Salma Bibi: interview transcript

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Salma Bibi: interview transcript

Salma Bibi lives in Akhoon Bandi village, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.  She was aged 20 when she was interviewed on 25 April 2010 for the Rural Poverty Report 2011. The interview was recorded in the language of Hindko and carried out by a staff member from the Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation. The interviewer had an existing relationship with the community but was not a professional researcher.

Assalam-o-Alaikum (greeting)
Walaiko assalam (greeting)

My name is Mehr and I am working with Omar Asghar Khan Foundation. The Foundation and Panos London are jointly working on a survey to assess the poverty in villages. Its purpose is to find out the reasons for poverty in villages and how to reduce it. On the basis of this survey a report has been published after every ten years. Today's interview is also being conducted in this regard. If you permit can we take your interview?
Yes. I don't have any objection.

Please introduce yourself
My name is Salma and my father's name is Abdul Ghafoor. I am 20 years old. I have one brother and a sister. I am the eldest. My brother is younger than me and our sister is the youngest among us. My father and mother are alive. I am unmarried.

Salma, please tell me something about your daily life?
I get up early in the morning. First of all I offer my prayers. After prayers, I recite the Holy Koran. Then it's time for breakfast which I prepare and serve to everyone. Then I do house chores, sweeping, etc., do the cleaning of the house. After this when… When I am done with housework, then I do tailoring and embroidery. Then I prepare lunch and after serving everyone then I rest till the afternoon prayers. When the Azan (call for prayers) for Zuhr (afternoon prayers) is heard, then I prepare for prayers, and offer them. After that if there is any work I do the work, and if there is none, then I rest. Then it's time for Asr (late afternoon prayers). At that time I prepare tea. Serve tea to everyone. When everyone has had tea then I prepare dinner. In the evening I offer my Maghrib (evening prayers). After serving dinner to everyone, I offer Isha (night prayers), and go to sleep.

Do you like living here?
Yes, I like it...

Why?
Because my mother and father live here. I have spent my childhood here.

What is it that you don't like?
I don't dislike anything. The only thing is that my house is made of mud. It is difficult to keep clean. My house… if it were pucca (cemented or concrete), then this problem would not remain.

Please tell me something about your childhood.
When I was younger we all used to play. The girls from the muhalla (hamlet) would be with me. We would all play. Most of them were my paternal or maternal cousins. We beat each other, and also played. Once my cousin, my paternal uncle's daughter, threw a stone at me. I cried and complained to my mother. I was bleeding. At that time we were all living together. Later, we all separated. Our condition even then was not very good. We were poor... (Coughs). When we lived jointly, then we were good. We would collectively run the house – jointly cook meals, spend money together. At that time my paternal aunts, everyone lived together. My father worked as a carpet seller and was working in Lahore. When he came home, he would bring gifts for us. Then he came back from there. Then my father went to Rawalpindi and worked there for some time. Then he left his work in Pindi (short for Rawalpindi) and returned home. Nowadays, he helps graze the goats belonging to the Khan (generally means a well-off person)… And he also does farming.

Please tell me something about your education.
Yes, I went to school. To a primary school in the village that teaches up to 5th class.

Please tell me more about your school life.
The education in the school was good, the teachers taught well. When we studied, we liked it. When there was no teaching in the school, then we felt dismayed. We wanted good teaching in the school. We wanted good education and so that we could study further. After that… Mother would wake us early in the morning. She would prepare and serve breakfast for us. And get us ready for school. School would begin at 8 am. In school, there was first an assembly. The teachers came on time. They placed a lot of emphasis on cleanliness. They would check us for cleanliness. Those who were found wanting, would be beaten by the teachers. After the assembly we attended our class. When we were in nursery they taught us three subjects. As we moved into higher classes, the subjects increased. The teachers would make us work hard. They taught us well.  If early education is good, then studying further becomes easy. At that time we were afraid of our parents, that if we did not go to school or didn't study, they would beat us. They would also make us clean the school… the teachers…

Did you benefit from your primary education? Please tell me more about this?
Its benefit is that I can read and write. I can sign my name. I can write if there is a question or answer. I can read. I can write mobile numbers, etc., I can dial numbers on a mobile. I can count. I keep a list of household expenditures and give it to my father. One thing that I didn't like… the teachers would make us work in the school… the teachers would make us do their housework.

