An interview with Kaniz Fatima
Kaniz Fatima was the FFB's gender program manager. In April 2011 she was interviewed about her work for the Foundation, a transcript of the interview, translated from the original Spanish, is given here.
Last modified by Andy on 2018-06-23 19:45:49
Fatima introduces herself: My name is Fatima and I work in FFB as gender coordinator. My role as coordinator is to be a model for the other women of the Hushe Valley. The life of women in the valley is very, very hard because they have a lot to do and have little education. This makes it difficult to get a job in daily life, especially because many of them have no concept of the importance of education and health. In the summer, the men work with the tourists and go to the mountains whilst the women have to work in the fields from the 4 in the morning until late in the evening. There is no awareness of a balanced diet so they lack nutrients which causes problems in pregnancy. In the Hushe Valley we have many health problems during pregnancy, childbirth and after the birth. Many women die due to the lack of iron and from other diseases.
SARAI: Do you have statistics on the number of women who die during pregnancy?
FATIMA: I have known 5 women who have died in this town.
SARAI: What is the purpose of your work in FFB?
FATIMA: The purpose of my work in FFB is for the development of women, the women of the entire Hushe Valley.
SARAI: You work throughout the valley?
FATIMA: For the women, I work in Machulo and also for the people of Saling, Thalis and Balegon. We have held workshops on awareness and courses to learn how to make jam from apricots.
SARAI: What is the difference between the women of the valley and other women from communities like Hunza, Skardu, Islamabad, etc.?
FATIMA: The first is education; women have no education in the valley. In other countries women are educated and know how to manage their time. They know how to take care of children and also have jobs. Women in other countries are like men, working in offices, in schools and in all areas. But here we can only conceive of women working in the fields because they have no education and cannot get another job.
SARAI: How do you get a family income. or the family in general, and for women in particular?
FATIMA: For the family, some men work in the government or with the tourists in the mountains. For women, some are teachers, but there is not any other type of employment.
SARAI: Sometimes people move to Skardu or other places?
FATIMA: Yes, some go to Skardu, Lahore or Pindi to work.
SARAI: Who takes care of the money coming in to the home?
FATIMA: The men. They manage all the money, because it buys materials, food, etc..
SARAI: Can women own their own property?
FATIMA: Yes, in Islam the women are entitled to own a part of the land and similar things. But some women have property and others do not. But women do have the right to property.
SARAI: How is the right of ownership of the land administered? Is it the same for the son and the daughter?
FATIMA: Both have rights, but a son gets two parts and a daughter one part.
SARAI: How is the everyday life of a woman? Can we discuss a day in a life of a woman?
FATIMA: After getting up, breakfast is prepared for the whole family. After breakfast, taking the children to school and caring for and feeding the animals, the women go to work in the fields until 12:00 or 13:00, (and sometimes they work in the fields through the day without any lunch.) In the afternoon they return to work in the fields until nightfall.
SARAI: What about the men? What is the daily life of men like?
FATIMA: Some of them go to work with the women in the fields and then return home.
SARAI: Do the women enjoy any free time or leisure?
FATIMA: No, but in the winter they can enjoy more time, because they don't have to work as much.
SARAI: What makes things different in the winter?
FATIMA: You can meet and talk.
SARAI: When do the girls begin to work? What type of games do the children play?
FATIMA: From 10 or 11 years old the girls begin to work in the house, cooking and caring for the other children. As for games, we have our local games for girls. The games are outdoors and the girls are meeting at a site to play, boys and girls don't mix.
SARAI: When do the girls start to have children?
FATIMA: Usually around the age of 15.
SARAI: What about marriage? Do the girls have freedom to choose a husband?
FATIMA: No, I think that only 5% of women choose their husband, most commonly the parents decide.
SARAI: How is it with men?
FATIMA: The men can make their own decisions on who they marry. Although in some cases so can women.
SARAI: Do you think that this situation will change in the future?
FATIMA: Maybe, yes.
SARAI: Can women divorce?
FATIMA: No. Men can divorce, not women.
SARAI: Who is responsible for the care of the children?
FATIMA: The women, mainly women.
SARAI: These days, how many children are there in a family?
FATIMA: About 5 or 6 children.
SARAI: The trend is to have more or less children than before?
FATIMA: Maybe less than before. Before they had 10 or 12 children in each family.
SARAI: Is there any birth control?
FATIMA: Yes, through the Lady Health Workers. It can be through the pill, injections or surgery.
SARAI: Have you seen any changes and improvements among the women of the valley?
