Category Archives: Development and Poverty

Breaking the cycle

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By Zubeida Mustafa

PSYCHIATRISTS in Pakistan have been crying themselves hoarse about the rise of mental illness in the country. Ever since militants and religious extremists have unleashed their terror on the hapless population, the incidence of anxiety and depression has been on the rise. But these disorders are stigmatised and are not publicly discussed.

There is much talk about poor governance, corruption and even the falling level of tolerance in society but no one wants to mention the impact of these problems on the mental health of the people and how the latter’s attitudes and mindsets reinforce the conditions that gave birth to the problems in the first place.

  In an article in the New Internationalist Magazine, Samah Jabr, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Jerusalem, pointed out that worse than the 2,133 deaths, 11,000 injuries and the destruction of countless homes caused by Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza in July-August 2014 was the psychosocial damage inflicted by the war. She said, “the destruction of life at a physical and material level is also the destruction of a way of life, the destruction of a point of view: physical warfare brings with it psychological warfare”. She warned that violence will “beget an unending spiral of victimhood and revenge, of polarisation … [and] of further trans-generational trauma”.

Also read: Psychiatrists concerned about plight of IDPs

This is precisely what is happening in Pakistan. Most upsetting is the psychological warfare taking place and the ground has been softened for it by the ineptitude and corruption of successive governments. The destruction of our education system, moral Continue reading

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Assistive technology

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in 2006. Picture by ELIZABETH DALZIEL/AP (Photo Courtesy: www.npr.org)

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN a recent interview, Prof Stephen Hawking, the famous astrophysicist, said that the full development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. He added that technology would eventually become self-aware and supersede humanity, as it developed faster than biological evolution.

Prof Hawking who can be termed a rare miracle personifying courage, spirit and natural intelligence, is a beneficiary of modern communication technology. He suffers from motor neuron disease and according to the doctors’ prognosis should have died 50 years ago. He has not only defied those predictions but has led a productive life contributing to his field. Continue reading

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Teachers’ voices

clf2014

By Zubeida Mustafa

TEACHERS have been in the news recently as it is universally recognised that the quality of education and the learning output of children in any society depend preponderantly on teachers’ performance and academic standards.

Hence considerable improvement can be brought about only if we focus on the teachers on a priority basis. The Children’s Literature Festival has added a day for teachers since its Karachi session in February this year. Once again teachers got a day to themselves before the CLF opened in Lahore last week. Earlier, two reports titled The Voice of Teachers by Alif Ailaan and SAHE’s report on Teaching and Learning English in Sindh’s Schools Continue reading

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Worth of a life

parveen-rehman

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW much is a human life worth in Pakistan? Not more than peanuts, given the impunity with which people are being killed in this benighted country of ours. The state’s failure — or lack of will — to protect the life of its citizens is at the root of this tragedy.

In this context, I am reminded of two women — one dead, the other on death row. One was a dear friend. The other is a stranger whose community has been my benefactor. I owe my education to Christian missionaries who gave me knowledge and taught me, by example, to respect and be tolerant of all faiths.

Perween Rahman and Asiya Bibi have nothing in common except that they are symbols of our quest for justice and sanctity of life in a society that thrives on hate and violence. Continue reading

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Pakistan’s Youth: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

By Zubeida Mustafa

The so-called youth bulge in Pakistan has now become visible. One young woman making news around the world of late is 17-year-old Malala Yusufzai, who was named the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in early October.

