IRC in Print Media

Geo television launches national quiz show for students


Published in The News, November 06, 2012
Geo Television network along with a multinational has launched a national quiz show for students from grades 10 to 12 to engage them in an intellectually stimulating activity.
Phase-I of the selection process which involves registering online has been completed. The second phase will require students to take an online test. A set of 80 students will be selected for the final contest and the winner of the grand finale will receive a scholarship worth Rs1,800,000.
The show titled ‘LG one school, one library’ will be aired on Geo Television at 6:00 pm every Sunday.The show’s launch ceremony held at a local hotel on Monday was attended by renowned educationists and journalists.
Speaking on the occasion, Geo Television Network President Imran Aslam said, “We would like to urge the educational institutes to treat the show as a growth platform for their students. We hope that all educational institutions in the country will send in their students to be a part of the unique show.”
SadiqaSalahuddin, founder of the Indus Resource Centre, spoke about her visit to a school in interior Sindh. “During a visit to a government school in a village we found piles of old books after opening the door’s lock. When I asked the head master what to do with the books, he pointed towards a hole in the ground, suggesting we dump them there,” she said.
Abbas Hussain, director of Teachers’ Resource Centre, shared a similar incident from his visit to Ghotki. “We went to a school where there were no teachers and no students. I asked the gatekeeper where the students were. And he replied since there were no teachers, no students came. Meanwhile, a teacher defended his profession by saying that students don’t attend classes so in return the teachers don’t bother showing up either.
He called it a case “which suited everyone”. Commenting on the quiz show, Mr D Y Kim of LG Electronics said: “This is a unique programme where students can showcase their talent on national television. Through this programme we aim to offer students a platform to build their future.”


By Dawn Correspondent
Published on August 06, 2012

DADU, Aug 5: Sindh Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah inaugurated a bridge on Danistar Canal near the flood-hit Jogi Rind village in Sehwantaluka on Saturday.
The bridge has been constructed by the Indus Resource Centre (IRC), an NGO, at a cost of Rs685,125.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, the minister said the infrastructure in Jogi Rind village of Channa union council was destroyed by a flood which had hit the area after breaches in the embankments of Manchhar Lake.

He said the embankments of the lake and the Larkana-Sehwan dyke had been repaired and raised. The minister said 80 per cent of the damaged schools, health facilities and roads had been repaired.

With the funds provided by the Sindh government, he said, an NGO had built thousands of mud houses in Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Kashmor districts but they collapsed during the flood caused by a breach in Tori Bund. He said the government did not want to repeat the mistake in Jamshoro district where it planned to construct Pakka houses.

TajHaider, general secretary of Sindh PPP, said the road between Jogi Rind and adjoining villages and Sehwan had been restored with the construction of the bridge.

IRC chief executive officer SadiqaSalahuddin said the NGO believed in transparency in development works.

She said the IRC had been working in the flood-affected area of Jamshoro since 2010 but it was for the first time that it had constructed a bridge.

She said the watercourses in the area had been repaired at a cost Rs358,130.

MsSalahuddin said the IRC would continue its work in education and other sectors and for repairing the infrastructure, damaged by the flood.

The district coordinator of the IRC, FarzanaBuriro, said the NGO was educating children of poor families in 11 primary and elementary schools in Jamshoro district.

She said it had built 450 houses for flood-affected people and provided financial assistance to farmers for their crops and livestock.

Earlier, a tableau was presented by the students of a school in Khanot.


By Saba Imtiaz
Published in The Express Tribune, August 05, 2012

The newly constructed bridge in Jogi Khan Rind village has cut travel time to the Sehwan-Dadu main road. (Right) Earlier, people had to teeter over a mud walkthrough or go around and cross several other villages. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

For the residents of Jogi Khan Rind village in Sehwan, their new bridge isn’t just a walkway or an accomplishment listed in a PowerPoint presentation. It represents security, an efficient travel route, security and access to basic needs such as health and education.
On Saturday morning, people gathered to look at the new ‘pul’ over a canal in this village in Sehwan’s UC Channa, built by the Indus Resource Centre (IRC). The IRC has quite literally bridged a gap that existed in Jogi Khan Rind, as there was no proper way to cross over the waterway. People either teetered over a mud walkthrough, or had to go around and cross several other villages just to be able to access the Sehwan-Dadu main road.