Why did the teachers make you work?
In our school there was no guard or peon, which is why we would fetch water also by ourselves. We would ourselves spread out mats [to sit on]. We did not tell our families at home about the work we did in the school. We were afraid that if we told them, our parents would beat us.

Please tell me more about your education. Did you get education beyond the primary level?
Nothing. Only up to primary. Did not have the means… we were poor… that's why I could not study any further. The school too was only up to primary. If there was a facility up to matriculation (10th grade) in the village, then I would have studied up to matriculation. My brother has completed his matric. That's why I was not able to study any further. There were household expenditures too. We didn't have the resources to get education from outside the village. We educated our brother up to matric, so that he could get a job. I also did not study, as even after an education I will do household chores. We don't have to get jobs.

Is the education you received enough to get a job?
No, even with this I cannot get a job because this education is insufficient. These days even matriculates are not considered, and even graduates are unemployed. And I have only completed primary. If I had studied further I could have become a teacher. With this level of education, nothing can be done.

In your opinion, should the curriculum include agriculture-related subjects?
There should be agriculture-related subjects so that we get more information on agriculture, on its cultivation methods, which crop is grown in which season, how to use pesticides. Maize is cultivated in the summer season. We get to know about agriculture, get to know about pesticides.

How is your household run and what is your contribution to it?
Yes I help my mother. Help with tailoring and embroidery. If I have money, and it is needed then I also give that – 100 or 200 rupees. I do tailoring… and the money earned from it is with me. I give that. 

Please tell me more about tailoring and embroidery.
I started tailoring and embroidery at the age of 15. I spent two years in a vocational centre learning the skill. My teachers were Miss Munnaza and Miss Mehnaz. I learnt skills from them. After that I started work at home. Now I do tailoring at home.

Please tell me more about the vocational centre
The vocational centre was opened by Haji Basheer. It is a government centre. He was the Nazim (mayor). He had made it. And we learnt skills there. We benefited from that as we tailor clothes for others and earn an income from it. If needed, I give that money to my mother. At times I have up to 200 or 300 rupees. About two days ago, I stitched an outfit for 100 rupees. For one outfit, I get 100 rupees. In this way, I contribute to household matters.

What is your opinion about the future in 10 to 20 years' time? What do you want to do?
I will do tailoring and embroidery. I don't know anything other than that. Every girl in village only knows tailoring. That's why I also do this.

What is your role in farming?
Yes if we have garlic then we clean it in the house. We clean the grains of wheat and maize. Farming is mostly done by our father. He has taken land on lease. The stream that passes near our village, we work in the fields near it. Nowadays, we have cultivated wheat. After a few days its harvest will begin. After harvest, the wheat will be threshed in the machine. Then we will bring the grain home. We will clean them. After wheat, we will cultivate maize. Then we will clean its grain. We will grind the cleaned wheat grain to make flour. And that flour we will use at home.

In your opinion, nowadays, what are the difficulties faced in farming?
There are many difficulties in this work. Water is a big problem. We have to water the fields. These days, there is little water. With great difficulty, we get our turn for irrigating the fields. There is inflation. The price of fertilizer is also very high. We also have to pay the tractor-owner. We have to buy pesticides. Pesticides are also very expensive.

What is the reason for water shortage?
There is no rainfall. The stream has dried up. If it rains, then there is some water. If there is no water, then there are no crops.

You said your father does farming. Can you please tell me more about it?
Yes my father does farming. He grows wheat, maize and vegetables – ladyfinger. In winter he cultivates wheat. In summer… maize and ladyfinger. If the ladyfinger crop is good then we sell it.

Where do you sell it?
In the market. We sell it in the market at Abbottabad. We pack the ladyfinger in sacks and seal it at the top. After this, we load them in vehicles and sell it in the market. The driver of the vehicle deducts the cost of transport, and gives the rest to the owner.

