By Rimsha Ali Shah
Draped in a black shawl, Raj Bibi with her twelve-year-old daughter hurries across the hustling marketplace towards the community center. As she walks through the narrow streets of Lyari, she sees many of her neighbors – mothers and daughters – walking together in the same direction.
At the community center, a team of young female youth ambassadors, who individually visited each mother and inducted her in the program, welcomes them to the orientation day. Over the course of the next 60 days, these mothers and daughters meet weekly for sessions on the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of adolescent and young girls.
The behavioral change program named the “Mother – Daughter Club: Shaping the Future” is the brainchild of Fulbright alumna Dr. Noor Sabah Rakhshani and took place from September 01, 2016 – October 14, 2016, at the Lyari Community Development Center and Omar Lane Community Development Center, Lyari, Karachi, with 30 pairs of mothers and daughters. This project was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U. S. Alumni Network (PUAN). All alumni of various U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to $5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.
30 Mother-Daughter Pairs Bond Through Learning
“Fawzia encouraged me to come with Rabbeya, my daughter, for these workshops. She said this would help us improve our relationship,” says Raj Bibi. Rabbeya pipes in, “We have started gardening in our house, too!”
A key component of the program was engaging the pairs in activities that helped strengthen the bond between the mother and daughter, paving way for an open channel of communication. This was done through a series of in-class activities like gardening, yoga, aerobics, and arts and crafts.
“This program has taught us simple exercises that we can do inside our homes to keep ourselves healthy,” says thirteen-year-old Rukhsar.
The program also sensitized women on their rights, home-based business ventures, nutrition and reproductive health, and hygiene. Nazish says, “At our homes, boys are usually given preference over girls. But I have learned that women are equal to men, and if we study and complete our education, there is a lot that we can achieve.”
Asifa, a young mother, was initially unsure about the impact of the program. However, the skills and knowledge she gained helped her boost her confidence.
“I did not realize there was so much I did not know, especially about the health and hygiene of infants. There are so many new things I learned here that will help me raise my daughter,” says Asifa.
Creating Women Leaders from the Community
The Mother-Daughter club not only empowered the mothers and daughters, but also young girls from the community who helped induct the mothers and daughters into the program. A rigorous training program for ten selected youth ambassadors took place at the inception of the program that trained them on leadership roles, persuasion skills, communication skills, and health issues faced by women.
Sameena, a youth ambassador, says, “It was initially a challenge to engage mothers. We told them about the value this would bring to their quality of life and after the orientation session, not one of the pair missed a single meeting. In fact, we had requests pouring in for more!”
Executing the program in Lyari came with its own set of challenges. Dr. Rakhshani reports that the security challenge was solved by the continued support of the community. “At the very start of the program, we engaged key community stakeholders who assured us of their support for the seamless execution of the program, including outreach visits by the youth ambassadors to recruit mother-daughter pairs and weekly workshops at the community centers.”
These 60 mothers and daughters are seeds of a hopeful future, for a community marred by gang wars and social insecurity. They brought life to the long-forgotten community centers in Lyari Click To Tweetwith their weekly presence and participation in the Mother-Daughter Club. The completion of the program does not mark the end of this venture. The youth ambassadors are now creating more Mother-Daughter Clubs in Lyari, along with the same lines, to continue this chain of sensitization and empowerment.