“This is a work of sawaab,” said Gul Hassan. “Before, people would have to tie a clay pot to their stomachs and swim across. It was very difficult to transport people to the hospital, or to take the dead to the graveyard, which is on the other side of the canal.”

Other locals said there were problems with security, including enmities with residents of the villages they had to cross to make their way to the main road.
FarzanaBuriro, IRC’s district coordinator for Jamshoro, said the need for the bridge had been identified when the organisation began working in the district during the 2010 floods. “Water flows from Manchar into the Danestar canal, and then into the river. What happened during the floods is that there was flooding along the same route that people were using to escape,” Buriro told The Express Tribune.

Though IRC does not generally work on building bridges, the incessant demand compelled them to look into one. It took 25 working days to build the bridge, with 145 men who worked as a cash-for-work unskilled labour, and 50 men as skilled labour. The bridge cost Rs699,753. Mohammad Aslam said the old route was ‘full of problems’. “The bridge will cut down travel time from an hour to 30 minutes,” he said, as men standing nearby nodded in agreement.

“This will really help people,” another man piped up. Young children skipped over the new bridge, which the men of Jogi Khan Rind helped put together. It may not have the sheen of government-built bridges, but it serves a purpose that the government has not been able to adequately meet, though villagers said similar bridges are in the pipeline in other areas in Sehwan tehsil.

At 8am, men were spread out on the route to the bridge, holding Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) flags and bags of flower petals to shower on the guest of honour at the event unveiling the bridge: Sindh Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah, the elected representative from the constituency.

In some ways, the trademarks of a big-shot politician visiting his constituency were present: Shah’s supporters chanted ‘Jiye Bhutto’, his police escort lifted themselves out the window to be captured by the waiting cameras, and Shah was in trademark politico garb, a white shalwarkameez.

But in perhaps a sign of how constituencies across Sindh have been changing, the event was uncharacteristically held on time. Some men pointed to the empty chairs prior to his arrival, noting that perhaps some of their friends hadn’t shown up because “ministers only arrive at 11 am or noon!”

On the event’s agenda was also a tableau by students from the IRC’s House of Learning school in Khanote. And the production was a biting indictment of the problems plaguing Sindh – forced marriages, unemployment, lack of water and education. The more thin-skinned of politicos might have chafed at the themes but they resonated with the audience, who loudly cheered along when the young female actors mentioned water. Shah, accompanied by PPP’s Sindh General Secretary TajHaider, echoed many of the talking points the PPP leadership has had over the past couple of years: Sindh was deluged, we did step up to help, there were mistakes made but there has also been progress, as evidenced by the development work being done in the area. But even though Shah enjoys support in Sehwan and the PPP slogans still ring loud, his constituents turned his speech into a Q&A session: what of water, they asked? He promised that at the very least, he would get started on providing drinking water as soon as possible. Shah – as he does in his speeches in the Sindh Assembly – seemed in touch with the issues of his area, even if finances aren’t always flowing in to resolve them.
The PPP’s loyalist jiyalas are often stereotyped as following the party blindly or voting for the ghosts of Zulfikar Ali and Benazir Bhutto, but the jiyalas at the IRC event know how to channel their loyalty into legitimate demands.

While Shah criticised some non-governmental organisations for turning the “suffering of people into a business” he appreciated the IRC for its work in Sindh in the past couple of years, as well as building the bridge. “The government cannot go through such disasters alone,” he said.

IRC’s Executive Director SadiqaSalahuddin also highlighted how they had made the process of building the bridge as transparent and accountable as possible by putting up posters in the area asking people to contact them if any IRC staff member asked them for money. Residents, she said, were always welcome to register a complaint.

Sindh has highest percentage of vacant non-teaching posts
Published in June 22, 2012

