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Poverty stricken women turn to beggary

By Staff Reporter

Prior to the lockdown, 40 year old widow Shabana was able to feed her family twice a day by working as a domestic worker. But when the pandemic descended upon the city, her employers closed their doors in her face, fearing that she would expose their families to the virus, ultimately depriving her of a livelihood. Even now, as Shabana begs for alms on Saddar’s pavements, to protect her children from starvation, she hopes to be able to return to a life of respectable labor.

“No one is willing to let me work in their home, even though I am utterly desperate,” she said. “Before, I was able to make ends meet, but now there is no work for me and I have to sit here and beg. I do not have a husband (to provide for us), so who will feed the children?”

Jamila has also suffered a similar fate. Once able to provide for her family as a domestic worker, she is now forced to take to the streets and plead for charity from people.

“I used to work in people’s homes but they tossed me out due to the virus. I have been forced onto the roads, what can I possibly do?” she asks through tears. “I have capable girls and boys who used to earn through labor, even they cannot find any work. We have no water, no ration – we are at God’s mercy now.”

Gulshan, also a widow, is among those grossly affected by the lockdown situation. She used to make a living for herself and her four children selling dandasa (neem tree bark) and hair combs at Peshawar’s bustling Fawwara (fountain) Chowk, but now her circumstances are no different than those of Shabana and Jamila.

They are not professional beggars, they claim, and would happily choose hard labor in order to provide for their families, but in the current scenario, it seems very unlikely that after the devastation in the economy by the seven week-long lockdowns, they will be afforded an opportunity to work again. Right now, their only recourse to hope for any change is to implore with the government to take concrete steps to facilitate poverty-stricken women.