Waking up in the dead of the night for a field visit felta little unusual but at the same time offered a break from the routine. We then started our six hour journey to Layyah as a party of four, each one with a separate agenda on our minds.
The road to Layyah is afascinating one. The small town is located at the far end of Punjab; hence, one gets to see the landscape changing with every few kilometers.Upon reaching Layyah, we met with the head of volunteers who took us to the center where the rest of the volunteers were receiving final words of advice on the task at hand. I could tell that the volunteers were ready and eager to get to action, as several hands went up in the air when I asked if I could interview a few of them.
Khalida: the lady of the group, Rashid: a teenager, Shoaib: one responsible looking shy guy, and Mujahid: who had returned for his second round of ASER. While they had a lot to share; two anecdotes in particular stuck with me. The first one came from Tahira who shared her story of breaking through the stereotypical role of being a homemaker. Tahira had faced opposition at home when she had first announced that she wanted to work. What blew me away was the fact that she refused to back down and dealt with it ever so gracefully. She won her mother-in-law’s support by involving her in her work. Tahira’s story was a reminder for me that what a beautiful blessing it is to be a woman, and it gets even better if you choose to be a strong woman.
The second anecdote came from Mujahid who had first conducted the ASER survey back in 2012. Upon returning to conduct the survey this year, he was able to draw a brilliant comparison for us of how the ASER survey has evolved over the last three years.
By the time I had completed my interviews, it was time for us to leave for the field. We only stayed long enough to see our volunteers conduct the ASER survey at one school and one household. Both times, it was heartwarming to see the female volunteers taking the lead in the group. Based on my observation from Layyah, it would be just to say that ASER 2015 is in the hands of well-prepared and motivated volunteers.