Karachi, June 22: With 27 per cent of its non-teaching posts vacant, Sindh has the highest number of vacant non-teaching posts in the education sector in Pakistan. However, when it comes to teaching staff, the same province is overstaffed.
Executive Director, Indus Resource Centre (IRC) SadiqaSalahuddin, and Coordinator, Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) Yasir, told the media at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club to highlight the issues of public schools across the country.
FAFEEN Education Institution Monitor is based on data gathered from 133 Government Girls Primary Schools (GGPS) in Pakistan during the month of May 2010. FAFEEN Governance Monitors visited 56 GGPS in various districts of Punjab, 38 schools in 23 districts of Sindh including Karachi, 30 schools in 21 districts of KyberPakhtunkhwa, seven GGPS in seven districts of Balochistan and one school each in Islamabad Capital Territory and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The team of IRC visited schools in Landhi/Korangi and Gulistan-e-Jauhar and Gulshan-e-Iqbal (Gulshan Town) to obverse the basic facilities available for the young students, Salahuddin said.
The purpose of the visits was to check the attendance of students, teachers and non-teaching staffs. Surprised visits were carried out to observe the situation at schools. During the visits, IRC found that the attendance of students and teachers were below 75 per cent at the visited schools, she added. IRC went through nine constituencies of Sindh to visits GGPS for the survey.
The student-teacher ratio is relatively better in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. One teacher is available to 23 students of Sindh. In Balochistan, one teacher is available for an average 24 students, Yasir said.
On the day of visits, FAFEEN observed that 380 teachers were posted in the schools while 8, 775 students were present at the schools, he added. There were 173 sanctioned teaching posts in Sindh whereas 194 teachers were posted in the schools. On the other hand, 45 non-teaching staff was posted in the schools while 62 sanctioned posts were available for the same job.
The government is spending an average of Rs1, 670 per girl student per year based on budgetary data provided by 31 of 133 GGPS monitored across the country. The rest of the schools either did not have the data or declined to share it with FAFEEN Governance Monitors, raising issues of transparency since budgetary data are considered a public information document, FAFEEN reports show.
The highest spending per girl student is in Sindh at Rs2, 543 while the lowest is in Balochistan at Rs747. interestingly, these are the two provinces where school authorities were least able or willing to provide budget information, with less than 20 per cent of schools in each province doing so, the report further said.
According to FAFEEN's finding, 102 out of 133 GGPS did not give information about budgetary details. In addition, the administration of 14 schools across the country (almost 10 per cent) declined to share information about the number of sanctioned teaching posts, and 12 schools did not give FAFEEN Monitors information about the number of sanctioned non-teaching posts.
As many as one-third of schools monitored during May 2010 were housed in dilapidated buildings (30 per cent) and did not have well lit classrooms (32 per cent) or clean drinking water arrangements for students (38 per cent), the report said.
It further said that half (56 per cent) did not have all required furniture for teachers and students or an orderly to help with teachers' chores (50 per cent) and one-quarter (24 per cent) did not have electricity or fans (28 per cent).

FAFEEN also found that two-thirds of the schools had no playground or other recreational facilities for students (63 per cent) or a separate staff room for teachers (64 per cent). More than three-quarters were without security guards (76 per cent) and without a sweeper (87 per cent). About seven per cent were housed in makeshift buildings, about one fifth (19 per cent) had unclean classrooms and one-sixth did not have black/white boards (17 per cent) or boundary walls (16 per cent).

Published in Dawn Magazine
June 17, 2012

SadiqaSalahuddin’s face is alight with enthusiasm and commitment as she talks about her work at grass roots development. She sees this as the turning point in her career, though she came to it by a longer pathway. She is very much a Karachiite; daughter of the highly respected and eminent scholar Prof KarrarHussain, she grew up in a household which valued the pursuit of knowledge and democratic ideals.

After obtaining a master’s degree in economics from the University of Karachi she joined NIPA (National Institute of Public Affairs). This opened her eyes to the inherent, systemic problems in governance, and gave her valuable exposure to other parts of Pakistan, and to government officials which increased her understanding of management, administration, and the political pressures that they faced.

These often rendered it impossible to have merit-based appointments; at other times, bureaucrats were forced to abide by government rules, or were coerced to go the wrong way. She gained understanding of their constraints, and the pressures they lived with. She found training an effective means of achieving closer rapport with them.

Field trips to Sindh’s rural areas revealed that the government level service delivery was pathetic, be it in education, health or other features like water supplies and communications. Schools hardly had teachers, “I was repeatedly surprised by the affluence of government officers on the one hand, and their condemnation of corruption, on the other.

“Later I came in touch with communities through my NGO work and came to know of life on the other side of government services — the victims’ viewpoint. I realised even more deeply that there is no way that corruption can be justified, except possibly by building solidarity with people. My interest in poverty issues increased.”

