Will Sindh change?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

IT is inspiring to see ripples of awakening run through people who have been downtrodden and oppressed for centuries. The first time I had this experience vis-à-vis Sindh was way back in 1985 when I travelled to Tharparkar.

I met a doctor, Hussein Bux, in a village called Tando Kolachi in Mirpurkhas. After having graduated from Liaquat Medical College, Hyderabad, he had returned home and was working to introduce the process of change in his village. He had even set up a library there which to my bibliophile instinct was the ultimate sign of enlightenment.

The reading room project excited me so much that for a year I mailed copies of Dawn to Dr Bux though I never heard from him again. I still wonder how many people in that goth would have read an English-language newspaper! I don’t know whether the good doctor managed to change the life of his community. But it is heartening to see that this spirit lives on, it being a different matter whether change will actually come.

Take the case of the two remarkable women I met when the Women Action Forum’s Hyderabad chapter was launched in 2009. Amar Sindhu and Arfana Mallah, who teach at Jamshoro, have been waging a tireless battle against the evil practices that have become so familiar to us — karo kari, jirgas, violence against women, etc. The duo have travelled on foot, by bus and in Amar’s little car to reach out to women all over the province. They have had to suffer for sticking their necks out too far but they are making an impact.

Only recently I met two women who were in Karachi to sign agreements with the Sindh Education Foundation which has launched public-private programmes, the latest being the Integrated Education Learning Programme. Parveen Siddique (of Aurat Welfare Organisation, Nawabshah) and Siddiqa Muzaffar (of Nari Welfare Organisation, Tando Allahyar) had travelled to Karachi to consolidate their educational projects. That means some stirring is taking place in regions that were considered to be backwaters. These women are optimistic about enrolling hundreds of girls and boys in their upcoming schools. They informed me that women have now started speaking up against some of the retrogressive customs that victimise them. Many are set to break the shackles that have bound them for centuries.

A testimony to the Sindh awakening is the village of Khairo Dero (Larkana district) where the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust under the dedicated supervision of Naween Mangi is working to change lives. After an initial period of unresponsiveness, there has been a breakthrough. The Citizens Foundation school in the village has 180 children on its rolls, the maximum it can accommodate. Naween says more wanted to join but the school’s capacity is limited.

More success stories come from Sadiqa Salahuddin, the enterprising director of the Indus Resource Centre (IRC) which now runs 130 schools in the province where 408 teachers are employed to teach 10,322 children, more than half of them girls. With women emerging at the forefront, it is understandable that the focus is on them. The IRC recently conducted a baseline study on Reproductive Health through Girls’ Education. Its objective was to develop an integrated model for female education. A participatory methodology was adopted with trained core teams holding 161 focus group discussions to collect qualitative data. What were their findings?

Awareness now exists among the people, even women. But there is a flip side. The same women who display so much awareness also express despondency. They feel they can do little to help themselves despite being equipped with knowledge: poverty ties their hands.

Take the cases of health, education, marriage and birth control. The level of awareness shown by the people, both men and women, is striking. It seems the right message has found its way even into the remote rural areas. All the women who participated in the survey stressed the importance of health and linked good health to sanitation and nutrition. They could also understand the correlation between health and happiness and between health and education.

Likewise the women’s information on maternal health and the importance of spacing of pregnancies for the health of mothers was remarkable. Years of awareness-raising campaigns have paid dividends. The age of marriage has gone up as the number of children has come down somewhat. Education is described as the “source of light”.

But the survey also makes one sad. The underlying thread running through the dialogues was that poverty was a millstone that bogged down people and they could not achieve what they knew was good for them. The sense of deprivation was acute. As one woman succinctly put it, “How would we know the connection between education and good health? We have neither.”

But worst still was the low status of women and a distorted sense of family honour and other myths related to religion that actually obstruct change. Women have no say in decision-making. Girls are not consulted in the selection of their marriage partners. Violence against women is rampant. If women do not retaliate it is because they are not empowered.

But change is inevitable because the process of awakening cannot be reversed. The power structure is bound to crack and then there will be no going back. But what the future direction will be is difficult to say.

16 thoughts on “Will Sindh change?

