KARACHI - Samina Kamal, a lecturer at a local college, was attentively listening to a German psychologist while counseling working women on how to deal with daily stresses and save family life.
I have been attending these lectures for last few months, and they have really helped me out to cope with the work related and domestic stress, Samina, wearing a black hijab and a loose gown, told OnIslam.net.
The counseling is part of a trust established by Jammat-e-Islamic (JI) to help working women in Pakistan to deal with their daily stress.
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The Working Women Trust is the first-ever venture for working women launched by an Islamic party in Pakistan, where women make up 50 percent of the total 180 million population.
I had been over stressed due to a combination of work load, and domestic affairs, Samina, a mother of two, who was referred to the trust by one of her colleagues, said.
It was really getting on me.
Over 60 percent of working women in Pakistan are suffering from stress and other tension-related diseases, which requires permanent counseling, according to statistics compiled by Pakistan medical Association (PMA), and Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA).
Although several secular women NGOs have been operating in the South Asian Muslim country, however, a very few of them have tackled this issue.
I was not sure, frankly speaking, if it (counseling) would solace my problem, said Samina, who teaches Mathematics, referring to domestic disputes with her husband and mother-in-law, which was a virtual result of hypertension.
Initially, it did not add any substantial, but as the time passed, I am feeling much better.
Working women have to bear the triple brunt, the Pakistani mother said.
We not only have to work, but have to take care of the home, and the kids as well.
Samina understands that she was not bound to earn and support her home according to Shari'ah, but the grinding inflation and price-hike have forced thousands of women like her to go out and work.
I don't know about others, but I am sure about myself that I would never ever prefer to work if I do not have to support my home, she said.
I am not against women's job. But it should not be at the cost of their families.
Founders of the Trust say their main objectives are to help Pakistani women to save their family life from work-related pressures.
I have been a working woman for last 16 years, and I know how difficult it is for a mother to raise her kids, and earn simultaneously, said Humera Bano Musa Motala, a Karachi-based journalist who volunteers herself for the Working Women Trust.
One does not have to be genius to figure out that a majority of working women are reeling from this ordeal, which ultimately disturbs their family life, she told OnIslam.net.
According to Motala, the difference between secular NGOs and the Islamic Trust is that it teaches working women how to balance their work and family life.
We convince them (working women) that work is not important than their families, she said.
If they lose their families, their work will never work out for them, she said, noting that the counseling has saved hundreds of families from breaking up.
We do not teach them to stand in front of their husbands and parents in disagreement like many secular NGOs unconsciously or consciously do, she said.
But we teach them how to adopt a respectable and modest way to resolve the issues emerged as a result of an imbalance between work and family life.
Besides counseling and capacity building, the Trust also raises voice for better environment and compatible wages for working women.
The basic idea behind the establishment of the trust is to protect the rights of working women, who have been facing a jumble of problems, Abida Farheen, the President of Working Women Trust, told OnIslam.net.
Enumerating the problems faced by working women in Pakistan, Farheen listed low wages, physical and mental harassment, and transportation as the major problems.
We have been in touch with industries, companies and corporations, and have managed to resolve many cases of harassment and transportation, said Farheen, who possesses masters degree in Mass Communication from University of Karachi and is an associated with an advocacy organization for ten years.
The Trust is also running a research and development cell, which prepares recommendations for better environment for working women.
This cell remains in touch with women officers working in different organizations and industries in order to collect the data regarding salaries, working atmosphere and problems faced by working women, she said.
It helps us maintain a comprehensive data to prepare our recommendations.
These recommendations are sent to the administration of private and state-owned companies, corporation and industries on regular basis.
The Trust is also providing financial aid to help working women.
We have been running an employment provision project under which home-based women are provided loans and grants to start their own businesses while sitting home, Farheen said.
A majority of loans (Qarz-e-Hasna) and grants are provided to women belonging to low-income brackets.
Our aim is not to feed them (poor women) fish, but to teach them how to catch fish, she said.
Our women have the potential to learn quickly. Secondly, they can learn different skills within a short span. Therefore, we do not give them alms or Zakat but loans or grants with proper guidance so that they can start their own businesses.
Different skill development centers have been established by the Trust to help home-based women to attain self-sufficiency, financial independence to ultimately break the poverty cycle.We are thankful to Allah that hundreds of families are living a respectable life because of this project.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net