With this newsletter we would like to inform you about Diwa’s projects and our donor and awareness raising activities in the Netherlands.
There have been several important developments in Pakistan which have had a profound impact on our Brick Kiln Workers Education Project. This year we have launched a new Skills Training Centre in the Christian district Francisabad in Gujranwala.
Earlier this year, the Pakistani government started a nation-wide program against child labour. Child labour is prohibited under penalty of heavy fines. All children, even the brick makers' children have the opportunity to go to an official government school.
That's great news, but it also had consequences for our small schools at the brick kilns. Because the children now go to regular public school, the schools in the factories are empty. The active role of our partner organization PSTA is now much smaller and is mainly confined to an advisory role with the government.
The courses near the brick factory which were given in one of the refurbished schools still exist. The tailoring course and beautician course were successful and now run independently. Courses are only not taught in school, but in two spaces the teachers provided for themselves. With the disappearance of the visible presence of PSTA, the use of schools for other purposes than primary education has become difficult. This is because of the delicate, complicated relationship with the owners of the brick kilns.
Diwa Foundation has reflected with PSTA on how the Skills Training Programme could be continued. The idea was born to start a new training centre in Francisabad just outside the area of the brick yards. Francisabad is the largest settlement of mainly poor Christians in Gujranwala and still missing initiatives Skills Training.
Diwa Foundation is working on the settlement of a committee of local people, and will guide it, so that after a year the Skills Training Centre can function without the aid of PSTA. There have previously been contacts with the local population and the local church.
It is stimulating and uplifting to see that the idea of the Skills Training Centre is getting shape and is adopted by the local community. The people are very motivated to make something beautiful together!
These are difficult times, especially for Christians in Pakistan. Many people seek opportunities to flee the country. Read about it in a contribution by Rahila, who lives in England.
Finally, I want to invite you cordially to pick pears, in the Brabant countryside! A portion of the proceeds will go to Stichting Diwa. Be sure to read the invitation, on the end of the newsletter.
Jan Dirk Schouten, secretary
New Skills Training Center
Based on our previous experience of skills training project Stichting Diwa has started per 1 July 2016 a new training centre in Francisabad in Gujranwala.
Stichting Diwa, together with the local community and the local church have found a place to start the project in Francisabad, Gujranwala. This project will be run by a committee of members from the local community under supervision of Stichting Diwa.
The new skills training centre is chosen to start in Francisabad, where 99% of population is Christian. This is the biggest Christian residential area in Gujranwala. The majority of people are poor and work in factories, brick kilns, as sweepers, shopkeepers. There are a number of schools in this area, but not a single centre for skills training. The local people are very happy and are willing to work together to start with this new initiative. Women and girls are very excited to join the tailoring and beautician courses.
Opening and start Skills Training Center
We offer four courses. These are: tailoring, beautician, electrician and computer course (basics of computer). There will be a maximum of 15 participants in every course at a time. The course duration is three months. So every three months there will be a new course. At the end of July 2017 about 240 people will be skilled. Our target group is the people who are motivated to learn new skills and who want to achieve something with these new skills. This included young boys and girls and especially the women, such as housewives.
In addition, we have ideas for the new centre as a platform for the community. We want to organize evenings for women to come together. These evenings will also be used to provide information about health and hygiene, family planning, etc.
Beautician Course practise
So, we plan to make it a special and unique centre, especially for the women, who will not only learn new trade skills that will help improve their living standards in economic terms, but also to improve their knowledge in other areas like health and to help empower them socially so that they become aware of their rights in the male dominated society in Pakistan.
Brick Kiln Workers Education Project 2011-2015
The Brick Kiln Workers Education Project was started in 2011 together with the Pak Swedish Teacher Association(PSTA), a local partner in Pakistan. The main objective of this project was to educate the children of brick kiln workers by teaching them to read and write. These people are working as slaves and live in very bad conditions. They are not earning enough to send their children to schools. Therefore, Stichting Diwa raised up 10 one classroom schools on the location of brick kilns. So the children can easily attend the school in the morning and in afternoon they can still help their parents in work or in household.