In your view, what changes can be made in farming, and how?
There should not be any change. In my view, the system is running correctly. With it the flour belongs to the house. And also the grain. Otherwise we have to purchase flour from the bazaar.

In your opinion, will your family continue farming, or will they do some other work?
In future too they must continue farming. As it helps to run the household, and flour and grain are brought home. It gives fodder etc for cattle, and in this way the system runs well.

In your opinion are there any changes in the climate in your area? Or is it the same as it was 10 years ago?  
In my view, it is the same. There is no change. There is one change. Due to the decline in rainfall, there is a shortage of water. Even the availability of drinking water has reduced. It now does not reach our home.

What is the system of irrigating fields?
We bring water from the stream through a channel that has been dug. If there is rain, there is water. There is no water in the stream. Due to lack of rains the water has dried up.

Do you know anything about the international discussions on climate?
I do not have any information on it.

What is the affect of water shortage on you?
When there is water shortage, there is no water in the pipes. Then we have to fetch water from somewhere else.

What is its effect on farming?
Due to this, there is no crop. The entire dependence of the farmer is on crops. There is no crop without water. Without a crop there are losses. Its detrimental impact is that everything has to be purchased. There are also expenditures for cultivating crops. We have to give money to the tractor-owner. We have to spend on pesticides. So that is how we suffer losses. If there is no crop, then we are unable to meet these expenses.

Apart from farming, what do members of your family do?
They are only involved in farming. They don't do anything apart from farming. Other than farming, I do tailoring and embroidery.

What is your role in farming?
In farming, women are also involved and have many tasks. At home we clean the grains of wheat and maize. Clean garlic and vegetable etc. And apart from that we do household chores.

Please tell me more about it?
When the crop is cultivated, my father ploughs the fields. He looks after the fields, irrigates them, scatters fertilizer, and harvests the crop. He sprays pesticides. When the crop is ready, he reaps it. And then threshes it. Then he brings the grain home. If it is maize, we bring the cobs of corn home.

Then?
Then we clean and store them. And consume them in the house.

Do you only consume them in the house or give them to others as well?
We only consume them in the house. Apart from that, we give grain to the maulvi (imam) at the masjid (mosque) instead of money. We also give grain to the village barber instead of money.

In your view will you continue farming in the future? Or is there any other work?
This is what we will do.

Why?
Because it's our source of income.

In your opinion who is poor?
In my opinion, a poor person is the one who doesn't have anything. I mean there is a shortage of money. Shortage of everything. This is what poverty is.

Are there such people in your village?
Yes, there are many people. Most people are poor.

In your opinion, what are the causes of the indicators of poverty mentioned by you? Why are people unable to come out of poverty?
If there is no breadwinner and there are many dependents, then there is poverty. This is the reason for poverty.

In your opinion, what pushes people into poverty? And increases poverty?
The one who does not have a breadwinner, as young children. This way there is more poverty.

In your opinion, in what way may people come out of poverty?
In my opinion… nothing. Yes, if there is cattle. If one owns land. Farming is good. Then they can come out of poverty. Out of poverty…

What does your family do to reduce poverty or get out of it?
We grow crops so that we do not have to purchase things. We have cattle.

Please tell me more about the cattle?
We just have one buffalo.

Who looks after the cattle and what is your role in it?
If my mother is away, then I do the work. I tie the buffalo in the shed. And bring it out. Give it water and fodder. Collect the dung and throw it out.

What is the benefit of cattle?
The benefit of cattle is that we do not have to purchase milk. There is milk in the house. We make curd. We have butter and yogurt. We have ghee (clarified butter) and use it in the home.

Has there ever been a time when you were not able to eat a meal or have any money because of poverty? When there was nothing to cook?
In my childhood, there was one such time. We went from door to door to get some flour but could not get any. And we returned home and spent the whole day hungry.

Why didn't you get any flour?
There was a drought so we didn't get the flour.  

Do you remember when this happened?
It was in my childhood. During childhood… we were very young.

How did you spend those days of drought?
Someone from Havellian gave us some flour.

