QUETTA: Women are often seen as the gentler gender, with some thinking they can’t do everything men can. But when you look at Hameeda and Saira, two sisters who’ve devoted their lives to battling polio, it challenges that viewpoint.
The power duo is completely dedicated to vaccinate the underprivileged kids in the neighbourhood. They have been working as health volunteers for a few years now and their spirit remains stronger than ever.
With the first light of the day, Hameeda starts her daily routine. She takes care of her household tasks, like cleaning the house and looking after their animals, all in preparation for her important job.
Her eyes show determination, and she wears a calm smile as she gets ready to vaccinate the less fortunate kids in the neighborhood.
As a community health volunteer, Hameeda doesn’t just see her work as a duty; she finds it to be a dedicated and satisfying effort, majorly because her community openly accepts the concept of vaccinations.
“We do not face refusals for the polio vaccine,” Hameeda proudly proclaims.
“We understand the importance of keeping our children healthy, and it is because we don’t have the misconceptions that others may hold when it comes to vaccinations. We see it as a step to protect our kids from this heinous disease,” she added.
“The community has a vital role to play. They not only help the polio vaccination campaign but also show respect and appreciation for the real heroes who visit your homes each month to protect the children from polio’s harmful effects,” she said.
Hameeda’s journey is not limited to becoming a health worker herself. She also paved the way for her sister Saira. Hameeda’s path to becoming a symbol of hope began in 2020 when her father, Ghulam Haider, passed away, leaving her as the sole earner or her family. While living with her mother and two sisters, she encountered another difficulty in 2022 when her sister, Saira, went through a divorce.
However, she did not accept the defeat. She kept encouraging Saira to work side by side with her and today, they stand shoulder to shoulder in Hazara town, content with their income and grateful for the impact they are making on their community.
“Hameeda has become patient, gentle and kind while she deals with people, the newfound kindness extends to out home,” Saira says about her sister.
Their confidence grows strong as their community supports them as they try to pave their way towards their goal. Remembering the difficult times, the duo got teary as they thought of the loss of two older siblings in a tragic bombing that took place in Hazara Town, claiming lives of 79 innocent people.
Additionally, their two brothers, Hasan and Raza, went to Europe, breaking all family ties. However, in the face of these challenges, Hameeda and Saira stand tall, proud of their self-reliance and their ability to succeed without financial help.
Their unshakable confidence and commitment to work has gained them the support of authorities as well.
Emergency Operation Center for Polio Eradication (EOC) coordinator Syed Zahid Shah acknowledges their hard work. “We have witnessed their relentless efforts to vaccinate every child, often vaccinating their own children in front of parents to dispel any doubts,” he said.
Their story exemplifies the resilience of the human spirit and the unwavering commitment to a brighter polio-free future for their community and beyond.
Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2023