After spending a long time at the NIPA, during which she obtained a masters degree in economics from Syracuse University, US, she joined the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF). As she learnt more about people and their lives; her commitment increased, and she joined the NGORC (NGO Resource Centre), a project of the AKF, as an executive director. “Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to meet some very fine people, from whom I have learnt a lot,” says Salahuddin.

However, a stage came when she felt that her views and outlook differed from AKF’s, as the new strategy focused on building capacities of large organisations who, in turn, would support the community-based organisations. She was of the view that the ‘trickle down’ theory has not worked in economic developments, and is unlikely to work in capacity building. To her, the greater need was to start from the grass roots and work upwards. They parted ways, and she decided to establish the Indus Resource Centre in 1999, with its operational base in Khairpur, Sindh — a risky proposition, as she herself says.

It was risky in several ways; married to a well-known journalist, Ghazi Salahuddin, and mother of two daughters, her home base was Karachi and Khairpur was physically very far from home. But encouragingly, she had complete family support.

In Khairpur, she realised women’s issues were crucial and that violence was ubiquitous. She also found the women very wise — they were very well aware of the links between, say, poverty and the large family size. However, the missing factors remained education, health and service delivery, including family planning.

“Empowerment requires first and foremost, education,” she says. Accordingly, she began work by establishing 18 one-room schools in 18 villages, with the help of DIL (Development in Literacy). Initially, she planned to have only girls’ schools, as government schools for boys already existed in the area; but later, on repeated parental requests, opened schools for boys, too. To make education more useful and meaningful, in addition to the regular curriculum she included environmental studies and reproductive health (RH) education for all ages, starting from the class sixth.

The RH module has now been integrated into government schools as well; teachers have now been trained, and an MOU for this has been signed with the government.

How were they able to introduce sensitive subjects like the RH in that conservative milieu?

Salahuddin explains, “First, we had discussions with mothers regarding the RH, and then with male community members. What they understood best was maternal health: they could relate easily to that. From that point on, we were able to extend their understanding to other aspects of the RH. In fact, that’s been so successful that post-floods, the RH sessions have been held in 50 camps for both men and women in tent cities. Seventeen children were delivered at hospitals; we had a car and driver on call round the clock for two months, for emergencies, to facilitate that.

“In addition, we also work in sustainable development. Our work has now extended from Khairpur to Sukkur, Jamshoro, Dadu, Shahdadkot, and Karachi’s coastal communities. We now have a total of 10,525 students, girls and boys, in the system; 62 per cent are girls. Financial support is from the DIL, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, the government of Sindh and many individual philanthropists.

“During interactions in tent cities, we realised that issues of the landless are immense — their relationship with the landlords is difficult, and for bonded labour it is worse. We worked with them in sustained fashion; in all our meetings, discussions, and trainings, we set specific norms that were essential for all participants — for instance, zero tolerance for any form of violence.

“We believe that economic empowerment is the key to overall empowerment. That is why we have gone into sustainable livelihoods, particularly handicrafts development and now have a shop in Sunday Bazaar, ‘Khazana’.

“In Khairpur, the Mir Talpur family has given us an old empty building on lease for 25 years. After restoration, it now houses a Women Friendly Centre, a food outlet, an open air theatre and the handicraft shop. Our total staff strength is 847 people,” she adds further.

“Due to the urgent need at that time, our involvement in flood relief and in the subsequent ‘early recovery’ process for flood survivors, increased in Sehwan Sharif and Dadu. Our advocacy efforts for flood relief, education and sustainable development have increased; we work to eliminate violence, which exists at every level. Internal conflicts repeatedly occur — they have no other way of solution. Regrettably, tribal culture and influences seem to be increasing. Liberal progressive education can bring meaningful change — we will try our best to take this up to the policy level.

“People have no hope in their political representatives; rather, they have more hope from learning new skills. There is a real desire for education. When we spread information about starting the school for girls, nearly 68 girls came, with their parents! The communities have now become quality conscious; many parents come to us for their sons’ education because they are dissatisfied with the education in government schools.

“The challenges are many; ours remains a deeply conservative society. Unfortunately education is not leading to economic progress:
economic opportunities are well-nigh absent, and self-employment is not easy. Girls are now more educated, aware and ambitious — they have progressed, but society has not.

“It is incorrect to say that parents do not wish to educate their daughters; our work has shown that parents want to educate both boys and girls. Our model, of working with parents, children, and communities has generated synergistic and effective action, even if in small ways.