FATIMA: Yes, there have been many improvements. The women have started to meet. At first they did not know what to do because they had no understanding of what was needed. But now it is growing. The women of the community have no education, but they understand that the meetings lead to improvements so they come along. They also come to the Vocational Centres for the women of Balegon, Marzegon, Thalis, etc. They come to our Vocational Centre in Machulo and we have twice gone to see different projects in Karimabad and Hunza, which the women really enjoy. We are also running courses to make jam and pickles etc. In this way the women are encouraged to come to the Vocational Centre to learn new things.
SARAI: Do you find differences between older women and young people?
FATIMA: Yes, because older women have no education. Earlier here there were no young women with education because after 5 or 8 years of education the girls finished school, but now the girls continue their studies in Skardu, Islamabad or Lahore or through scholarships.
SARAI: Is there conflict amongst the women due to these changes?
FATIMA: Perhaps. Because women are also beginning to give greater importance to the education of their children and do not want them to stop their studies.
SARAI: Do you see changes in the men?
FATIMA: (Smile). Perhaps some, now with education of both the father and the mother, they do not want to stop their daughters studying. They want to send them to Khaplu for more studying.
SARAI: Do you think that men want to help the development of women?
FATIMA: Yes. The majority of them.
SARAI: Are there some barriers to improving the lives of women?
FATIMA: Yes, sometimes the men do not speak about our work. They say that it is not good that the women go out, or for women to be allowed to be alone or Islamabad or Hunza. The men say such things.
SARAI: Why do you think that is so?
FATIMA: In our culture, we women are not permitted to go out alone. It has always been that way.
SARAI: Can you explain to us the objective of the Women's Vocational Centre?
FATIMA: The purpose of the Women's Vocational Centre is to raise the women's consciousness of their situation and for the improvement for the development of women in general. It is also to empower the women by taking courses. In this way many women learn and gain skills. After obtaining these skills, they can make their own products in the home to generate revenues and empower themselves.
SARAI: How and why was the Vocational Centre created in Machulo?
FATIMA: Because in the beginning we created a committee of women here, and they said that we could create a project here. They asked us to create the Vocational Centre so that they could learn the skills to make their own clothes.
SARAI: How many women there are in the committee?
FATIMA: 12 women. Here in Machulo we have 12 hamlets and so we have a woman representative from each hamlet.
SARAI: Could you tell us about all the activities that the Vocational Centre?
FATIMA: Yes, in the Vocational Centre we have courses where the women learn to make for both themselves and the men. We also have embroidery and knitting courses. In the summer time we give the women courses on jam making and agriculture, where they learn about the planting and transplanting of plants. We also give sessions on health matters.
SARAI: What has been the influence of the Vocational Centre in the community?
FATIMA: The majority of women and the men also have accepted the Vocational Centre. Many women ask about the Centre and for the courses themselves. Sometimes I am even asked by the men because they want their daughters to learn to learn from the various courses, such as the jam making. Yes, I can observe a change in the people.
SARAI: Last December you were in Islamabad taking part in a course on "Strengthening" at the headquarters of CHIP in Islamabad. Can you tell me your experience?
FATIMA: With CHIP in Islamabad we have several projects for education in different communities and also in agriculture. CHIP provides them the seeds and fruit. However, in these areas they depend on rain and if it rains, then the plants grow. In addition in these areas, there are many organisations for women and also organisations for the men. The social mobilisor can work with these organisations and the demands of the women who visit the office. I like the women's organisations and it would be very good if we could implement the same type of groups here and in the various villages of the valley. The committee of women would work more easily and could be established in Thalis or Khande. At present we haven't talked to the women of Khande, but we would like to see if we could organise a women's group to help with their problems and needs.
SARAI: How can the same Centres be implemented throughout the valley?
FATIMA: I have been thinking about this: if we choose woman as a social mobilisor, then we will ACHIEVE the establishment of the committees of the people in the villages.
SARAI: Approximately how much time you need to establish the women's committees?
FATIMA: To incorporate everyone I think a month, perhaps yes, a month.
SARAI: The last question, how do you see the future of women in the valley?
FATIMA: I hope, Insha'Allah, we will improve the development and status of women in the valley. Insha'Allah women will be able to get jobs and an income can be earned.
SARAI: Thank you for all your work.
FATIMA: FFB has done much to support us and therefore, as a woman I want to thank the leaders of the Felix Baltistan Foundation for all they have done to help us in our valley, especially for the empowerment of women. I also want to change the situation of women in this valley, therefore, Insha'Allah, I can and I will do that. I know so.