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MURREE: “Just because of trainings imparted to us we have been able to save a 12-year-old girl from being married in Wani to a man in his mid-40s in Rajanpur, and that too without intervention of courts and police.”

This was stated by Jamila Bibi, who represents the Local Support Organisation (LSO) in Rajanpur, at the annual meeting of the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN) on Saturday.

Narrating her story, Jamila Bibi said a jirga had announced the verdict but the poor girl’s grandmother brought the case to her organisation.

“After studying the matter, I called the MPA of Rohjan and told him that the Punjab government had passed a bill against Wani and if this practice continued we would not only serve you a notice but the case would also be highlighted in media,” she said.

Ms Jamila said the MPA, who is also a tribal chief, told the elders to withdraw the verdict.

“Not only the girl is now safe and happy and studying in a school, the intervention has discouraged Wani there,” she said.

Her efforts against such practices earned her applause and encouragement from the gathering, but the situation with regard to discouraging Wani was not that ideal.

The officials present at the RSPN annual meeting openly expressed their resentment over what they said was limited capacity of their governments to deal with such practices.

“The government departments cannot reach out to every household in any district to make them aware of their rights, whereas the elected local governments are mostly powerless,” said an official from one of the provinces on condition of anonymity.

This is one of the major reasons the KP government has finalised a plan to make the community organisations (COs) a part of village development, which will be funded by the local government department.

Similarly, the Sindh government has extended cooperation to the Sindh Rural Support Organisation as it has, with the help of local COs, succeeded in overcoming Karo Kari cases in Shikarpur area to a great extent.

The local communities have also been successful in checking crime in coordination with police and administration.

RSPN is a collective platform of 11 rural support programmes and was launched in 1982 by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). Currently, all provinces have RSPs.

The RSP model of Pakistan has been replicated in many other countries, including India.

“Network of RSP starts with CO followed by the village organisation and we work in a flexible environment as social intervention is different in each district,” said Shandana Khan, the CEO of RSPN.

Meanwhile, Masoodul Mulk, CEO Sarhad Rural Support Programme, said the support programmes were social interventions to empower the local community to understand and work for their future.

The representatives of World Bank, European Union and the Canadian High Commission lauded the interventions by RSPs.

“I suggest that the RSPN and the COs should start considering the opportunities available in the CPEC for their local areas and gear up the vulnerable segments to reap benefits out of this mega project,” said Lisa Moreau of the Canadian High Commission.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2017

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