We feel that these are the efforts that can be replicated further,” she concludes.

By HafeezTunio
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012

The supplementary bill, which was not on the agenda, was moved by Education Minister PirMazharulHaq. PHOTO: NNI/FILE

KARACHI: Sindh will double its budget for education and literacy, declared the minister on the floor of the assembly on Monday.

It currently spends about seven billion rupees.

“We allocate around four per cent of the budget but only one per cent is spent on education,” said Education Minister PirMazharulHaq. “On the contrary, Malaysia allocates and spends around 23 per cent of its budget on education.” He did not give a specific figure.
As if a step in this direction, the Sindh Teacher Education Development Authority Bill 2012 was put to the house. The assembly unanimously passed it to establish the Sindh Teacher Education Development Authority.

The supplementary bill, which was not on the agenda, was moved by Education Minister PirMazharulHaq. The minister will chair the authority’s board, which will work under the government’s direction. On the board will be representatives from public and private universities, educationists, retired bureaucrats as well as representatives of NGOs. It will include three MPAs, including the chairman of the standing committee on education.
Other members will be former Karachi University vice-chancellor Dr Abdul Wahab, the ex-vice-chancellor the University of Sindh MazharulHaqSiddiqui, SZABIST’s SulemanShaikh, SadiqaSalahuddin of the Indus Resources Centre and Captain UsmanIssani, a former secretary.

This authority will make mandatory the training of teachers. Primary school teachers who complete the training will be given jobs as elementary school teachers at grade 16. The board will survey and study teacher education and create guidelines for minimum criteria.
Haq said that no credible institute existed for teacher training in Sindh where fake certified courses like Primary Teacher Certificate and the certificate of teaching were sold in the black market for Rs2,000. “No teacher should be able to teach in a public or private school without qualifying from the Sindh Teacher Education Development Authority,” he added.
A majority of MPAs endorsed the idea but complained they did not have enough time to study the content of the bill, which according to them was suddenly moved in the house without consultation.

Members of the PPP seemed upset with each other. When ImdadPitafi suggested nominating five MPAs in each district as members of the education board, Haq responded by saying, “This is not the time for jokes. Please be serious.”
“I am not joking like you always do at the party parliamentary meetings,” retorted Pitafi. “As a lawmaker I am serious about my suggestion.”

Meanwhile, the PML-F continued its boycott of the proceedings over ShaziaMarri’s remarks against Shah Mardan Shah PirPagara VII.

No debate took place on the law and order situation due to the absence of the chief minister. Marri said that the CM is likely to present their four-year performance today (Tuesday) and wind up the debate on law and order as well.

By Ismail Dilawar
Published in Pakistan Today on May 8, 2012

The Sindh Assembly Monday enacted the law to set up the Sindh Teachers Educational Development Authority (STEDA) to provide for the training of the teachers, their educational progress and capacity enhancement.

During a reassembly at the Sindh Assembly Building under the chairmanship of Speaker NisarKhuhro, the provincial legislature adopted the 29-clasue and 13-page Sindh Teachers Education Development Authority Bill, 2012 unanimously. To be set up under the Prime Minister’s Education Policy, the body would work as a sort of watchdog to monitor the standard of teachers’ training and the overall education system in the province. The bill envisages the constitution of a 13-member board that will consist of the education minister as a chairman and other members representing various figures ranging from the teachers’ education institutes to the civil society. Also, an amendment was inserted in the bill to induct three members of the provincial assembly, including the Standing Committee on Education chairman. The amended bill was tabled by Education Minister PirMazharulHaq who said the provincial government had decided to reform the long-neglected education sector on the grassroots level by providing incentives to the teachers. In addition to the formerly appointed 14,000 teachers, his government will also hire 19,000 more teachers across the province and allot them Grade 16. The new appointments will be made on the basis of MCQ-based tests to be conducted in a ‘foolproof’ manner under the criteria set by the World Bank. The project will be funded by the European Union, the minister said. The teachers in both the public and private education institutes will be issued licenses to teach, PirMazhar said while initiating a general discussion on the bill. The bill was formulated by the government with the help of a team of education experts, including Dr Abdul Wahab, DrArif Shah, Anwar Ahmedzai, DrSuleman Sheikh, SadiqaSalahuddin, Dr Muhammad Memon and other academicians from various varsities during a six- to seven-month period. “For first time in the 64-year history of Pakistan we invited the educationists to advise the government on teachers’ training,” the minister said when MQM’s ShoaibBukhari questioned the competence of the educationists given the current poor state of education. MQM lawmaker Sardar Ahmed did not approve when PirMazhar said good news regarding education expenditure was expected in the forthcoming provincial budget. The MQM parliamentary party leader said during nine months of 2012 the government had spent on education Rs 30 billion, which he said would total at Rs 39 billion by end-June. “This is the largest allocation to education sector,” he added. The education minister was apologetic when lawmakers from the PPP and the MQM complained not to have received copies of the bill for reading. Those who spoke on the general principles of the bill included Sardar Ahmed, ShoaibBukhari, ShaziaMarri, KhwajaIzharul Hassan, Rafique Engineer, Dr Ahmed Ali Shah, HumeraAlwani, Anwar Maher, SharjeelMemon, DrSikandarShoro, KulsoomChandio, Bachal Shah and Khalid Ahmed. Marri said the legislation was welcome as it was aimed at reforming the roots and not branches of a tree as has been the case in the past.

