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 High Stakes for Women Aid Workers
  By Kirann Bashir and Zubia* with Zunaira Shams, Community World Service Asia
Women aid workers in Pakistan and Afghanistan play an important role in reaching women and girls, who make up a large part of the popu- lation in the two countries, and are often the most vulnerable. Yet, as women working in a male-dominated environment with limited rights, they often face extreme challenges.
“My goal is to reach those in need.”
Kirann Bashir is a project manager for Community World Service Asia (CWSA), who has been working in the humanitarian aid field since 2012.
“I am responsible for managing and conducting project operations, as well as monitoring and ensuring quality implementation of project activities. I am also continuously coordinating with all relevant stakeholders, such as civil society organizations, govern- ment depar tments and the communi- ties with which we work.”
Kirann was inspired to take up this important work by her role model, Mother Theresa.
“Her dedication to caring for the sick, underprivileged, and disadvan- taged encouraged me to become a humanitarian worker.”
Kirann shared her journey:
“I am the first to be working as a
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Afghanistan and Pakistan
The current instability in Afghanistan has left many people facing height- ened insecurity and challenges in meeting their food needs. Now, with winter’s arrival, many families who are stranded far from their homes re- quire urgent support. PWS&D is hop- ing to start a food assistance project aimed at supporting 2,550 of the most vulnerable households in Af- ghanistan. Additionally, through our long-time partner, Community World Service Asia, PWS&D is providing funds for 3,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan to purchase blankets and bedding supplies, as well as warm clothes to stave off the cold weather.
In Yemen, 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. In recent
humanitarian worker in my family. My family members did not consider my job safe due to the ongoing attacks on aid workers in Pakistan. However, due to my mother’s strong support, I was able to join the humanitarian sector. It was difficult for my mother to persuade the family’s elders, but she was persistent and never left my side. For this, I will be ever grateful to her.
“Because my job is in Umerkot, I had no choice but to leave my house and live alone. It is very hard for a single, unmarried woman to relocate and live alone in our culture. It was difficult to persuade my parents, par- ticularly my father, that the house I will be living in is in a safe neighbour- hood and close to the office.
“Since my profession as a hu- manitarian worker involves local, national and international travel, an- other obstacle I faced was travelling alone. Among my family, I am the only woman who lives and travels in- dependently. Many of the young girls in my family look up to me as a role model.
“It was also difficult to prove my- self to men co-workers, since men are perceived to be more dedicated, intelligent and capable employees than women. In my early years as a professional, men in the areas where we worked met and listened to the men colleagues rather than us wom-
months, low access to COVID-19 vaccines combined with vaccine mandates and political upheaval have prevented many people from earn- ing an income, making it difficult to meet their daily needs. PWS&D has been supporting a project in this area since 2019 and will continue provid- ing funds to ADRA Canada through the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for an emergency food response that will help 7,800 people. Matching funds from the Government of Canada mul- tiplies the impact of our donations 4:1.
Factors like conflict, deteriorating environment and the COVID-19 pan- demic have unique impacts on every family around the world. PWS&D is responding attentively to people’s needs, with your support.
To make a donation, visit
As a community mobilizer in Afghanistan, Zubia works with students, parents and village members to build aware- ness of child rights and the importance of education. PHOTO CREDIT: CWSA
As a woman, Kiran Bashir (second from left) faced challenges in becoming an aid worker. Despite this, she feels called to continue to highlight the significant role women play in socioeconomic de- velopment. PHOTO CREDIT: CWSA
en. I have finally been able to gain the trust of the men in the communities I work in and with, and they are now more comfortable talking to me in our meetings as a result of constant open conversation.”
Kirann feels that it is critical to recognize the significant role women can play in socioeconomic develop- ment in order to improve society and transform conservative mindsets. For her, the most fulfilling element of her profession is seeing a woman become socially independent, par- ticipate actively in decision-making processes and provide for her family, just as she has been able to do.
Determined to “bring back peace.”
Zubia has been working in the hu- manitarian aid sector (currently with CWSA) for the past 15 years.
“As a community mobilizer of an education project for a humanitarian organization in Jalalabad, I organize meetings, conduct trainings and co- ordinate with government officials, teachers, members of the commu- nities, students, parents and village committee members. I build aware- ness on child rights and promote the idea of quality education for all.”
On why she chose to work in this field, Zubia said, “Women in Afghani- stan live in constant insecurity. They are not permitted to leave the house alone. Many girls are not allowed to attend school to gain education. As a result, women in Afghanistan have a literacy rate of 30%. I chose to work as a humanitarian worker so that I could inspire women and girls to get an education and build better lives for themselves.”
When Zubia showed the will to work, her father-in-law and brother- in-law opposed her decision. Yet, her husband supported her goals.
“My husband’s earnings were in- sufficient to cover all our home ex- penses and meet our family’s needs. I was fortunate to have a supportive spouse who encouraged me to look for work and make a better liveli- hood.”
On her field experience, Zubia shared, “When we go meet women in the communities, they are initially surprised to see me working so in- dependently and travelling to places. They are also hesitant to share infor- mation out of fear and worry for their safety. While some communities are welcoming, we have experienced
some conservative communities who did not allow us to speak to their women. On some occasions, men would ask us how our family allowed us to work so independently.”
Through her work, Zubia encour- ages parents and community mem- bers to increase enrolment of girls in schools.
“CWSA has been working to sup- port inclusive and quality education, especially for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to ensure that equal learning opportunities are provided to the most vulnerable students. This has largely been through inter- ventions designed to improve peda- gogical skills, develop child-centred learning environments, deliver mas- ter teacher trainings and mobilize local communities to seek and de- mand education for all of their chil- dren. When I see more girls going to school, I feel proud of the work I am doing. When I see women in key po- sitions or as members of local struc- tures making key decisions, I see the hope of a better future with men and women working side by side for the betterment of Afghanistan.”
*Name has been changed for se- curity reasons.
   Food insecurity remains high in Yemen. Through Canadian Foodgrains Bank, PWS&D will help provide food to 7,800 people.

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