The human touch

By Zubeida Mustafa

A SPARK has been lit in a 3,500-strong community living in the backwaters of Larkana district. Known as Khairo Dero, the place was the antithesis of what its name implies: it was one of the most depressed goths in the area. A turning point came in 2004. A young female journalist touring rural Sindh was deeply moved by the neglect and apathy she witnessed, especially in Khairo Dero, her ancestral village.

That was Naween Mangi, today the Pakistan bureau chief of Bloomberg, a premier American business and financial news channel. It took her four years to internalise the despondency of her people and think of a strategy to breathe new life into their existence. Thus she hoped to bring about the ‘silent revolution’ she had begun to dream of. Continue reading “The human touch”

Celebrating women’s leadership

By Zubeida Mustafa

The time has come to celebrate women’s leadership in Pakistan because so many of them are in that role to justify a memorable celebration. When I look back to the days when I entered professional life more than five decades ago, I remember that there were so few of us around that it could be quite a lonely spot to be in. Besides, with a few notable exceptions, there were few who could claim to be playing a leadership role. We were the followers until we found our bearings and gained confidence.

It was, however, realized even then that once the barriers are down women who are enterprising will inevitably refuse to hold themselves back and would proceed to seize the opportunity. And they did, with many of them rising to the top on the basis of merit.

In the middle decade of the last century, Pakistan’s statistics stated that only two per cent of the women were in the workforce. Among them the majority was in menial jobs. The picture has changed considerably today. The World Bank estimates that 28 per cent of the women in Pakistan are engaged in what economists  call productive labour. In absolute numbers this is a big jump, but nothing compared to many other countries. If in this scenario there are women in leadership positions it is something to be proud of. Continue reading “Celebrating women’s leadership”

Rethinking medium

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week there was something to celebrate — rare in these troubled times. One of our eminent scholars, Dr Tariq Rahman, dean of the School of Education at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, was awarded a DLitt degree by the University of Sheffield, UK, for his work on language, art, culture and social developments that was assessed to qualify him on merit for this honour. In Europe less than 1pc of faculty gets a DLitt in the social sciences.

This achievement should do Pakistan proud. Given the state of our education, any academic whose work wins recognition, especially internationally, deserves to be acknowledged. This should be treated as an occasion for us to revisit his work and scholarship.

It is also important for our policymakers and educationists to read some of Dr Rahman’s 18 books embodying his knowledge and research. They will realise where they have gone wrong. Dr Rahman is a prolific writer and his works are eye-openers especially regarding language in the educational, social, cultural and political context in Pakistan. Continue reading “Rethinking medium”

One year ago…

By Zubeida Mustafa

ON Thursday, March 13, it will be exactly a year to the day when a brutal killer snatched away from us a gentle, soft-spoken soul whose love for humanity was almost legendary.

Perween Rehman has been described as a caring, versatile development worker, a brilliant teacher, an architect who used her professional skills for the poor, an irreplaceable friend and an amazing woman who broke barriers from below. Above all, she was a woman of courage who defied her detractors.

It was after she was no more and the outpouring of grief wouldn’t cease that the world realised what it had lost and how many lives she had touched in the three decades of her professional association with the Orangi Pilot Project. She is still grievously missed. And there has been no closure for us — her family, friends and colleagues. Continue reading “One year ago…”

Battle of ideas

By Zubeida Mustafa

AS it has gathered steam, the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) — a unique event in Pakistan — has collected around itself a band of devoted supporters sharing the ideals of the founders. A key objective of the festival is to encourage children to read books so that they develop the faculty of critical thinking. Recently Karachi hosted the 11th CLF and on this occasion the question asked was what purpose books would serve in these testing times. Ahmad Shah, the president of the Karachi Arts Council, who generously opened up the KAC’s premises for the children of the city, had the answer.

The basic aim of education should be to change the mindset of people, he said. This can be done by promoting the reading of books — a habit which gives exposure to a variety of opinions and enlightens the readers in the process. Continue reading “Battle of ideas”