Not that Pakistan has not been a young country for several decades. The country’s high population growth rate over the 1980s and 1990s means more than a quarter of the country’s population of 182 million today is between 15 and 29 years of age, which is how youth is defined by the United Nations. However, it is only in times of turbulence, as Pakistan is experiencing at present, that the youth’s presence has become pronounced. Two democratic elections in a row – in 2008 and 2013— have focused public attention on young voters.In the May 2013 general election it is said that about a third of the registered voters were under 29 (that worked out to 25 million in absolute numbers) and many of them would be casting ballots for the first time. The political parties took note, and all of them included plans for the youth in their election manifestos. Continue reading

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How Young Pakistanis Help Themselves

By Nudrat Kamal The challenges that Pakistan’s young people face today are significant and pervasive, and can be addressed only through sweeping systemic changes. Notwithstanding these challenges, many young people are defying great odds to become conscientious and engaged members … Continue reading

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Creating a Safe Haven for Pakistan’s Youth

By Nudrat Kamal

geust-contSohail Rahi, 44, and Nadeem Baig, 45, the duo who established the Lyari Youth Cafe in Karachi, Pakistan in 2012, were in their twenties when they first took up the cause of the youth in their neighborhood. In 1990, they began organizing street schools to make education accessible to the underprivileged boys and girls of Lyari. Two years ago, the idea of the street schools was developed further, and the Youth Café was launched.

When I visited them recently, we sat on the rooftop of the two-story building in the heart of the city’s bustling Lyari neighborhood that houses their brainchild. On one end of the roof is a small kitchen designed to provide free tea and coffee to visitors. The remaining area has small tables and chairs. On the floors below are makeshift desks where free classes are held for local children. The walls are covered with bright handmade posters proclaiming messages of peace and positivity Continue reading

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People’s power

By ZubeidaMustafa

THE buzzword these days is ‘empowerment’ and there is a lot of talk about empowering the people. The most vocal are political leaders who use the term randomly as a strategy to empower themselves politically.

True empowerment, however, envisages equipping people with tools they can use to achieve a decent life for themselves and their families which can be got through education, employment, healthcare, a roof above their heads and the sense of dignity they acquire when they do not have to be permanently dependent on others to sustain themselves. An example of how people are empowered pertains to the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust which was set up by Mr Mangi’s granddaughter Naween to draw out the innate capacity of the 3,500-strong community of Khairo Dero to uplift itself.

The main tools that have been identified by the trust for empowerment are education, literacy, healthcare, microcredit for income generation and building homes and getting water supply and sanitation on a self-help basis. The fact is that until the basic needs of a people are met and a sense of security provided to them, they cannot strive for higher goals. AHMMT works, as its vision statement says, with the aim of building a “model village that can be replicated”. Continue reading

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Nobel for Malala

By Zubeida Mustafa

EDUCATION, or rather the lack of it, in Pakistan has made world headlines on a number of occasions. Last week, the issue was once again in the limelight, but with a positive twist. Malala Yousafzai, our young campaigner for education, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala has done us proud as did Prof Abdus Salam 35 years ago when he became Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate (for physics).

Malala’s commitment to campaigning for girls’ education and her fearlessness in defying the Taliban have made her an icon. In spite of the danger to her life, she challenged the militants and their perverse mindset that led them to blow up hundreds of schools in the country. She has inspired many girls in Pakistan. Today, this inspiration is needed not so much to convince girls that education can empower them, as to instil the courage in them to resist the brutal opposition they face from vested anti-social elements, and not just the Taliban and their ilk. Continue reading

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Our own Berridales?

Image courtesy mcmom-ents.com

By Zubeida Mustafa

DEMOCRACY is a misunderstood term that has been overused in the discourse surrounding the ongoing political drama in Islamabad.

There have been repeated references to democracy and human rights by the dharna leaders and legislators in parliament, which have only increased myths about these political concepts. No one speaks about the empowerment of the people which should be the aim of democracy — to enable citizens to help themselves and win their rights. This idea appears alien to Pakistan. People’s empowerment is possible without actually bringing about a revolution.

Thousands of miles away from home, I find business to be as usual in Glasgow, a city at present in the grip of Scotland’s independence referendum debate. For me this was an opportunity to observe the Scottish way of life. Last Saturday, courtesy Irene, to whom I had been introduced earlier, I spent some time at the ‘Open Day’ of the Berridale Allotments and Gardens which is a project that can be emulated by us with due indigenisation to empower urban women. Continue reading

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