Was the drought in your village or were other villages also affected?
Other villages were also affected. Mills were closed. Shops were also closed. There were strikes. That's what I recall…

What was your age at that time?
Age… I don't remember.

Was it during your schooldays, or before that?
It was before that.

Was there any discussion within your household or community about the drought?
At that time also, due to lack of rainfall, shortages occurred. Flour and grain. If there is no grain there is no flour. If there is no rain, there are no crops.

Have you or any of your family members ever been out of the village for education or for some other reason?
From my house my sister has gone to my maternal uncle's house for studying. Because the school was far from here. There was water in the stream. That's why she went to my maternal uncle's in Haripur, and even further away. My father was also in Lahore. Then he came to Rawalpindi and now he is at home.

What did your father do in Lahore?
He used to work with carpets. In Rawalpindi he worked with sacks… with sacks that were brought to the market. For example, boots, fruits, almond, pistachio, coconut….these things. There were sacks of such things.

In your opinion is there any benefit in going out of your village to another place or from one city to another?
Yes, there are benefits.

What?
A person can work,. earn money and bring it home, and meet household expenses.

Does it help to get out of poverty?
Yes.

How?
In such a way that the money earned is brought home to feed the children, and to bring food to the house and to run the household.

Is there any organization in your village? Are you a member of any organization?
Yes, there is an organization. In our village there is an organisation. One for women and one organization for men…

Please tell me more about it? 
The people of the village have formed the organization so that community issues may be resolved. And I am a member of the organization and attend its meetings…

How do you benefit from the organization?
The benefit is that people sit together, hold a meeting and discuss an issue. And consider its solution. And try to solve the issue collectively.

How?
When we hold meetings, share our problems, and whatever is decided we give our views on it.

Is there any issue on which your opinion is not considered in the organization?
There is no such thing. Mostly our views are taken into account.

Are any of your suggestions heard in your house?
Yes, they are considered. But sometimes they don't listen. If they think the suggestion is right, then they act upon it.

Is there any specific occasion when your suggestion was not heard?
Nothing specific.

With whom do you share your views at home?
Mostly with my mother.

What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time I lie around or sit around. I go to the house of my cousins – daughters of my paternal uncle. They are my cousins. There we talk. We talk about our childhood.

Where do you see yourself after 10 years?
Here. At home. There are no other plans.

In your opinion, what are challenges faced by the young generation?
I don't think there is anything… Unemployment, poverty... 

How?
Because there is a significant price hike and one cannot find any source of income.  

What are the good things for young people?
Young people have schools. In the past there were no schools. Roads are available. And there are many other facilities. They are educated.

What are the benefits from schools and roads for the young?
In the past people would travel on foot, now people travel by vehicle. In school… in the past many people were illiterate. Now there are also educated people. Education is common these days. Due to roads everything reaches the village.

In your opinion what is the benefit of being educated?
If one is educated, it is possible to get a job. And wherever they goes, an educated person could get employment everywhere.

What else?
There is also personal benefit. An educated person knows their name, and has information about many things.

In your opinion, what will improve the lives of the future generations?
… (Coughs). There should be schools. They should be educated in schools, and do good deeds. This will be beneficial.

What would you do if you were made the president of the village organization?
There should be a road. Road, I will build a hospital… people will benefit.

How?
I will spend what I have of my own (laughs). For this, sifarish (recommendation from power brokers) is needed. When there is money, whenthere is capital. If money is received from the government, then schools and hospital could be built… people will benefit.

In your opinion what is success? What is success?
Success is if a person gets education, then that is his success.

In your opinion, is there anyone in your village who is successful?
Anyone who is educated.

Is there anyone? Who is he?
Yes, there is Haji Bashir sahib.

How is he successful in your opinion?
He goes everywhere, and has good relations with everyone… that's why. He can do sifarish for everything. With that he is successful.

Do you think you can be as successful as him? Or can you be like him?
If there is education, then it is possible.

If you get an opportunity, do you want to study more?
Yes, I want to study more.

Ok thank you very much Salma. You gave us your time.
Thank you.