Recently in Pakistan, hundreds of women streamed into Attock without ears or mouths. These women were not disfigured in the literal sense, but as a result of being forced from their homes by the disastrous August floods, they have been stripped of their communicative abilities. They are illiterate, unable to speak Urdu, the dominant language in Attock, and had to flee their homes empty-handed, all their possessions having been lost in the waters. 75 families came to Attock when their own villages were decimated in the flood: across Pakistan the number of refugees becomes exponentially bigger. Now these women and their families have settled in Attock and are trying their best to adjust to their new community
Barakat Pakistan has been on tirelessly working towards settling the refugee families, distributing cash stipends for housing and placing their children in school. Since the immediate problems of settling the refugees have been taken care of, Barakat is trying to find jobs for refugee parents so that they can continue to rebuild their lives. Thanks to a grant of $25,000 from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), Barakat has been able to assemble a Livelihood Generation Program for refugees in Attock. This program designates a Livelihood Coordinator to oversee job placement for refugees and see that they continue to have work to support their families.
Abdul Rehman, Supervisor for Barakat Pakistan, has seen much of the hardship experienced by refugees. He claims that helping refugees find work close to Attock will greatly benefit their current situation: “Some of the men travel two hours on the bus to Peshawar a few times a week to work at a carpet factory there. This is where they were working before the flood. Here in Attock, they go to the bazaar and look for work, which sometimes they find and sometimes they don’t.”
With regard to the women, Abdul Rehman stated that situations are more difficult: “Not one woman from the flood affectees can read. I don’t think any of them has ever gone to school.”
The Livelihood generation program seeks not only to help refugees sustain themselves financially, but also to feel at home in Attock. Since these refugees are originally from Afghanistan, they are all displaced in a country far from their own with no roots anywhere. Through greater access to employment resources, men will be able to find steady work closer to Attock and women will be able to interact with other women in the community through working, and slowly begin to learn Urdu.
The situation for Afghan refugees in Pakistan is nearly impossible to imagine. Where would you turn if you lost everything? It is our hope that with the resources to begin again, these people will be able to make a home for their children and use their skills to empower themselves.