By ZubeidaMustufa
Posted on April 5, 2012

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.

Take the case of Zahoora who lives in Kumb, a small town in rural Sindh. She is 28 years old and has three children who were born in quick succession. For Zahoora her two daughters and a son means her family is complete. She loves her children and enjoys taking care of them. Since she is educated and her husband is supportive, she also works and adds to the family income. Zahoora is a teacher in the neighborhood school. A few months ago Zahoora became anxious. Her experience told her that without contraception, soon another baby would be on its way. Zahoora did not want any more children for she knew that four would make her life difficult and she would have to leave her job. She had also been ill after the birth of her second child.
Zahoora typifies what demographers describe as the phenomenon of women not wanting more children but not being contraceptive users. In Pakistan 25 percent of married women – six million women – fall in this category.

Zahoora learned that a team from the Reproductive Health through Girls’ Education (RHGE) of the Indus Resource Centre (IRC) would be talking to women about family planning in Kumb. It sounded interesting and Zahoora’s curiosity was aroused. She went to the meeting and returned home with new ideas in her head. They made a lot of sense and she felt inclined to agree with what had been discussed.

Once Zahoora was convinced about contraception and family planning, she had the confidence to talk to her husband, Rahib Ali. He was a man of commonsense and understood her perspective. The next day Zahoora went to the population clinic in Kumb with Ali; and after some counseling, they made their choice of the contraceptive with which they felt most comfortable. They joined the 30 percent of couples in the country who use contraceptives.

NGOs like the IRC have discovered that it pays more to combine reproductive health education with other social activities. Though there is a lot of awareness about family planning today, MoomalSoomro, the project officer of RHGE and a trained population counselor, points out no program can succeed without counseling and mobilization. Regrettably that has generally not been available. The population growth rate that had declined to 1.5 percent is now said to be a higher rate of 2.05 percent. Soomro speaks of the changes she has seen in the three years since the RHGE program was launched. IRC began twelve years ago as a project for female education, poverty alleviation, improved maternal health, and environmental sustainability. The ultimate aim was to bring about sustained behavioral change in marginalized communities. But it was soon realized that no change was possible without the empowerment of women whose role was typically subservient in a patriarchal society.

To encourage behavioral change, “We then knew that we had to adopt a holistic and integrated strategy,” Soomro says. That is how the component of reproductive health was added to female education at the secondary level. The subjects covered are sex related topics of interest to adolescents – hygiene, marriage, human rights, and sexually transmitted diseases. While the pedagogy is participatory and discussion-based, it is discreet as being too candid would not have gone well with Pakistan’s conservative society.

The IRC has established a network of its school’s alumnae with other female members of the community. Dubbed the Young Women’s Professional Network, they conduct frequent sessions with women. “It was at one of these sessions that Zahoora was introduced to us,” Soomro explains.

The network serves as an institution where women interact with one another, enter into business partnerships, run projects, share ideas, and provide support to one another. Information and services on reproductive health are a part of the agenda.
Five members of the network have offered their homes to set up what are called “safe spaces.” These homes are provided with books, a white board, registers, and some stationery. Awareness raising meetings are held on a regular basis and women are trained to plan and organize the meetings, keep records, draw up agendas, and so on. Having established linkages with other community groups they are expected to become focal points for women and exert a strong influence on the community.