The project was successfully implemented during the last five years. PSTA formulated the parents committees and trained them for monitoring. This project had a quite efficient approach. Brick kiln owners provided space for schools and Stichting Diwa financed this project by providing books, uniforms, teacher salaries and teachers trainings. In some places it was difficult because a few brick kiln owner were reluctant to provide education to their workers.
After a long struggle of the labour organization now child labour is forbidden in Pakistan, especially in the area of Punjab province.
Present situation at the brick kiln factories
At present, the Government of Punjab has taken some strong measures by passing the Punjab Government’s Ordinance 2016 for Child Labour in Brick Kilns, to ensure the eradication of child labour, and also to try to enforce the law related to Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, regarding the compulsory education of children (even at the brick kilns).
Please also refer to the following links.
Consequences of Government recognition of Child Labour for the informal Brick Kiln Workers Schools of Stichting Diwa
PSTA has been visiting the 10 schools that were supported by the DIWA Project. 12 families have shifted to other brick kilns in different districts of Punjab. The rest of the children are all going to government schools, and they have all been given a sort of an ATM card, in which the Government deposits 2000/- (two thousand Rupees) every two months. The government is paying 1000 Rs. per child per month to all the children who were previously studying in our schools, and who are now in government schools.
Because of the Government measurements against Child Labour in Brick Kilns in 2016, children are no longer allowed to work in the Brick Kilns. In addition the government provides formal education for these children. That means that the main objective of the Brick Kiln Workers Education Project is being fulfilled and the Brick Kiln Workers Education Project is not necessary any more and is stopped.
Migration Rise in Pakistan
Rahila Gill Sultan
Despite of passing 69 years of independence, people in Pakistan are facing increased suffering and socio-economic unrest due to unstable political environment. In 2015, Pakistani media reported that ‘the pace of economic growth has averaged above 4.50 percent but statistics suggest that Pakistan is only notch above poorest countries’. This is because of high poverty rate, low literacy rate, poor infrastructure, outdated technology, lack of industrialisation, wide trade gap, poor healthcare system and low standard of living.
Due to these reasons, there is a massive trend of migration to other countries. In 2015, one million labour forces went to foreign countries, especially the Middle East, for better work opportunities and life style.
Christians on the other hand are in double trouble. They not only flee from the country because of the above mentioned reasons, but also because of increased religious extremism and lack of religious freedom. The total population of Pakistan is 192.8 million and there are 3.9 million Christians. According to open doors UK ‘Christians experience more violence in Pakistan than almost anywhere else’. The biggest reason is the blasphemy law, which is often abused to settle personal enmity and dispute against minorities, including Christians. The last five years saw incidents such as: the Christian couple Shahzad and his pregnant wife Shame were thrown into a kiln and burned to death; a mother of four children, Asia Bibi, has been imprisoned since six years; churches in Lahore and Peshawar were bombed; and most recently Nadeem James, accused of sending a blasphemous poem on WhatsApp to his Muslim friend. Almost 700 Christian girls and women are abducted every year; and often raped and forcibly married to Muslims.
In general, Christians in Pakistan face hatred and unequal status as a citizen. They usually get rejection, especially residents of slum areas – often bullied at school and sometimes even banned from using the same water fountain as other students. Women work as a domestic worker in Muslims houses at low wages, and jobs like sanitary workers are reserved for Christians.
No wonder Pakistani Christians are trending in seeking asylum in other countries. The circumstances are becoming worse than ever before. There are a lot of Pakistani Christians in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, UK and Europe. Many organisations are working to help and support asylum seekers. However, as an individual, a lot can be done for our fellow Christians asylum seekers, including encouragement, moral support and foremost of all ‘Prayer’, which will hopefully change their fate in finding the destination of their dreadful journey.
Invitation pear picking
I would like to invite you to join us for pear picking on Saturday 24 September in the beautiful countryside of Brabant, at the home by the family Van Vulpen.
The pear harvest is a sequel to the successful picking pears from the late summer of 2013. That was very nice and well cared for with snacks and drinks made by the family van Vulpen. For children it is also very nice, there is plenty of room to play.
The pear picking will start around 11 am, with cake and coffee. Around five o'clock we will stop and eat together.
A part of the yield will be donated to Stichting Diwa.
The address of the pear picking is:
Fam. E.J. van Vulpen, Engelsestoof 3, 4261 RA Wijk en Aalburg