As a result of the security operations against non-state actors, over five million people were displaced in the northern region of the country. Several challenges emerged as a result, including damaged infrastructure and disruption of economic activity. 2008 saw the complete halt of all activity, in eight tribal agencies.
In 2015, with the shift from blanket operations to targeted ones, safe, voluntary, dignified, and assisted returns for the displaced families back to their areas of origin in the Newly Merged Districts (formerly known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas-FATA), were announced by the government. By 2019, almost 95 percent of the displaced families had returned home. Nevertheless, most of these areas lack basic social services and livelihood opportunities. Hence, in its true essence, life has still not returned to ‘normal’ for these people.
One such story is that of Shahnaz, a 32 years old widow and mother of seven children, belonging to one of the thousands of affected TDP families, who lost their house, possessions and source of livelihood upon return to Bara, Khyber Agency, FATA.
Being the breadwinner of the family, Shahnaz was distraught on not being able to provide for her children. There were a few local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who were working towards rehabilitating the TDPs. However, their resources, both human and financial, were extremely limited.
One such NGO, the Society for Human and Institutional Development (SHID), was a key support system working in Peshawar. Together with support from the United Nations Development Program Pakistan and FATA Secretariat, SHID helped 100 vulnerable families in the area, to revive livelihood activities and create new sources of income.
“I was very excited when I heard that UNDP and FATA Secretariat is providing cash grants and livelihood opportunities to the returning TDPs.” Shahnaz said.
A three days Business Management Skills Training (BMST) was organized for Shahnaz and 99 other females at village Akka Khel, Bara Khyber Agency. The participants of the training were provided basic understanding of business functions and parameters adapted to cater to local needs in simple Pashto language.
After receiving livelihood training and a cash grant of PKR 22,000, Shahnaz purchased a sewing machine, along with other necessary items, and established a small tailoring business inside her house.
She now successfully runs a small tailoring business and sells stitched dresses to the villagers. Her motivation coupled with financial support and a polished skill set, is now able to earn her a decent income to support her family's livelihoods, and with that, a decent chance at life.
Story by: Shahzad Ahmad, Communications Officer, Stabilisation and Development Programme, UNDP Pakistan