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Courageous blacksmith woman on her own footing

Umerkot District, Pakistan _ Ameena Samoon lives in Wali Mohammed Rind Village,  Sindh province. She belongs to a family which holds 16-acre land. They grow wheat, chilli, maize, pearl mullet, mullet, cotton, oilseeds, sunflower and variety of seasonal vegetables. Women are happy with their traditional activism, working in the field to help their males and take care of their animals with collecting fodder and fuel.

Ameena_1-700x545Ameen’s life is full of colors. The mother of five children—three sons and two daughters, Ameena is a skilled midwife. She was born to a blacksmith family, a skill that has been with the rural, agriculture-based society for ages.  Ameen can narrate vividly a scene from her childhood of the hammer beating the burnt tools to sharpen them for use. Farmers used to travel frequently to her father’s shop to have their tools sharpened.

“At this juncture of life I realize why I could not go to school. The reason my parents told me was that school was too far from our house. It was the bushy area at that time and my parents were reluctant to send me to school, fearing there might be wild animals,” she said.

The village comprises 14 households, mostly close relatives, residing at their fields through forefathers. Each family cultivates its own pieces of land and lives a happy life.

“When I got married to Yar Mohammed Rind, a small land holder and moved here, I tried to shift my hand to agriculture, picking cotton, chillis, collecting vegetables, fodder for animals and fuel wood for kitchen,” Ameena gives her brief account of life.

“Almost all the skills, which are common for those working in the farm, I learned myself to help the family. Males and females work together to cultivate the small piece of land and get enough grain to live a stable life with lots of wheat, vegetables, milk and butter,” she said.

 

Adopting skill of midwifery was my choice

“My aunt was a skilled midwife for the entire village. Women would call her to help them. My aunt never refused anybody and even at night she always looked ready to help save lives,” Ameena recalled her favorite childhood moment to us.

“Perhaps it was the first lesson I learned from my beloved aunt about how to help others and live happy life. At that time there was no concept of surgery. Usually skillful midwives used only their hands to deliver young babies. This art of midwifery is handed down from older generation to younger generation,” she explained.

“When I saw all the problems pregnant women had, I used my skill and provided relief to them. This created trust which has lead to them frequently calling me for help,” said Ameena, who now runs the Marvi Maternity Center to help expecting women in the village.

 

Ameena also leads a producers’ organization in the village. One of the most urgent problems is the acute shortage of water in local waterways. The men could not deal with this on their own due to lack of cooperation and attention from government officials. Also, they did not dare to take a risk.  So the women took the matter into their own hands.Ameena_2-700x503

“When we protested about the problem, we were able to meet with irrigation officials to demand for equal share of water. The matter went to certain legislators and that gave us a hope that we could play a role in this too.”

Just as they thought, government officials and politicians were uncomfortable to argue with womenfolk and agreed to take the case. The women later made a routine visit to the government office for updates.

After 21 days, the demand was met. The irrigation officials have diverted the water into the village’s canal. However, it was too late for the crops. Still it was a success as nobody in the community had ever stood up for their rights before.

Water scarcity has been an ongoing problem in this area for a long time. Underground water in the entire area has also become contaminated. Seven years ago, local residents built a concrete pond, which they fed through irrigation canal and used for drinking and washing purposes.

“We take care on our own for keeping the pond clean. There is a small wall with little gate around the pond. Neither animals nor children go there. Therefore, it is safe for drinking. We have installed hand pumps at our homes, which suck water through pipes laid connected with the pond. It is easy and accessible to all the households of the village,” she said.

But the victory they will never forget was when five women from the village were granted land title. The project, which resulted continuous advocacy and campaign by several organizations, followed the devastating 2011 floods in the Sindh which have created billions of dollars in losses and left millions of people homeless.

Each woman was awarded two acres, four acres and eight acres of land. The lands had been left unused in the neighborhood for a long time. One woman however was denied the land deed by revenue officials who were under an influential landlord.  That was when the power of the woman’s group came into play.

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The group’s members intervened by bringing the dispute to court and hiring a lawyer. They approached government officers and launched an effective campaign, organized demonstrations and sought help from media to save the right of their fellow woman. At last, the woman got her ownership documents. Now she and her families are living on the land happily.

It is an unforgettable indeed.

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