Paving the Way for Women Empowerment

Refugees Women
“We are more aware of our surroundings and I haven’t felt this productive in my entire life,” Muhammad Jaan. Photo: UNDP Pakistan/Huma Akram

For the first time in her 103 years, Muhammad Jaan feels productive and actively takes part in her village community meetings. She is one of the most elderly Women Community Organization members and lives in a small village Padhana, district Haripur. For her, this village is synonymous to her life.

 “As long as I can remember this is where I have belonged. I was born here, I grew up here, and all my memories of everything I have loved or lost or endured or celebrated are with Padhana,” says Jaan. 


  • 1053 (646 Males & 407 Female) Community Organizations formed.
  • 479 small scale infrastructure projects implemented by the communities including hand pumps for drinking water, solar lights and water pumps, latrines, street pavements, irrigation channels etc. These projects have benefited more than 1 million people.
  • 333 community organizations formed within the Provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, including 122 women community organizations.

These women community organizations were formed under the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA). RAHA is promoting regional stability and compensate for the social, economic and environmental consequences wrought on Pakistani communities by the presence of more than 3 million Afghans over the past 30 years. For the 1.7 million registered Afghans remaining in Pakistan after the large-scale repatriation since 2002, the programme promotes peaceful co-existence with local communities until conditions in Afghanistan are conducive for their return.

The project’s team of social mobilizers who work in the field, bring together people from villages to form Community Organizations (COs). Typically COs consist of around 20 to 30 households living in close proximity. Subsequently, the project raises awareness and trains CO members on creating unity and togetherness in the society - social cohesion concepts. CO members meet regularly to discuss solutions to the common problems facing the villagers including access to clean drinking water, electricity, transport, irrigation etc.  These needs are then prioritized. Once consensus is developed amongst the community and a specific intervention is identified, the CO then put together a formal resolution and gives it to the UNDP-RAHA project staff. RAHA engineers conduct a feasibility of the proposed project and make a cost estimate as well as design of the project for the community to implement. The implementation of the project, for instance, constructing of the hand pumps, roads is done by the Cos themselves. Engineers are also available to assist the COs if they face any technical issues during implementation.

To achieve greater social unity and empower the target communities to identify and implement development projects on their own, over 8325 persons including 3000 women from the communities were brought together by UNDP-RAHA staff in different organizations.

The women’s community organization that Jaan put together is called “Shama Tanzeem.” The first project her organization identified was the village’s dire need of a link road from the village to the main road. This road was destroyed firstly by the earthquake in 2005 and then the catastrophic floods in 2010-11. This made the reach of relief efforts to her village almost impossible. The project successfully completed the construction of the link road in the preceding year and thanks to the leadership spirit and voice of this woman, this road now benefits over 5802 residents directly and 6200 people indirectly.

Jaan says, “RAHA is a breath of fresh air for the locals especially women, earlier we were only restricted to household chores and now I conduct a monthly meeting at my place with the help of the facilitators. We are more aware of our surroundings and I haven’t felt this productive in my entire life”.

The interventions under RAHA are leading to stronger social mobility and co-existence among the two population’s i.e. local Pakistani communities and the refugees.

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