  1. Sindh's major issue is feudalism and it is so ingrained in our society that the so called literate people of our society are inspired by them. Pseudo intellectualls of Sindh are more dangerous than the feudal lords because they are educated and know the art of soft spoken language. The new trend to form an NGO, collect funds from inside and outside and use these funds for personal benefits. I have worked in Thar desert for more than 5 years and I witnessed that so called custodians of Tharis the NGOs have branches in all over Thar but only for the name sake and they have dig one well or school on papers etc. The owners of NGOs have maintained good record of their expenditure in order to show their innocence in the case of audit. I must say NGOs just recreational club of educated cronies. I can give you so many example of NGO owner who were poor before joining NGO but became affulent after the functioning of NGO.__(i) Rroviding education is the only way to progress.__(ii) Land reforms can put on the road of open society and prosperity.__So more concentration be given to the tool which could bring some change.__NGO people are good for cosmetic appearance on TV talk shows.______

    1. . You may have had a bad experience with the NGOs in Thar. Since I don't know which ones you are referring to I will not dispute your charges. But I can assure you that the ones I write about are making some changes in the lives of people even though a small number given the magnitude of the problem. (I have been observing their work and also their economic status — none of them has become affluent!) . As you so rightly say that people must be provided tools to better themselves, all the organisations and individuals mentioned here are doing exactly that. They are into education or creating awareness. I don't expect them to do what our Parliament is not doing — that is introduce land reforms. It was again an NGO, PILER, that got some villagers in Sindh rights to the lands they had been living on for decades when they were in danger of being dispossessed by the feudals.

  2. Your article inspired me. Specially when, just a few hours back, I heard somebody cuss everything Pakistani. Rounding off things as in pari delicto is inappropriate. There’s always light, the source of which happen to be those who choose to light a candle instead of cursing the dark.

  3. I think Sindh's educational problem is way beyond mere enrollments. For last two decades we are facing an educational system which is dysfunctional. Schools and enrolled kids can be found even in the most remote areas of Sindh but whether they are being educated or not is the concern. If you had any experience of exams, you would have changed the title of your work…I have seen father giving exams on son's place…no one attempts his exams by himself… and I really mean no one…. even if that is not sufficient, grades are sold in Boards…and its shameful to confess that I passed my school and college exams in the same manner…Regarding NGO's, your experience might be the exceptional but majority of them are even worst than what Aamir shared…and I have no doubt in saying that NGO's will be the main culprit of delaying any change that our education requires. NGO's have given us a false belief that change is occurring, which is more dangerous than if we knew that nothing is happening.

    1. The problem with rotten apples is that the good ones also get dubbed as rotten when they may be perfect. I do not dispute the fact that there are NGOs that are rotten to the core. But that doesn't mean that each and everyone is like that. I would like to ask you and Aamir is "what have you done (even in a very small way) for the people of Sindh especially the women?" I know that there is a lot to be done. I also know that the government is not doing much. In this bleak situation if someone is doing something why should you want to push this person back, for whatever reason. And I don't understand your statement "NGO's will be the main culprit of delaying any change that our education requires. NGO's have given us a false belief that change is occurring, which is more dangerous than if we knew that nothing is happening". If you believe that this awareness and consciousness that I write about is hurting Sindh, I would not be wrong in believing that you want these people (especially women) to remain oppressed for ever. After all there is no body else doing anything.

  4. This is a question that a few million real Sindhis have been asking for many years now. I have no connection to the land except that my parents were born and brought up there (as were their previous generations). I mean no malice, but Sindh cannot change for the better any more. It is stolen land and the people living there have no value for it.

    1. When you say you have "no connection" to the land, how can you level charges against any one. I have known Sindhis from India who have visited Sindh just to see the land of their forefathers. I met them in Mumbai when I went there for the World Social Forum. They welcomed us with open arms and it was so touching. Many Sindhis from India have been visiting Pakistan and I have played host to a number of them by showing them around. Why don't you come and visit us here. The people of Sindh are as friendly as ever. If there is poverty here, you know the factors well, as there is poverty in other countries.

  5. Education is the most crucial thread. If we can somehow fix that on all levels: primary/secondary/higher — then we have a pretty good chance of unravelling the whole convolution of problems.

    I am generally optimistic, but current pace of change is frustrating.

  6. I have read your article and not only inspired but agree to your perception that there is an awareness and people in Sindh have started telling themselves that they also have a responsibility to contribute for a change.
    We are managing a School in the suburbs of Karachi in Khamiso Goth/Hammal Goth 20km off Superhighway (I firmly believe that the area is economically one of the worst I have seen) and am confident that very soon these very poor people will also understand that they will be better-off
    Once educated.
    However my experiences so far also make me depressed some times that the people who can contribute or who have the capacity to cooperate with us are very indifferent towards their own area or locality they live. This is probably because of lack of the inspiration required through the local leadership which is absolutely silent and careless.
    . .
    Shariq Vohra

  7. During the last several decades we have been living in a country which has gone from bad to worst not only economically but also the self esteem of the masses is eroding not o Also I would like to share my views on the financial support required from the Society for the development of quality education in Sindh. We as a family comprirising of my Brother, Sisters and my married daughters resolved sometimes back to start N>G>organizations which are not funded by any group or agency which do not have any stake in this country. The reason behind this thought is also to motivate the people of our own country to support fellow beings Vis a Vis the impact of the burden of foreign debts what ever way these funds come and the cultural and religious conditional ties these funds carrynly because of the dictators but also due to our attitude of accepting charity at all costs

  8. Sindh will change only when it will get private A-O level schools and hospital at Taluka level because sindhis loose millions daily due to improper health and education.


