This month the first road infrastructure project awarded to a women-led community-based organisation began groundworks in Surbat village in the Lower Dir District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The Human Dynamics led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa District Governance and Community Development Programme (KP-DGCD) provides loans to community-based organisations to create needed infrastructure. The project will support the construction of an ‘all weather’ 110-metre road and retaining wall to link their village with the main road, removing the threat of the road being washed away by monsoonal rains. This road will change the lives of those in the village, increasing the accessibility of larger neighbouring towns, providing them with better livelihood opportunities and access to services
As Ms Noor Mahal, the President of the Subah Ki Kiran, the community-based organisation that has been established to drive this project described, “this road will add convenience to our lives”. Ms Mahlal is now leading the process of ensuring engineering standards and government civil works rules are adhered to in the roads construction.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa District Governance and Community Development Programme (KP-DGCD) has approved PKR 873.5 million for 667 projects in four rounds. The KP-DGCD makes funding of between PKR 0.5milllion to PKR 2.5million available in six pilot districts. The community-based organisations (CBO) bid from the 3,493 villages within these six pilot districts outlining how it will improve their community. So far there have been 11,300 applications received across the four rounds. A requirement is that the project all must be completed within a maximum of 18 months, and following the project’s completion the infrastructure must be maintained by the CBO.
To guarantee that there is equitable participation, the KP-DGCD has allocated 15% of the district's allocations for women-specific projects. This road building project was one of these. When asked about the project and what it would mean Ms Nahal said, “My biggest wish is to see the women of my area contribute along with their men for the social and economic betterment of the community as a whole. Women are not inhibited by any cultural norms or social barriers to play their part for the betterment of the society. Rather the primary reason, in my opinion, remain the lack of opportunities presented to them which have so far stopped them from making the best use of their abilities. There are many determined women who are also as educated as the men. They direly feel a responsibility towards the community as a whole but needs the means and resources to fulfil that.”
To support leaders like Ms Nahal, KP-DGCD began in February to establish Women Facilitation Desks in all six pilot districts. These desks will work to specifically support applications for funding from women in the community. Through their work, the team in Surbat will be the first of many.