Category Archives: Population

Helping oneself

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week was World Humanitarian Day. It came as a simple reminder that the world is not a welcoming place any longer for a large number of people in countries beset with crises. Conditions have deteriorated to such an extent globally that the need for humanitarian help has been growing. Yet, at the same time, brutality against aid workers is also on the rise making them more vulnerable. In 2013 alone, 155 aid workers were killed and 134 kidnapped.

Why this need for humanitarian aid? The fact is that frequent emergencies are being created due to ever-increasing conflict and also natural disasters — many of them manmade — such as floods and droughts. Pakistan has experienced these in abundance in recent times. We seem to be living from crisis to crisis. Such an abnormal pattern of existence pre-empts economic and social development and growth while whatever progress had been achieved in the preceding period has been undone. Continue reading Helping oneself

The media’s role

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week the Indus Resource Centre (IRC) and the Sindh Education Foundation held a joint consultative roundtable — the second such event in a series — to study the impact of the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2013.

The project funded by UKAID and DAI Europe seeks to mobilise schoolchildren to create a visible demand for education.

This consultative process has proved to be an instructive exercise and holds great promise, provided the IRC’s strategy remains judicious and does not succumb to ill-considered demands by the financiers. Ideally, education projects should be indigenously funded to ensure local discretion to determine strategy. But this is not always possible given resource constraints.

Initially, the IRC held a baseline survey in eight districts of Sindh. Called ‘It’s my right, make it happen’, the survey found that barely 2pc of the respondents knew about the right to education (RTE) law. Even the functionaries of the education department lacked awareness of the act passed in February 2013. Continue reading The media’s role

A basic truth

By Zubeida Mustafa

IF there is a basic truth we still have to learn with regard to improving the lives of people it is that development can take place only when a holistic and integrated approach is adopted. It is not possible to concentrate on only one aspect of people’s socio-economic lives and expect poverty to be eliminated and growth to take place uniformly.

It would be pertinent to study the approach of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, a think tank working on strategies to address poverty issues.

The OPHDI emphasises that poverty is more than a lack of income. It is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. Even if a person is earning a reasonable amount, he may not be able to improve his life if health and education facilities are skewed in favour of the very wealthy. Violence is another factor which affects people unequally and its impact on the poor is greater. The OPHDI cites a UNDP study to point out that “successful countries have addressed different deprivations together”. Continue reading A basic truth

Who shapes health policies?

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN a country where policies are formulated in an ad hoc fashion and are designed to promote the interests of a vested class rather than of the people as a whole, it is creditable that there are researchers trying to inject some rationality into the decision-making process.

That is how I see the move by the Research and Development Solutions, an organisation working on collecting information, analysing it and sharing it with concerned parties. ResDev’s focus is on health, specifically maternal and reproductive health and immunisation. Above all, the research is done professionally under the director Dr Adnan Khan.

And who would deny that our health policy making leaves a lot to be desired? With a measly 0.7pc of GDP being assigned for the health sector in the official budget, Pakistanis end up incurring the heaviest out-of-pocket expenditure on health in South Asia. It does leave one wondering as to how policies are made.

ResDev’s latest research promises to be an innovative one and might prove to be very revealing as well. Continue reading Who shapes health policies?

Manifestos and population

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN the ongoing violence-stricken election campaign there is a lot of talk about the economy and how that needs to be fixed to improve people’s lives. The political parties in the fray have apparently come to realise that public discontent focuses on the rising level of unemployment, spiralling inflation and growing poverty.

Hence the candidates have responded to popular concerns by making promises that offer the people a heaven on earth. The party manifestos are full of populist rhetoric meant to appease the voters. Those who understand the flaws in the official system and know that structural changes are needed to rectify the wrongs can see through the hollow pledges being made and the inadequacy of the approach adopted. It is therefore not strange that all parties shy away from specifics, and strategies in various sectors are not even defined. Continue reading Manifestos and population

Vote banks of the starving

By Zubeida Mustafa

ELECTIONS are round the corner and as the candidates head for the hustings it is time they focused on the issues which will make or break the country.

The least talked-about problem and yet the one which poses a grave threat to our existence is population explosion. Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world, is on its way to becoming the fifth most populous state.

Demographers say if we continue to neglect the family planning sector we will have 342 million mouths to feed in 2050. Continue reading Vote banks of the starving

“I have a problem, Baji”

By Zubeida Mustafa

Yasmin has five children and she is just 27 years of age and has been married for nine years. The youngest son was born in July last year and was unplanned. In fact Yasmin had been quite happy with the one boy and three girls she already had.

When she came to me to break the news, she just said, “Baji, I have a problem.” These words captured succinctly the failure of the population planning programme in Pakistan. How else would you put it when a woman is saddled with an unwanted pregnancy, besides poverty and lack of education? Continue reading “I have a problem, Baji”

Zubeida Mustafa: Fighting for the Women and Children of Pakistan

In the 33-year history of the Global Media Awards program, the Population Institute has recognized dozens of professional journalists for their coverage of family planning and reproductive health care issues. Many of them have gone on to have highly successful careers, based in part upon their continued coverage of population-related issues. One of those journalists is Zubeida Mustafa, a Pakistani journalist who retired after more than 30 years of work in 2008 as the Assistant Editor at DAWN, one of Pakistan’s most respected publications and the country’s largest English-language newspaper. She won Global Media Awards for her individual reporting in 1986 and in 2004.
Continue reading Zubeida Mustafa: Fighting for the Women and Children of Pakistan

Our population time bomb

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN’S Population Census Organisation’s website has a population clock on the home page which gave the country’s population as 179,850,379 on Tuesday — an average increase of 9,700 every day.

According to the National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS), Islamabad, the country’s population was 133.3 million in 1998 when the last census was held. This comes to a whopping increase of 34.8 per cent in 13 years (2.6 per cent per annum) which surprisingly has gone unnoticed. In effect we have slipped down from the two per cent (NIPS) or 1.8 per cent (World Bank) figure we were given as the growth rate for 2010. Continue reading Our population time bomb

Empowering Pakistani Women through Education and Family Planning

Source: The WIP

A happy family: Zahoora with husband Rahib Ali and three children at their ‘Safe Space’. Photograph courtesy of the Indus Resource Centre.

Empowerment is opening up new spaces for personal development for women in Pakistan. As opportunities for education come within their reach women are learning how to upgrade their lives. This has brought the realization that a big family may not be a blessing, and can actually handicap women. This is a big leap from where women were a few years ago, when motherhood was widely regarded as a status symbol. The more male children women had the more respect they could command. Sons brought a sense of security as they consolidated a woman’s position in the household and ensured that a second wife would not displace her.
As women become empowered through education and work, some are opting for small families.
Continue reading Empowering Pakistani Women through Education and Family Planning