Umeed Partnership Pakistan (UPP)
During the nineties likeminded group of people from Quetta and Loralai districts, Balochistan became increasingly aware that the women and children of this region are deprived of their basic human rights due to cultural, religious, socio-economic and educational barriers.
In order to safeguard and promote the rights of women and children of this part of the world the group formed an organization called Umeed Partnership Pakistan registered under society’s Act 1860 of Pakistan Penal Code on April 18, 2001 with # 761 as non-profit and non-political NGO and currently operational in three regions (Loralai/Quetta region, Bahawalpur/Yazman region & Lahore slums region) of Pakistan. Umeed is an Urdu word means Hope.
After completing his Master’s Degree in development studies in Dublin Ireland Yousuf Jalal Gill returned to Balochistan (Quetta, Loralai) and along with the Umeed group applied energies and skills to providing basic education, skills training and Human Rights awareness programs for women and children of all regions, cultures and faiths.
In Balochistan women are confined to their homes. The girl child hardly gets any kind of attention and is seldom sent to school. This is true for the children whether male or female as parents have no sense of the value of education but the situation of the girl child is particularly bad. The tribal parents not only behave this way because of their traditional male preference among children but also due to the false notions of honor attached to women. Umeed not only encouraged girls’ education and human rights training through advocacy but also followed it up with skills training through which they gained economic rights.
After two years of work in Balochistan Umeed spread its work in Bahawalpur region among the low caste Hindu, Muslim and Christian desert communities. These communities due to their low caste status and poverty mostly live outside the main villages and towns. There is very little employment and very limited resources in the community resulting in extreme poverty. Womenfolk of these communities are triply at peril because not only they have to live in abject poverty but they have to work hard sometimes for rare agricultural activity and always for providing water and lastly they get no opportunity to learn or improve their lot. Umeed’s project directly address all of these issues subsequently as Umeed conducted literacy programs, ran advocacy campaigns and also imparted skills training for the women of the area. For this purpose Umeed’s 2 schools helped admit a large number of girls every year. While working in the Southern Punjab Umeed have very realistically realized that this part of the country has been ignored in various aspects of development in particular with regards to improving the situation of peace and the livelihood of the poor people of this region, whereas gender based discrimination, Religious Intolerance, Human Rights Violation and Non-Democratic Behaviours are on continuous rise.
Along with Balochistan and Bahawalpur Umeed also started working in Lahore region mainly among women of slum areas. These women due to lack of education usually have no access to education or any kind of human rights awareness programs. If at all they are gainfully engaged in any activity, they are vulnerable to all kinds of abuses due to their ignorance. Many cases came up during the years where house and factory women workers after their sexual assault were murdered. Umeed has been very successful in empowering women through advocacy as well as skills training.
Umeed Partnership UK
During his Master’s course in Development Studies (1998-2000) in Dublin, Ireland, Yousuf Jalal Gill (founder) shared his vision of improving the situation of women and children and promoting and protecting their rights in Pakistan to many of his friends in Ireland, North Wales and England who got together and formed a charity called Umeed Partnership UK.
The Umeed Partnership is a registered charity based in north Wales which provides education and skills training, and thus opportunities, for women and children in marginalised communities in Pakistan. The charity was set up in north Wales in 2001 and is partnered with a similarly-named registered charity in Pakistan. To begin with the Umeed Project provided basic education in homesteads, but over the years it has extended its remit to include the establishment of two schools; skills centres; street theatre; women’s support groups and the provision of legal aid for victims of domestic abuse, disease and bereavement;
At present Umeed runs two Middle Schools and 6 Skills training Centres, 30 adult literacy centres and 2 Women Human Rights Committees in the Bahawalpur region of southern Punjab; 20 adult literacy centres for women, 3 Skills training centres and 2 Women Human Rights Committees in the slum district of Lahore and 20 adult literacy centres and 2 Women Human Rights Committees in Mian Channu. There is also provision for woodworking and carpentry for street children, which are almost always boys. The Umeed Partnership works at grass-roots level and its provision extends to women and children from all cultures and faiths in Pakistan.
Individuals from Umeed UK committee members make a self-funded visit to the Project every 12-24 months to satisfy the Committee that the money raised in the UK is being spent in accordance with the constitution and ethos of the charity.
The situation of communities Umeed serves
Umeed works in Balochistan where women are confined to their homes. The child labor is very high since parents have no sense of the value of education. The tribal parents see immediate income valuable and they cannot waste time by sending their children to school. Every child especially the male begin earning money from the childhood to collect funds to get married (buy a women) as he grows up. Therefore they take up menial jobs and get involved into all kinds of crimes and bad practices. Umeed helps these children by giving them skills training through which they gain economic rights.
