The Christmas Bowl shines a light on suffering women in Pakistan
Kohistan, Pakistan, is one of the poorest and most remote and culturally conservative regions in the world.
It’s also one of the worst places in the world to be a woman: a place where fathers arrange their daughters’ marriages when they are just children so they can marry them off as soon as they go through puberty. Once they are married, women are almost never allowed to leave their homes.
Australians who support Act for Peace’s Christmas Bowl appeal in 2011 will be helping to provide quality doctors and health workers in Kohistan, promote greater awareness of the importance of health care and hygiene and help women access the pre- and post-natal care they need.
Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, supports partners in the mountainous Kohistan area.
The rugged terrain and deep conservatism mean that few health workers will venture here. Finding female doctors is especially difficult.
A local health worker, Fehmida, is one of the few female health workers in the region. She works for one of several rural health centres Act for Peace supports.
“The people are so poor they can barely afford to feed themselves,” she said. “It is traditional that men eat first, next boys, then wives and finally, the female children eat last. If there isn’t enough food to go around, the wives and girls go hungry. The larger the family, the greater the risk of malnutrition.
“Women as a whole in this area suffer the most. They have no education and are not even allowed to socialise with other women. Their husbands do not allow them to have any rights, and most women who come to me are anaemic.”
Women in Kohistan have ten to 12 children on average, and almost always give birth at home, with no trained birth attendant present.
Fehmida says, “The rural health centres are gradually making a difference in the lives of women and their families. We are seeing more women coming into the clinic for pre- and post-natal care. When they do come to the clinic, I try to educate them about women’s health issues, nutrition and hygiene.”
Funds raised through the Christmas Bowl will help Act for Peace partners in Pakistan and many other conflict-affected regions of the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma.
A gift of $45 can provide a baby kit to help keep a newborn baby safe and warm, and $460 can support a female health worker for a month.
To give to the Christmas Bowl, please free call 1800 025 101, visit the website or use the Christmas Bowl envelopes at your church.
Christmas Bowl resources for congregations, including videos, worship resources, activities and PowerPoint presentations, can also be downloaded from the Act for Peace website.