  9. I think the province has already changed. Its local commerce, entrepreneurs, academics and the middle class have come of age. Increasingly they are controlling the economy, media, academic institutions, cultural events and trends, and the bureaucracy. They are of both genders. Your concerns need the promotion of new societal values. This is not happening and the changes that are taking place (and they are big changes in gender relations and family structures in the classes mentioned above) are becuse of changing lifestyles and pragmatism. Today Sindh is not the province I knew when I began work in the late 60s' and early 70s'. Its main problems today are related to the absence of skilled labour in the Sindhi/Saraiki/Brohi/Balochi speaking population. The other problem is that landless labour and the lower castes are not a part of the change that has taken place. But their awareness is growing and increasingly they (both men and women) will demonstrate and organise for their rights. For them it will be a very slow and painful process. The feudal order in Sindh can no longer fulfill the functions that the colonial state had assigned to it. The real crisis, both in socio-economic and political terms, is that a new social contract has not yet emerged. Then, there is the issue of Karachi and how its demography and economic power skews political relationships and makes a transition to a new social order difficult. If the Karachi and the rest of Sindh relationship can be managed in the larger interests of the province and its future, on the basis of some ethical considerations , the consolidation of change both in Karachi and the rest of Sindh will be much faster and more equitable. However, this will still not improve the lot of the landless labour and lower castes.

    I think we need to discuss these issues with facts and figures and also understand the actors and factors of change. So far all discussion has been rhetorical, in support of one constituency or the other, or it is based on the limited vision of NGO and/or international project experiences

    1. Why don't you provide the facts and figures as you have them. Besides you say that awareness has come but it has not been translated into change on the ground. Awareness is the first step.If things do not change in an organised manner, there will be frustration. The impact of this frustration will not be positive.If those who can manage change understand the importance of organised change and they respond to this need they can avoid chaos.

  10. This is to thank and acknowledge your kind words of appreciation regarding our work in Tando Kolachi & Tharparkar for the Community development and social change in your highly important article in the current scenario of Sindh. I am presently Chairman, Department of Community Medicine & Public Health Sciences at Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences, Jamshoro, along with teaching I am engaged in medical & relief work in flood affected areas on the instruction of worthy Vice Chancellor, LUMHS, Jamshoro Professor Noshad Ahmed Shaikh. We helped over 175000 flood victims and provided preventive and curative care. We also arranged shelter and stay of 10000 flood IDPs on the campus land. Still we are holding free medical camps and village Unarpur near Jamshoro has been selected for water and sanitation project as a model village.
    Tando Kolachi which is my native village in District Mirpurkhas, has been moving point for change since 1981 where Kacha structure primary school for girls and boys has been converted in full fledged higher secondary school and in June 2011 matric and intermediate examination, over 100 girls and 400 boys took their examination. All belonging to the small and scattered villages around Tando Kolachi. Gothari Aurat Tanzeem, Goth Sudhar Sangat and Banh Beli are NGO’s working in Tando Kolachi, which the focus of the Banh Beli is in Tharparkar. I am sure that their will be change in Sindh and rural & urban areas will work in harmony, prosperity and peace will spread in Sindh and Pakistan. Mr. Javed Jabbar, ex senator and Federal minister is regularly visiting as founding president of Banh Beli my village Tando Kolachi and Tharparkar & development programs are promoted and accelerated.

    A tradition set in 1985 when you accompanied the Family Planning Association of Pakistan's team and visited Tando Kolachi and Tharparkar and felt the wind of change in Sindh. I reiterate that the wind is still blowing and is moving towards shining future of Sindh and Pakistan.

  11. People Need to Question their Elected Reps.

    Pakistan is large country and multidimenssional .People and the state are two parralell entities.State/Govts doesnt know how to handle the current crisis like situation and the people are so careless that they dont question their leadership.This situation is alrming and can only be handled if the people through education attains a maturity level and start electing thier reps who are accessible to them. Sindh of all the other provinces is slow and a vibrant leadership is required

  12. Really in this way we will understand our real problems and find their solutionthrough such discussions. Avoiding blames and charges but focusing on solutions is important.. Still there is need of collective thinking. Individually we are working well to some extent. Hope for the best.

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