Villagers Receive Solar Lanterns

Courtesy of: Jan Khaskheli and The International News
Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hyderabad: A group of industrialists from Karachi and the US distributed 300 solar lanterns among skilled women of the remote coastal village, Haji Umar Jat, Thatta district. The village women produce Jat embroidery, which is hard to come by and is rarely seen in the local market. The embroidery is famous in the entire coastal area however is not marketed well.

A crowd of community women had gathered to receive the coveted gifts as the villagers do not have access to electricity. Each family spends Rs100 on a litre of kerosene oil to light a traditional lamp. Interestingly, the price of kerosene is lower in the urban market than in far off villages.

Mai Bakhti Jat was among the 300 women who received a solar lantern. Hiding her face with a traditional embroidered shawl, she said she never imagined owning a solar lantern.

It was the first time the women had attended a programme aside from traditional gatherings. Otherwise, they usually gather at shrines located on islands, where they travel by boat.

The event was organised by the Sindh Coastal Development Organisation in collaboration with UNDP Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme, LEDtronics and Shan Technologies Karachi, which attracted more than a dozen philanthropists, who were eager to donate gifts to families in neglected areas.

Country Director of UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme, Masood Lohar, said “this unique initiative is like a war against darkness, which we started a few months back with this group of philanthropists.”

“When prolonged power failures compelled people to stage country-wide protests, the residents of hundreds of small villages remained calm because they have neither electricity nor power outages. They live a simple life, beginning from sunrise and ending after sunset. They are not part of mainstream politics, social and development activism,” he said.

A group of these philanthropists have, so far, donated 3,000 solar lanterns to various communities and have also worked to promote recreational activities among the village youth.

Maryam Issa, who was leading the group of philanthropists, expressed the hope that these solar lanterns would enable the women to continue their work at night. “We have brought little gifts for 300 women of this area and have provided a basketball court equipped with solar floodlights for their children,” she said.

These philanthropists are mobilising others living in the country and abroad contribution to this noble cause. “If we all come together we can do a lot to bring little changes in the lifestyle of these people,” she said.

Sindh Minister for Tourism and chief of the Jat tribe, Mohammed Ali Malkani, thanked the philanthropists who came to donate solar lanterns. “The government could not introduce sufficient schemes in these coastal areas,” he confessed.

The people in coastal areas are most vulnerable to tsunamis, cyclones, floods and drought. When they receive tsunami, cyclone or flood warnings, they leave the area hurriedly.

The endangered Kharai Camel is found in Jat communities. It dwells in the mangroves. Villagers say that the mangroves have been destroyed by a shortage of potable water and increasing marine pollution.

The villagers entertained guests with songs that they typically perform at the shrine of Sanwlo Faqir in the Shah Bunder area. They are followers of this saint. Village girls performed a traditional song on the occasion.

About pervaizlodhie