In Pakistan, Solar Is Life-Giving
Life in Pakistan is not easy for women. The majority of Pakistan’s women belong to the working class as agricultural laborers, factory workers, domestic servants and governesses. They are part of the lower and middle class, which includes students, teachers and nurses. In the middle classes women are becoming doctors, engineers, computer programmers, etc. Women in Pakistan fight daily for their basic rights: access to education, health services, nutrition and clean and safe drinking water. They struggle to be treated fairly and equally by Pakistan’s justice system. They face domestic violence, emotional abuse, child marriage and sexual harassment. They fight for access to the public space, to freedom of mobility and safe transportation.
“Solar is life-giving for me,” said one of our students of Loretto Empowering Women of Pakistan (LEWP). Azia was one of our sewing students for last year’s program of LEWP. Azia by nature is very shy and intelligent. She left school when she was in 10th grade because of some incident. When we (Maria, Nasreen and Samina) were filling out the survey form we visited her family. There are seven or eight girls and two boys. The girls are not treated well. The family prefers that boys should be educated more, not the girls. They don’t have rights to decide what they want to do.
We talked to her family but she hid in the other room. We talked with her. We asked her to come for skill development in our center. “Will you come?” She refused to come. Her family said she never goes out. We never stopped calling. One day Azia came, which was a miracle. After 10 years she stepped out from her home. She came with her niece, she told us. She was shaking and could hardly walk. Many times she stopped and then walked again. Day-by-day she gradually came back to normal life. She was happy. She finished in first place in our sewing class. She got a certificate of sewing (stitching, cutting and embroidery) and solar panels installed as a gift for finishing the program.
This year she came back for our advanced class. She seemed happy. We asked her about her solar. She said she was very sick and was suffering from anemia. “During the hot summer, I cannot breathe properly. But because of solar, I survived. Solar is life-giving for me.”
Despite the problems, Pakistani women are strong, courageous and the center of change in our society. We are very grateful to the Hilton Fund for Sisters and our Loretto Community for the gift of solar and for supporting our LEWP program.