike today, the roads were not paved and our men travelled to Thul on bullock-carts.”
Her initial days at her in-laws’ home were better than her life later with her husband, Kazbano stated.
She was able to eat two meals everyday as all family members worked and earned satisfying meals.
After separation from in-laws, she along with her husband and children started to live in a hut. Being the only breadwinner as a shared-cropper, her husband became frustrated which at times culminated into domestic conflict. Rainwater trickled down in her hut as Kazbano recalls “Every passing day, I faced stress, hunger and physical poverty.”
“In 2010 floods we fled to Tipul in Balochistan and lived at a relative’s house for fifteen before moving to Thul. We sold our goats and jewellery to rent a house in Thul. After four months when flood was over, we returned to our village. We had lost our huts; they were completely flattened by the water. We faced a lot of problems in here; we didn’t have drinking water as there were a lot of mosquitoes. We were provided food by different NGOs, but we did not have access to clean drinking water.
“Amidst this ordeal, Sindh Rural Support Organisation (SRSO) among others provided us shelter and emergency aid. Later, they revisited the village and discussed that they wanted to support us rebuild our assets and improve our livelihoods if the local women agreed to get together to work in groups. As our men were already satisfied and happy with the support of SRSO during and after the flood, they agreed to allow us to attend meetings with them,” Kazbano adds.
Narrating her journey of change Kazbano says “In 2012, SRSO team started to organise our meetings and ran a sensitisation drive to help us organise into a formal group at the helmet level. This group of woman was named Community Organisation (CO) which was owned, managed and run by us. We selected Imam Zaadi as our president because she was trustworthy and intelligent. Social Organiser of SRSO introduced us to interesting ideas saving, investment planning and managing our funds etc.’
“In the subsequent meetings, we the CO members learned about Community Investment Fund (CIF), and with the help of the local teacher we drafted a resolution for CIF. After a month SRSO team visited us in one of our meetings and conducted a survey. We informed them that we wanted to make a fish pond collectively. Six of us agreed to make the fish pond using our CIF. Each of us received Rs15, 000. Cumulatively Rs90, 000 were then used to prepare the fish pond and we bought seed and food for the fish. We along with our men did all the labour work to install the tube well. It took whole year for the fish to grow. We sold the fish and returned the CIF loan. We didn’t make any profit in the first year.”
Carrying on with fish farming for two years, in 2015 Kazbano and her five fellow members received another CIF loan amounting to Rs90,000 i.e. 15, 000 per person. This was again invested in the fish farming enterprise. After one year, they sold the fish, repaid the loan and posted a profit of Rs42,000.
Each member received Rs7,000 as profit. Kazbano bought a goat with this amount and it has now produced two kids. Another CIF loan was taken in 2016, and Kazbano hopes for increased profit this year.
More recently, Kazbano has admitted her 3 children in the local primary school. She said that during very hard times, she sent her children to her mother for food and cuts back the number of meals they eat at home. Now as her husband works at a rice mill, and she makes Rillis to sell, they are able to spare some income for children’s education. Not only did joining CO improve her economic well-being but it also has a positive impact on her social well-being. Kazbano concludes her story, “One important lesson that I have learnt is that despite all hardships one must never give up hope. Hope was translated into a proposition of change when we were able to our CO. Now we are on the path of improving our lives and Insha Allah our children will do much better.”