| Boiling Point No. 31 - August 1993 |
by Maryam Bibi, Khwendo Kor Women & Environmental Development Programme, appeared in Sabz Wadi, Vol 2, June 1992
In context of women development programmes North West Frontier Province (NWFP) has special standing. All sorts of constraints facing women elsewhere are felt here acutely. For example, women's segregation from men is normal in almost all areas of Pakistan but this seclusion takes an extreme form in NWFP. The freedom enjoyed by rural women all over Pakistan can be categorized as follows:
- working in fields
- mobility within her surroundings for social activities, like marriage and religious matters etc
- mobility outside her surroundings for special purposes like health (depending upon her financial position and seriousness of the problem)
In spite of this freedom it is very difficult to approach a rural woman in NWFP. Here culturally the society absolutely does not allow an outsider, especially a man, to have direct contact with a woman for any reason.
During the implementation of the Environmental Energy Education (EEE) among rural women we have had many interesting experiences. Before quoting these experiences some introduction to EEE would not be out of place.
EEE consists of various activities based upon efforts for involving communities in the struggle against environmental degradation. Fuel use in rural household contributes significantly to the environmental problems. Special EEE curriculum has been developed to cope with the situation. A three day woman's EEE course curriculum consists of topics like:
- Environmental awareness raising and tree plant-
- Proper use of fuel saving devices
- Improved traditional clay stove
- Fuel saving techniques
All EEE activities dealing with village women are undertaken by women field staff. Still these proved not to be very successful unless village men were taken into confidence in advance in a target community.
A dialogue between EEE woman field staff and village women where men were not taken into confidence in advance gives a clear picture of this situation (a first day in a village).
EEE Staff: How are you? I want to come in to have some time with you. I hope you don't mind, my name is ....
Village women: (interrupting, gossiping among themselves) Look how cheap these women are, roaming the streets uselessly, just for having Gup Shup! Well if any one molests them on the way to our village who could be blamed for that. Who else! Our poor men who would do just the right thing, but still would be blamed for that! (talking loudly)
Oh come on, please. You are guests! but we don't need anything' You know our men and on top my father-in-law is a very strict person. They disapprove my mixing with unknown women! but I am not pointing to you! Are you married? How have your men allowed you to come out of your home and .... any how tell me why have you come? Do you have any children? Who is looking after them when you are out here!
EEE Staff: I am also a woman like you! I have children and a husband as well! Like you, I can also go out for work. Don't you go out from your home occasionally?
Village Woman: Oh in acute need I go out, otherwise a woman's place is either in home or in tomb, we believe!
EEE Staff: Very correct it is in acute need that I have come out to you. Deforestation is our common problem/cause and we have to think about it and do something for it jointly!
Village Woman: Me! How can I do something? I am just an illiterate poor woman! and please, our men would be really angry if I do somethings without their permission! Come some other time, let me explain everything to my husband politely and prepare him, then I will let you know when to come. I like you very much, I want to learn and do something, wait! I will call my mother-in-law if she agrees then also I can participate in your activities in our home!
EEE Staff: Thank you, should I tell you what I would be doing here for tomorrow?
Mother-in-law: No because we already know the importance of trees! If you could bring some medicine with you it would be much better for all my grandchildren and myself, we are ill, we need medicine.
EEE Staff: You are right! Deforestation has caused many health problems as well and just knowing the importance of trees is not enough! We have to do some thing practically well! I will come tomorrow please try to inform more ladies from your neighbourhood as well.
EEE Women staff: Now today is my last session of your course with you and I would like to know from you what you learnt! what did you like most and what you did not like.
EEE course participants talking at a time:
1st - we liked your smile very much.
2nd - tree planting was best, I have planted the sapling you gave.
3rd - Please give me your address we have decided in our family that you would be the most suitable match for our brother! (giggling). He has seen you and given his consent!
4th - Clay stove was good one but we know its construction, better than you, yes we need to be careful about the measurements you explained to us.
5th - The man from your office, the one who held many meetings in our village hujras! What is he to you. We saw you two talking to each other, is he married?
6th - When will you come again we like your company.
7th - Next time bring some medicine for me, I don't need more children.
8th - Come again, teach us again we might forget your messages.