The selection of WAJ initial program areas was based on a region’s level of poverty, environmental degradation and willingness of rural communities to become partners of WAJ. The district Mansehra was selected as initial potential program area of WAJ because the main mission of the organization was sustainable development of communities with conservation of Natural Resources (NR) protection for economic, political and environmental wellbeing of the target area people.
Head office of WAJ is established in Abbottabad district on Nov, 2017; however WAJ is working with the community of district Mansehra and Battagram through its field offices. The head office co-ordinate the program implementation in the field with the help of these offices.
The program area is situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), with six districts of Hazara Division, namely, Abbottabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Battagram, Kohistan and Tourghar. The program area, being a mountainous region, is a difficult terrain. The rate of environmental degradation, primarily caused by the illegal and rapacious harvesting of its pine forests, is alarming. The population is gradually moving from the rural areas to urban and peri-urban centers. The area is seriously stricken by abject poverty due to its limited and fragile NR base; the accessibility to social services is significantly poor. Communities are therefore, generally socially and politically deprived and economically marginalized. In pure income terms most of them survive on less than per capita income of one US$ per day . The population is tribal, with a much-publicized tradition of patriarchal conservatism. The ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity in Hazara has made social mobilization and advocacy work of WAJ extremely challenging.
The target area has great potential for development with large human and NR base, however the existing geo-political and socio-economic environment is not congenial and the productivity is far below the existed potential. Most of target communities are of rural background with no awareness about the fundamental human rights.
Basic health, education and sanitation issues are very serious in this area. Girls and women are highly discriminated against in the field of formal education, technical education, reproductive health and overall economic independence. Environmental problems, particularly the problem of sewerage and sanitation, community wastes disposal, unsafe drinking water, etc are threatening to the poor.
Another important factor that helped the WAJ management conceived its establishment was the realization that most of past work done to address the issues related to development, gender mainstreaming, environmental up-gradation and poverty reduction in Pakistan has remained either academic or has only benefited a very limited part and portion of the society.’
Most of the past development initiatives had not been proved as effective as was expected, due to lack of real commitment of the relevant stakeholders form the uplifting of marginalized community, overall development and social change. We feel that positive social and economic change is possible only through meaningful and productive involvement of local community. While Pakistan does not have long tradition of civil society movement, there is huge gap between the government and CSO. WAJ believe that the dream of a more aware, skilled and vibrant society cannot be achieved in isolation or passive engagement of government and GLAs at the local level.