Category Archives: Women

Teacher in exile

By Zubeida Mustafa

bernadette

Bernadette Dean

CAN we hope to hear news from Pakistan that brings some light to the end of the tunnel? It is a red-letter day when we do and one such day came recently when I read about a group of creative artists who have shown the courage to counter Pakistan’s biggest existential challenge — the indoctrination of youth by religious extremists and militants.

These artists have ventured to produce rational literature which they are disseminating among young readers to inspire some soul-searching within them. The graphic novel titled Pasban is designed to encourage the readers to ask questions on basic issues of the day and help them seek sensible answers.

This no doubt will be an uphill task considering the government’s own failure to counter the extremist threat. All it was required to do was to introduce liberal values through curricula reforms. The primary need is to teach children tolerance and Continue reading

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Justice in Pakistan: Unmasking Perween Rahman’s Killers

Perween Rahman Poster from the website PerweenRahman.wordpress.com. Photograph courtesy of Aquila Ismail.

by Zubeida Mustafa
-Pakistan-

The “weakness of women”, widely believed to be a natural phenomenon, is actually a myth. Women are resilient and there are many cases where “woman power” won the day because women fighting for a cause refused to back off.

The valiant social activist Perween Rahman was gunned down two years ago in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi. Perween was the director of the Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute, in which capacity she was working to improve the life of the poor. An architect by training, she shunned thirty years ago the opportunity to make a successful corporate career. After joining an architectural firm, soon after her graduation, she said to herself,” I do not want to spend my life building palaces for the rich. I’d rather build homes for the poor.” And that is what brought her to the OPP, at the time the recent creation of its founder Dr Akhter Hameed Khan. And she did exactly what she wanted to do, help the poor build shelters for themselves at affordable prices. She went on to do much more – show the poor how they could live with dignity and self esteem. In the process, Perween instilled confidence in the people she worked for – both men and women – and empowered them. Such was her charisma and the magic of her personal humanism. Continue reading

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Effects of nutrition on educational standards of school children of a developing country

By Zubeida Mustafa 

In the age of specialization we have become so focused on specific areas and issues that we fail to take a holistic approach to problems. The fact is that human life comprises several integrated sectors. The impact of one on another is profound and symbiotic. Hence effective solutions to various problems call for a comprehensive strategy. Here I shall take up two very important areas of a child’s life that are closely interrelated though they are not treated as such by the policymakers. They are education and nutrition.
Both of these pose a major challenge to the people as well as the authorities in Third World countries. While education requires the government to provide facilities to enable children to enroll in school to study, nutrition is related to the health of a child without which education can prove to be a daunting task. A child who falls ill frequently has a high incidence of school absenteeism. That affects his education because irregularity in attendance causes her to miss her lessons and lowers her standards. While this is a phenomenon that is pretty visible, there is an insidious feature of children’s health that has an impact on education which does not find general mention in literature on paediatric health or education issues.
This is the impact malnutrition and various deficiencies make on the cognitive and mental growth and development of a child. It actually affects her intelligence, memory and capacity to learn. While the side-effects of the deficiency of various vitamins and iodine on the physical health of children have been documented not much is known generally about the impact of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency on the intelligence and mental capacities of a child.
This is significant considering the widespread prevalence of malnutrition in Pakistan. According to the National Nutrition Survey (2011) nearly 43.7 percent of all children under five years of age in Pakistan are severely or moderately stunted. The same survey found 15.1 percent under-5 suffered from wasting and 31.5 percent were underweight.1 There is a lot of regional disparity in and within the provinces. Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Archive Edition, Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Health, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, Women |

Insecure rights

Sabeen Mahmud (Photo credit @almaspk)

By Zubeida Mustafa

A WEEK before Sabeen Mahmud, the ever-smiling ‘active’ human rights activist was gunned down in Karachi, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan launched its annual State of Human Rights report for 2014.

