The story of how ActionAid Pakistan, together with local partner Asthan Latif Welfare Society, raised awareness on the subject of tax is also a story of how change begins at the local level.
This project led to the mobilisation of local people claiming something in return for their tax payments - namely education.
In Pakistan we held community meetings in ten villages in the Thatta district to raise awareness about the right to education and tax justice.
These meetings focused on the links between those two issues, highlighting that education is a right and is funded through the collection of taxes. Through these meetings, our team reached over 300 community members. Ten school appraisal meetings were held to assess the quality of education facilities in Thatta. A range of issues were highlighted by participants; including overcrowded classrooms, a lack of safe drinking water and damaged school buildings.
A project participant said:
“We never ever thought before about taxes, but thanks to this project about tax and indirect tax, we understand well and know we will get our rights.”
The school appraisal meetings were attended by 185 school management committee members and community members. We followed up these meetings by supporting the development of improvement plans in 20 schools.
By training no less than 200 school management committee members on how to develop effective improvement plans, the sustainability of the project was ensured as well as empowering the community to own the ongoing project and its results.
Those who received training went back to their communities, spread their knowledge and engaged even more men and women about tax and public services.
One participant at the training was able to help community members understand how much they paid in tax and how little they got in return. When several participants told him that they do not pay any tax due to low income, he showed them a cigarette pack and pointed out the sales tax written on it.
He explained that there is a 25% sales tax on every tobacco product and a slightly lower rate on most other products. On this basis they started calculating the amount of tax paid and found that the community, consisting of 680 families, pays around US$300,000 in indirect taxes each year.
This motivated the community to approach a local politician and demand their right to an education in a safe environment. The local school had needed repairing for some time, and students had been injured due to the unsafe construction. In the end, the local government approved US$16,244 for repairing the school so that children could be educated in a safe building.
Now that local people are aware of the taxes they pay and the link to public services, they are much better equipped to claim their rights to education.
The work on “Tax, Privatisation and the Right to Education: influencing education financing policy” was initiated in 2016 by ActionAid Pakistan and Asthan Latif Welfare Society with funding from private donors.