SadiqaSalahuddin, the managing director of IRC, can already see the changes that are emerging. “Previously many girls were married off as early as eight years of age. The marriage age has gone up by several years. Many girls who have been betrothed continue to live with their parents who appreciate the support they get from their girls.”

There is no measure to gauge the confidence the young women gain as they take control of their lives. And while their confidence is palpable, it is also clear that no family planning program can succeed without an improvement in the status of women. By addressing all facets of life, the RHGE is giving women a new sense of self-esteem that is making change possible.

Zahoora was educated but knew nothing about birth control. An unwanted pregnancy would have nullified all her achievements. It was her education that gave her the negotiating skills to persuade her husband that family planning would change their life. She is an agent of change and every individual in her family will be expected to play the same role.

Published in Dawn, March 23, 2012

KARACHI, March 22: Declaring the provision of safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and attention to hygiene in schools as important factors for overall youth health, speakers at a forum on Thursday called on both the government and the community to fulfill their responsibilities.

They said that inadequate availability of drinking water and toilets contributed to the lower enrolment and high drop-out rates of girls from schools, while ignorance of hygiene and healthy drinking practices in homes also caused diarrhea and other diseases, particularly among children.

The forum titled `Roundtable on school water and sanitation programme was organised by the Indus Resource Centre (IRC), an NGO working for sustainable social and economic development in marginalised populations, particularly in Sindh.

The participants, belonging to various NGOs, donor agencies and the education, health and economic sectors, were informed that the total volume of water on earth was about 1.4 billion km3, while the volume of freshwater resources was around 35 million km3, or about 2.5 percent of the total volume, and this situation demanded a judicious distribution and use of water.

Regarding the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) situation in Pakistan, one of the presenters said that almost 50 per cent of Pakistanis lacked access to clean drinking water, while only 42 per cent had access to sanitation facilities 65 per cent in urban and 35 per cent in rural areas. One in three schools has no safe drinking water, and half of all schools have no proper sanitation facilities. Due to illiteracy, many people do not have a clear understanding of the link between poor hygiene and the spread of diseases`, it was further said. Highlighting the role of IRC in the provision of drinking water to schools and raising awareness of the dangers of water pollution, another presenter said that the IRC`s team even found high levels arsenic contamination in the drinking water at some of the schools surveyed by it under the `Water, Environmental Sanitation & Hygiene Promotion` project, which was funded by Water Aid Pakistan and was on the verge of completion.

The purpose of the project was to build the capacity of schools to become instrumental in hygienepromotion among children and communities; and to promote better understanding of the critical roles that water conservation and environmental sanitation, among other things, play in human development and survival. Of the 120 surveyed schools (primary to higher-secondary) located in Dadu district, 80 had sweet water, while 20 had brackish or salty water and quality at another 20 schools could not be ascertained.

With regard to sanitation, it wassaid that 130 toilets in the schools in question were meant for teachers, 68 for boys, 59 for girls, while 54 were found dysfunctional. Nineteen schools had arrangements for daily cleaning of the toilets, 36 had weekly arrangements three were cleaned on monthly basis, while 62 of the schools had no arrangement for cleaning.

As many as 30 schools were selected for IRC WASH interventions on the basis of vulnerability (missing facilities), enrolment, gender and urban/ rural. Water samples collected from 15 schools in the first year of the project were sent to the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources.

Water from six of the schools, located in three union councils Mounder, Pipri and Dadu UC-4 was highly contaminated with arsenic. During the projects we worked for the supply of clean water, provision of toilets, sensitisation of teachers, students, parents and the communities in question and results have been encouraging,` said SadiqaSalahuddin, director IRC.

She, however, stressed on long-term behaviour change interventions, and mentioned that the IRC model could be included in a bigger intervention system. Community ownership was also essential for success, she added. Among others, BakhtBrahmani, SafdarSaeed, Dadu District Education Officer Ghulam Ali and ApaZohra a teacher from UC4 Dadu also spoke.

Lauding the work pertaining to WASH facilities, they reiterated the need for WASH standards to be replicated in public schooling by the government. During the panel discussion following the project presentation, Prem Chand from UNICEF said that the IRC forum held on the occasion of the WWD was an important contribution towards water and sanitation improvement efforts, particularly in schools of the country.

