FAO in Pakistan

Women in leadership: Empowering Women to Empower a Community


When seen in the context rural community development, progressive change at community level is only possible by empowering rural women and providing them access to land and economic resources. The extent to which women farmers play their part in rural economy is undervalued, and is constrained because of their inaccessibility to agricultural resources, access to land most importantly. FAO in collaboration with European Union started “Improved Land Tenancy in Sindh” programme to assist rural women on their way to empowerment and better socio-economic resources. Through a number of activities under ILTS project, FAO is contributing to ensure food and nutrition security for the poor and, agriculture-dependent communities in Sindh. The project has established Farmer Field Schools (FFS) for men and women to educate farmers about improved farming practices and, established Village Grievance Redressal Committees (VGRC) to resolve the land and agriculture related issues at village level.
Education is not very common for girls and women of Taju Panhwar, Dadu where Razia Begum, once an unknown face, now a community leader lives.  She earned her place through courage, determination and strong sense of community. Her intent to work for women’s welfare led her to reach ILTS team when she heard of it.
FFS was new to her. She learnt new and effective methods of land preparation, farming techniques and use of organic pesticides for sowing vegetables in a free plot idle by her house. Her interest level increased with saving of daily 200 Rupees from her kitchen garden. Inspired by the outcomes of the kitchen gardening, she wanted her fellow women to make it a turning point for themselves and started motivating them replicate what she was doing.
“I moved to Taju Panhwar after marriage and discovered quite after a while that, I was the only well-literate woman in the village. It was something saddening to me that my fellow women had no access to education and, I wished I could play part to make them have that. ILTS rang a bell, may be this is the chance to do something’, says Razia.

Thirty-seven years of age, a mother to six, Razia was more than willing to help women of her community to have land access security and improved farming skills. On such basis, VGRC elected her as a member that proved to be a turning point for her as she started resolving the issues at village level in capacity of a VGRC member. Community members especially, women started visiting her for opinion on farming techniques as well as social and economic issues in their lives. Her skills and decision-making power compelled the VGRC committee to re-elect her as a Chairperson of the VGRC committee of her village.
Razia Begum is the only woman who stands beside men of her village as a leader to resolve issues of her village especially women related economic and land disputes. She started to assist field facilitators of FAO sensitizing famers and proprietors to sign the formal written land tenancy agreements.
“Earlier, there were some challenges in convincing the community. Now they look to me as a role model and ask for opinion in daily life matters. Thanks to FAO for giving me opportunity, and building my abilities and confidence”, says Razia.

FAO’ s ILTS project focuses on improving land and water governance in eight districts of Sindh in line with Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security especially, focusing smallholder women and men farmers and other disadvantaged population. With financial support from the European Union, the project promotes food security through improved land tenancy and agriculture practices in Sindh.