From Scotland to Pakistan: Kilcheran's COVID-19 micro-grant project story

From Scotland to Pakistan: Kilcheran's COVID-19 micro-grant project story


30th November 2020

Kilcheran and Kho & Kalashi are supporting isolated communities in Pakistan through skills-building and enterprise

Kilcheran is a Scotland-based social enterprise focused on innovation and sustainability. It works with its partner Kho & Kalashi, a woman-led co-operative in the Chitral region of Pakistan. Together they work to develop skills and sustainable income streams for remote communities in the area where women can face multiple challenges.

The Corra COVID-19 micro-grant was spent on:

  • PPE and communications for Kho & Kalashi co-ordinators, field volunteers and families in particular need.
  • Supporting public health and coronavirus awareness raising.
  • Seed funding income generation projects for women needle-workers.

Five neighbourhoods around Chitral town (Hone, Zargarandeh, Goldur, Singoor and Muldeh) were selected as priority areas, mainly due to levels of poverty and population density making them more at risk for viral transmission. Working with a local volunteer ‘champion’ in each neighbourhood, the team prepared coronavirus ‘toolkits’ of masks and soap, and rehearsed demonstration techniques of ‘coronavirus good practices’ based on government guidance. The toolkits and hygiene training were given to local families identified as most in need, reaching 1,613 people in June 2020.

The five volunteer champions and Kho & Kalashi staff worked on awareness-raising, including through in-person discussion and use of smart phone-based social media, sharing information on WhatsApp to disseminate health information more widely. The network of volunteers continue to help share health information, particularly of any cases in the area, and to circulate accurate guidance among communities.

The team also saw the need for masks as an opportunity to support the income generation side of the partnership’s work with women artisans in the area. In addition to outsourcing face mask production to women in the network, the partners have used the Corra micro-grant to launch a new embroidery product; ‘Kalbuki’ embroidered dolls. This is allowing the network to generate income which has been re-invested in future handicraft production.

Shehzadi in a Sustainable Community Development Forum with women embroiderers from Sor Rech village, Chitral region, August 2020. Photo credit: Adil Iqbal

This was particularly important as a large majority of the families affected by the pandemic were labourers and drivers who lost income as coronavirus restrictions were imposed. Kho & Kalashi engaged and trained 100 home based women embroiderers who were then able to generate an income during the height of the pandemic. As well as providing for their families, the embroidery work brought other positive impacts, in particular easing mental health and anxiety issues among the women artisans.

Husseina, an embroiderer from Chitral, commented,
“The coronavirus toolkit and embroidery order has been a blessing for my family… I was the sole earner during the lockdown and the income generated through the embroidery work enabled my children to continue their education.”

Another artisan, Sartaj, noted,
“The embroidery order from Kilcheran eased my depression, I was busy during the lockdown and was able to contribute towards our household income.”

The communities’ trust in the Kho & Kalashi co-operative has increased due to their engagement on coronavirus responses, and this has led to the potential for more income generation initiatives. Face mask production for domestic sale and embroidery products are providing a source of revenue for 100 women, and plans are underway to launch local soap production and an e-commerce site.

Fiona Macpherson, Director of Kilcheran, commented that the unrestricted nature of the Corra micro-grant meant it could be used innovatively for both prevention and also as investment in future resilience; she noted,
“Coronavirus can create havoc and fear or it can be turned on its head and create opportunity. We have chosen the latter. Thank you.”

The micro-grant reached 1,713 people – of these 460 were unemployed and 124 have severe health conditions.

The Kalbuki dolls, both Gulestan and Scottish Iona versions, are available for purchase.

Corra Foundation is working in partnership with the Scottish Government to administer and manage a number of the Scottish Government’s development assistance programmes to work with communities overseas. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Corra has also made a number of micro grants to organisations already known to Corra to support their partnership work overseas.

These stories were originally shared on the Corra Foundation’s website

Cover image credit: Nusrat, embroidering the Kalbuki doll order in Singoor village, Chitral region, 2020. Photo credit: Feroza Gulzar