Umeed works in Bahawalpur region among the low cast Hindus, Muslims and Christian desert Communities. These communities due to their low cast status and poverty mostly live out side of the main villages and towns. There are very little employment and very limited resources in the community resulting in extreme poverty. The work is available every year only during the seasonal harvest. Additionally, there are no educational or training outlets to provide a skill’s uplift in the population. UMEED’s project directly addresses both of these issues for the younger generation by running carpentry, tailoring and embroidery centres and for their education two middle schools.
Umeed also works in Lahore region mainly among women and children of slum areas. These women and children due to lack of education have no access to any type of employments and if some of them dare to go out to do some menial jobs they are exploited, misused and harassed sexually. Many cases came up during the years where house and factory women and children workers after their sexual assault were murdered. For the last several years Umeed is very successful in empowering women and children through skills training (embroidery, tailoring and carpentry) who have come up in their lives at financial and social levels.
In Balochistan tribal areas are run by Tribal Jirgas (committee of Tribal heads) and in Cholistan Bahawalpur desert areas are run by powerful land lords who maintain traditional system of governance. These community leaders survive politically because the illiterate masses work under them are not aware of their rights when voting. They do not initiate schemes to develop schooling, electronic media, road building and so on, fearing that the population will betray them if they become aware of the development in education, information, technology, health reform and transport taking place elsewhere in the country and throughout the world. In Lahore slums masses are subservient to their tyrant masters (factory owners, brick kiln owners, land lord wives in big houses). Politically these masses are sold and bought like animal.
Since the parents are slaves therefore their children are also made slaves by their masters. Children are pushed to work on fields, pasture their animals, work on brick kilns, in factories and in their homes. These children are kept illiterate so that when they grow up they become their voters. For the last several years Umeed is helping these children to free themselves from the slavery of their task masters by providing them with skills to have economic freedom.
The communities among whom Umeed works are stigmatized due to their social, cultural, economical, geographical, educational and religious status. They do not have even their basic human rights. They live at the lowest strata of the society and below the line of poverty. They live completely under slavery and perform bonded labor for their task masters. Their lives are ruled, governed and controlled by their tyrant masters.
Due to abject poverty along with men their women and children also go out to hunt for their daily bread. Most of these women and children work as seasonal crop weavers, collect dungs and provide fodder for land lords’ animals, work in the paddy fields, go for cotton picking, wheet harvesting, weeding crops, perform bounded labor at the brick kiln. These women and children also go out to fatch walter, collect firewood and all sorts of things they do for their sustenance. Most of their men are employed by the land lords on their land for very long hours and on very low wages. Most of the times they are paid in kind or material (wheat, grains etc.). and not the cash on annual basis, Thus these poor women and children have to earn every day to look after their families due to which they are exposed to every danger. Since there are no schooling children are always involved in menial jobs along with their parents. These communities economically are supressed and have no hope to come up until their children are educated or trained in some employable skills.
Umeed mainly works among the communities living outside of the main villages of Bahawalpur region and slums areas of Lahore. Due to the type of job/work in which most of these communities are involved are considered dalits or untouchables by the majority community. Socio-culturally they remain at the lower strata of the wider society. These communities are there to serve the rich classes. They have no social status. They are just known as KAMIS (one who works for 24 hours for land lords), HARIES (bought slaves), laborers who do menial jobs. and GHAREEB GHURBA (poverty stricken people). Their settlements are kept without any development. These are known as KACHI ABADIS (area without land rights or any legalization), BASTIS (dwelling place without any name). In these communities the verse hit are women and children. Though live with parents the children are called street children because they do not go for schooling or any type of training. They kill time rooming about in the streets or doing menial jobs with their parents. They get involved in various abuses and crimes.
These communities though poor are very strong in their faith. They believe that for everything God is responsible. If they are poor it is God’s will. They could be very easily lured into fundamentalism by the religious leaders. These communities believe in folk spirituality i.e. spirituality of the SUFIS, SADHUS, GUROS. They often visit shrines, tomes, PIRS, magicians, annual religious conventions and gatherings. They are very sensitive about their faith and keep waiting for God to perform miracle to change their situation. Their children are also brought up in the same scenario. They do not believe much in education and training and also do not make much effort to change their situation. These communities are discriminated and stigmatized due to their religion. The discriminatory laws in the country are mostly misused for these communities. Religiously also they are at the lower strata of the society.