KARACHI, Jan 14: Better living conditions at their new home has cheered up the destitute women who have been shifted from Darul Aman, located at Ayesha Manzil, for the want of renovation works there.

Darul Aman is a refuge for the poor women who have cases in court. There were 13 of them last month when Darul Aman was handed over to a trust, Panah Shelter Home, due to its dilapidated condition. After the change of hands, all the women were shifted to the Panah Home near the Quaid’s mausoleum on Dec 7, 2007.

In order to make the vacated building liveable, the renovation work would begin within a couple of weeks, said Anila Ansari, a staffer at Panah. She said that there were a lot of issues involved which were to be settled before starting the renovation work. The vacation of a quarter that was in possession of the old matron of Darul Aman and the removal of some city government vehicles lying abandoned there were a few of the issues that she hinted at.

Once the actual refurbishment got under way, “it would take at least a few months to complete since there’s a lot to be done”, said Sindh Women Development Minister Nadira Panjwani, who is also a member of the board of trustees, when asked about the project’s duration.

Majida Rizvi, former justice who is also a member of the board of trustees, said that the place was infested with termites and in complete shambles when it was given to the Trust.

Interestingly, the women who have been shifted to the shelter home are quite glad about the new arrangement. Here the matron whom they call ‘Auntie’ let them talk freely to this reporter unlike the experience at the previous place.

“What is good about this place is that when we moved here we were 13 and now there are only four of us who have cases in court,” says a young mother Mariam, who seemed contended about the fact that nine out of 13 cases were decided within a month which previously used to take years.

Remembering her stay at Darul Aman, she says that it was like a prison and they were made to feel like criminals. She broke into tears when she narrated how her baby died due to pathetic medical facilities at the old place. “My baby that was born while I was there died because the hospital they took me to was unhygienic and she (the baby) caught an infection which resulted in her death,” she regrets.

Twenty-five-year-old Naseem, whose parents are in Bangladesh and who had applied in court for divorce more than a year ago, has an altogether different reason to be in high spirits.

“You know we have television here and we can watch famous Indian channels here as well,” she speaks with childlike enthusiasm.

After spending over a year at Darul Aman, she says it is good that they have got rid of the suffocating environment. “Medical facilities here are far better than we previously had. Now they take us to doctor whenever needed,” she adds.

A young girl, Fatima, is likely to married off to a suitable man by the Panah administration soon. “Since I am unmarried they asked me if I was interested in getting married. When I said yes they started looking for a possible suitor. In fact two or three people have approached but the Panah people did not find the proposals good enough,” she reveals.

She says that the Darul Aman administration had given quite harsh remarks about all of them and called them trouble-makers and law-breakers.

Ms Shaukat, the matron at Panah, says that they were worried when the women were shifted here if they would throw tantrums at the new administration. “On the contrary, they turned out to be just fine.

Though they did detest the time management a little but they got used to it in two or three days,” she says and adds that they do not discriminate between those already living here and the new comers.

“We have classes of English, arts and craft, and Quran thrice a week,” she says while showing various drawings made by the students of the arts class.

Though things appear to have improved with the destitute women, who were earlier residing at Darul Aman, the government by handing away its shelter home has given away its responsibility of providing protection to the women who need it the most.

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