Umeed Annual Report – 2012/2013

Annual Report – 2012/13

1. Preamble

The Umeed Partnership Project has sustained its activities during 2012/13, and this is despitePakistan’s well-documented but negative media image which has intensified following several high-profile acts of violence. It is true thatPakistanis experiencing political instability, but as I’ve emphasised in previous reports, life for the large majority of the population continues largely unaffected by the troubles. The Umeed Project continues its activities in all parts, and has been untouched by the events reported in the media.

The mission of The Umeed Partnership unchanged. That is, it provides education and vocational training at grass roots level, leading to employment opportunities, for disadvantaged girls and women (and increasingly boys and young men) of all faiths and cultures in Pakistan. As most supporters will know, UPP was conceived by Yousuf Gill in September 2000, and initially concentrated on providing a programme of basic education for young girls in the tribal areas of Baluchistan. This spread to Lahore slum districts, and in 2005 UPP Education Centres were opened in Yazman. Operating at grass-roots level, UPP has no bureaucratic administrative infrastructure which means that funds raised in the UK are applied directly to the Project, running the education & training centres and the two Umeed Middle Schools.

Demand for participation by both girls & women and boys & young men has continued to increase dramatically, and expansion is constrained only by funding limitations. UPP activities continue to be concentrated in three diverse areas of Pakistan, viz Quetta City in Baluchistan; the Yohannabad slum communities of Lahore; and low-caste Hindu communities in southern Punjab, centred in Yazman and in Bahawalpur District on the margins of the Cholistan Desert.

2. Successful tour of north Wales by Umeed Project Co-ordinator

Yousuf Jalal Gill secured aUKentry visa for his visit to north Wales in June last year and he spent nearly three weeks inMenaiBridgeand Prestatyn raising awareness of the Umeed Project across northWales. Thanks are due to all those who gave him such a warm welcome. A very full programme was devised which included meetings with Bishops, MPs, AMs, schools, churches, university departments, community groups and Rotary Clubs.

Yousuf described graphically the need for education and training for women & children in marginalised slum and rural communities. In addition to the core Umeed activities, Yousuf drew attention to the recently introduced Umeed Street Theatre Group in Lahore and emphasised the significance of the unique role of the Umeed Partnership in providing mutual support by women for women.

3. Support for Umeed Schools and other UP activities

Bangor Rotary Club and various sources in Prestatyn have donated a very significant sum this year towards the redevelopment of the second of the Umeed Middle Schools in the Cholistan Desert in southern Punjab (see para 5 below). This will cover much of the cost of sanitation; latrines; drinking water; security measures; IT equipment; school uniforms and teaching aids. Our money goes a long way in rural Pakistan! It really does make a difference to the communities served by Umeed.

Special thanks are also due to St Andrew’s Church in Bedford for their faith in the Umeed Project and for continuing to support it so generously.

Regular donations from individuals (mostly through the Gift-Aid Scheme) have funded other Umeed activities which have continued to provide opportunities for girls and women of all cultures and faiths in Pakistan.

A report from Yousuf Gill, posted recently on the Umeed website (www.umeedpartnership.org.uk), demonstrates the growing diversity of Umeed activities – schools; education; vocational training; street theatre; street children; a legal aid forum to support disadvantaged women. The number of young women who are benefitting from this works increases monthly.

4. Recent snippets from the Project Co-ordinator in Lahore

  • Umeed is now encouraging women artisans engaged in home-based activities to develop their entrepreneurial skills to generate an income;
  • Students at both Umeed Middle Schools will be sitting their exams in March 2013. Both Middle Schools have been re-certified for 5 more years by the local District Board of Education;
  • During January students and staff of the Umeed Middle Schools were taken on a study tour to Bahawalpur City which included visits to historical sites and also the zoo;
  • A three-day Umeed training seminar was held in Lahore in January and at the same time the annual certificate-awarding ceremonies took place with much celebration and dance in Lahore and Bahawalpur.

5. Re-development of Umeed Middle School at Minority Community DB52 Yazman – work in progress

  • Construction of two new class rooms
  • Renovation of old class room: plastering walls, flooring, roofing and painting.
  • Stage for students’ assembly and for community functions.
  • Main steel gate
  • Toilet (with septic tank) for staff and students
  • Hand pump installation for potable water

Renovation of boundary wall, levelling the ground and planting trees.

6. Malala Yousufzai shot for craving an education

News of the appalling shooting of Malala Yousufzai as punishment for her demand for education for girls in rural Pakistan has brought the situation of women in that country into sharp focus. In an overwhelmingly male-dominated society, women may be seen by some as sub-class citizens where illiterate women are denied basic human rights. Malala believes that only through education can women and girls achieve equality with men in their society and so contribute to the well-being of their communities and nation. This has been precisely the mission of the Umeed Partnership over the last 12 years, and there is ample proof of this in the communities where Umeed has been working.

Malala has paid a high price for her craving for an education, but thanks to the skills of doctors it seems likely that she will be able to realise her dream of receiving an education. This dreadful event is surely a turning point for Pakistan. I’m so pleased that people across north Wales and beyond are doing their bit to support this cause of empowerment of women through the Umeed Partnership. Thank you! With the support of Umeed and similar organisations, Malala’s suffering will not have been in vain and in the meantime Umeed activities continue to provide opportunities for girls and women of all cultures and faiths in Pakistan.

7. Conclusion

The Umeed Partnership really does make a difference to people’s lives, and I get quite a buzz out of being part of it. Time and time again I have come across young women of all faiths who have received training in the Umeed embroidery Centres over the past ten years, and who are now making a living for themselves and their families, bringing home up to Rs7000 (£50) per month – a very respectable sum in the rural desert communities. Some have become trainers themselves, and so this is an example of the Project becoming self-sustaining. Hopefully the Umeed woodwork Centres will be restarted and develop in a similar way, and the young men currently in training will, in two or three years time, be trainers themselves, and also earning to support their families. Without these training facilities, the young people would face empty lives, and therefore be more likely to be attracted to fundamentalism.

The Umeed Schools also have provided a lifeline for uneducated communities in southern Punjab; they are a credit to the dogged determination of the UPP Co-ordinator and Supervisors to improve opportunities in these impoverished communities.

So, to conclude, the Umeed Partnership is demonstrably improving the quality of life for women, children, families and communities. In addition to skills training and education, Umeed is evolving into a support network for vulnerable women who may be victims of domestic violence, illness and bereavement. Due to its multi-faith ethos, Umeed also encourages dialogue, and hence reconciliation, between the major faith groups . In our world of fragile international relationships, Umeed is surely a cause to celebrate and support.

8. Thanks

My thanks are due to all who have supported the Umeed Partnership Project over the past year, and in particular the Committee members. I should like to thank especially Clive Southerton, Ged Sanders and Ruth Goggin for their work as Vice-Chair, Treasurer and Secretary respectively. Individual donors, who must remain anonymous, have exceeded expectations in their generosity this year. Of course, we are always pleased to receive donations – the Umeed Project would fail without them – but we also need support in other forms (fund-raising skills, financial management, presentation skills, legal expertise, graphic design, and so on). So, if you have any spare time or spare money, please consider continuing to support the Project in whatever way you can.

(Dr) John Perkins 31 March 2013

Chair, Umeed Partnership (UK)