An orphan, and a physically challenged, young man Mohammad Ali is a permanent resident of village Sajjan Hakro, UC Lashari. His father had died many years ago.
As if the troubles were not enough already, Ali himself fell prey to polio, which damaged his both legs. He moves around using a tricycle.
At that time, Mohammad Ali’s family was facing great hardships and suffering due to extreme poverty; the family did not have sufficient livelihood means or a viable income source. Mohamma Ali and his mother Ms Raheeman Khatoon were stuck in a dire situation. They lacked social and financial resources, and, perhaps, also hope.
This was all about to change.
One day the social mobilisation team from the Sindh Rural Support Organisation (SRSO) visited their village. In the programme introduction meeting, the SRSO team members explained the approach that could help poor rural households in harnessing their own potential for improving their lives. The SRSO team members said that the poor need to have a common platform where they can come together and discuss the issues and potentials, and develop plans for collective and individual development. They said that Community Organisation (CO) is a platoform where representatives from all local households, especially from the poor economic background, can come together. Members have to regularly save small amounts of money according to each household’s capacity, to create a financial pool, they told the village women and men gathered for the meeting. The CO members must improve their skills, especially managerial and financial. Community members showed their willingness to follow this approach and subsequently fostered their own CO, said the SRSO team members.
Raheeman Khatoon, Ali’s mother, also stepped forward and became a member of the CO formed by the community members. Raheeman witnessed that the CO was a good platform for discussing and finding solutions for key issues faced by the households.
In one of the CO meetings, Raheeman mustered the courage and shared details of her family’s hardships. Fellow members listened to Raheeman carefully. A member asked Raheeman to tell them how, in her opinion, can the family’s situation be improved. Raheeman replied that her only resource and hope is her son, who is on a wheelchair.
There was a lot of discussion and suggestions about how Mohammad Ali could be supported to earn income.
One suggestion that most CO members found viable was for Mohammad Ali to set up a micro enterprise selling fresh vegetables and grocery items in the village. The next issue was that Raheeman did not have any capital. How could the suggested enterprise be formed, thought the CO members.
A member suggested that the money saved so far could be lent to Raheeman for setting up the vegetable selling micro-enterprise. Ali would run the shop, make profits and gradually return the borrowed money to the CO, she said. This idea appealed to all members of the CO. It was accepted unanimously. 2,000 rupees (€17) were lent to Raheeman. She thanked the CO members for their support and trust.
Raheeman and Mohammad Ali discussed and finalized the idea of selling vegetables in the village. Raheeman linked Mohammad Ali with some other local vendors who bought various items from the nearest market and sold in the village. These vendors agreed to undertake purchases for Mohammad Ali. This way Mohammad Ali began selling vegetables, become a bread earning member of his family.
Initially his sales were low. However, with the passage of time, the word spread across the village that Rahmeen’s son now sells vegetables. The sales started to grow gradually. These days, Mohammad Ali earns a daily profit of about Rs 175-225 (€1.5-2). This small profit is the main income source for Raheeman’s family. Raheeman diligently puts away a proportion of this profit to repay the loan to the CO, while also saving small amounts.
"There was a time when I felt so alone. I always thought that Mohammad Ali was a burden on me. I thought of him as a punishment. Being a widow with a polio affected son, I felt that my situation was helpless. Then a miracle happened. The local women got together and formed the Tanzeem (organisation). Suddenly, I was not alone any more. There were so many people ready to listen to my issues and help me. Fellow CO members, may God bless them, supported me financially and today, though I am still poor, but my Mohammad Ali is active and earning. I feel we are on the path towards improvement. There’s hope now. Without us getting together in the Tanzeem, this would have been unimaginable," says Raheeman Khatoon.
Ali shares similar views. "I always felt useless and a burden on my mother. This polio had ruined me, not only physically but also spiritually. When the Tanzeem agreed to lend money to my mother, our situation began to change. For outsiders, Rs 200 per may seem very small but for us this is million times better than zero."