It is widely believed that Sabeen’s decision to host a seminar on Balochistan invited a terrible retribution from the powers-that-be. It is indeed saddening that this staunch defender of all the rights covered by the HRCP report is no more amongst us to act as society’s conscience to remind us that each of us becomes an abettor when the state violates any right the citizen is entitled to and we remain silent onlookers. Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Balochistan, Children and Youth, Constitution, Culture and the Arts, Development and Poverty, Education, Environment, Health, Housing, Human Rights, Justice, Labour, Law & Order, Notable Personalities, Perween Rahman, Politics, Social Issues, Women |

Education disaster

Credit: UNESCO/Amina Sayeed

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE story goes back to the year 2000 when 1,100 participants from 164 countries assembled in Dakar (Senegal) for the World Education Forum.

The Dakar moot set for itself the goal of ‘Education for All’ and underpinned it with six specific targets to be achieved by 2015. Unesco stepped forward to monitor progress on these goals annually.

Thus an independent team was constituted and the Global Monitoring Report was born. GMR 2015 was launched last week and summed up the achievements of countries in the education sector. Continue reading

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NA-246: bye-‘by?

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contWILL the bye-election in Karachi’s NA-246 yield a significantly different result from the one last obtained? Already there are signs of using any changes further to impugn the conduct of the national elections of 2013 and psychologically underwrite Imran’s allegations. And what does Imran Khan have to say when he stops ranting about electoral fraud and corruption and intimidation? Well the party is having a try at talking about liberating the ladies and caring for the street-child. If PTI is thinking of reaching hearts and minds in Karachi NA-264 the new tack needs a different pitch.

The ladies in Karachi’s constituencies (even when Burqa clad) are formidably liberated or else entirely articulate about the need thereof. Street-children – ah yes – that is a good note – they should be state-children the party powerful were saying in Peshawar. Ought Karachi’s voters to assume the state just arrived in the PTI-governed KP hasn’t had a chance to get cracking? But street children PTI went on to elaborate Continue reading

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Justice for Perween

Perween

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE  text message is still saved in my mobile phone. It was sent at 9.30 am on Wednesday March 13, 2013. It was signed “Thanks n Cheers PR”. That was the last time I heard from Perween Rahman, director of the OPP-RTI

For years she had made it a habit when in Karachi to read my column in the morning when it appeared in this paper and would send a comment by sms/email or call me up for a brief chat on her way to work. On that fateful day in 2013, less than 12 hours later, she was dead. The following week I wrote, ‘Rest in peace little sister’.

Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Human Rights, Justice, Notable Personalities, Perween Rahman, Water, Women |

60% of women still oppressed

women-power

As part of Why Are We Still Here?, a series of 12 blogs written by women around the world to mark International Women’s Day, Zubeida Mustafa reflects on the need for two strands of women to unite in Pakistan’s women’s rights movement.

I became a feminist when I was five. My brother who is a year younger than me had snatched my favourite doll. I tried to retrieve it but failed.  The drama ended when the doll lay mauled up as I sobbed uncontrollably at the destruction of my precious possession. When the tears had dried I learned that more than physical strength you need wits and courage to get what you think is yours. Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Education, Human Rights, Perween Rahman, Social Issues, Women |

Shattered dreams

population

By Zubeida Mustafa

A FEW years ago, when the army operation took place in Swat and many families were displaced, I went to Baldia in Karachi to meet some of them. There I was introduced to a man who told me that he had 19 children. He had two wives. I was awestruck by his virility.

He may have been an exception. But we should not underestimate the reproductive capacity of Pakistanis. According to the Population Council in Islamabad, in 2012 Pakistan had nine million pregnancies of which 4.2m were unintended. Of these 2.25m ended in induced abortions. In other words, over six million babies were born that year. Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Health, Human Rights, Population, Social Issues, Women |

The neuter gender

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contTHE Pakistani woman: can she be defined? For that matter can the Pakistani male? Somehow we don’t think that much about defining the Pakistani male – its women are so much more interesting! Pakistani society is stratified and its cultures mixed; yet its male value stereotype is almost constant. Feudal lordling or serf, bureaucratic grandee or babu, urban or rural, whatever the income bracket or professional tag or social exposure, men are convinced they know better than their women – whether they indulge them or control them. They retain the right to intervene be it as wise men or tyrants.

But the Pakistani woman’s attitude to the male in her orbit varies dramatically depending osocial standing. The plane of stratification and the cultural mix make an enormous difference to her mental attitudes and responses. One could say that women are still evolving and the men have evolved – which is a polite way of saying that they are Continue reading

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