He informed the audience that UNICEF experts had presented a draft in regard to minimum water and sanitation standards in schools in 2009, which was approved by the education ministry as well, but its implementation was yet to be witnessed. He said that according to estimates, water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases cost Pakistan`s economy about Rs112 billion per year in terms of health cost and lost earnings, which could be avoided.

Economist Dr. Kaiser Bengali said there was a dire need to focus on schools and inculcate WASH practices by involving not only the students, but the homes and communities as well as the government. Efforts should also be made to provide information to children through mass media and production of short duration cartoons depicting the application and importance of WASH practices.

QaiserRasheed of UN Habitat, Zofeen T.Ebrahim and a couple of representatives from NGOs also participated in the discussion.

Published in The Nation on March 09, 2012

KARACHI - The women are true leaders who are fighting to create a better Pakistan for their mothers, daughters and sisters. And through this struggle, they are ultimately creating a better society for all.

Acting US Consul General Kevin Murakami, who is also a Public Affairs Officer with the CG in Karachi, said this in his opening remarks of a seminar on International Women’s Day. He hosted a dialogue on the day titled ‘Women: Freedom and Equality.’

The seminar was presided over by BilqeesEdhi, while Mahtab Akbar Rashdi, SheemaKermani and SadiqaSalahuddin also spoke on the occasion. Renowned poetess Azra Abbas recited her poem as SheemaKermani performed there.

Kevin Murakami said, “It is an honour to address you all,” adding that Consul General William Martin wanted to be here as he is a staunch supporter of women’s rights in Pakistan. Congratulating the Pakistani women, he said that SharmeenObaidChinoy’s Oscar for Saving Face, is great achievement of everyone. Her success signifies an extraordinary triumph for Pakistani women who, far too often, bear the brunt of violence, poverty and disease, he said.

The acting Consul General said, “Today we honour the achievements of Pakistani women, while remembering that there is still so much work to be done.” He said young women must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to pursue their dreams. Indeed, investing in young women means economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for everyone tomorrow, he added.

He maintained that most importantly, women from all ethnicities, religions and socio-economic groups must live a life free from gender-based violence. He said, “We should never forget that human rights are fundamentally women’s rights.”

Kevin Murakami informed the audience that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama will announce the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Awards in Washington DC, honouring 10 remarkable women from around the world. This is an annual award, and last year, Pakistan’s GhulamSughra won this prestigious and deserved recognition. He said, “I am pleased to announce that Hillary Clinton will announce the name of another Pakistani woman who has won the award this year.”

The event will be an important step in the ongoing struggle to ensure equality and freedom for all women and girls, he concluded.

By Imran Yusuf
Published: Nov 11, 2011, in Express Tribune

KARACHI/MIRPURKHAS:  I recently spent a day as an embedded journalist. I wore no hard hat and no body armour, just a shirt and trousers. We drove along not in a tank, but an ordinary sedan.

The ‘war’ I went to see is the most urgent conflict this country faces, despite international headlines which suggest otherwise. The war I speak of is flood relief.
Accompanying the Indus Resource Centre (IRC) to Mirpurkhas, the creeping reality of winter dominates discussion. In the tent cities they have set up in the district, in partnership with UNESCO, the pressing need is for shields against the cold. Blankets and shoes are just some of the basic requirements.

The seasonal temperature is not the only problem. Winds from the north are known to cause respiratory tract infections, with children and the elderly particularly vulnerable.
Mariam Sheikh, the IRC’s Communications Officer, says there are several other factors to consider, such as child immunity to disease. Malnutrition is already a severe issue in the flood-affected areas; the coming winter will take further toll. Indeed, according to a recent Joint Rapid Assessment by the UN, three million people are currently in need of immediate food assistance. The same reports states that over two million acres of standing crops were destroyed during the floods.

The first tent city I visited, a couple of miles outside Mirpurkhas city, holds 62 tents – each one housing a family. The IRC hopes the villagers will return home soon, but even now their village is three or four feet underwater.

All 62 families are Hindus from the ‘scheduled caste’. What this means in politically incorrect language is that on the social ladder these people are less than zero. You wouldn’t know it to see them here.

The community in this camp is organised, united and, dare I say it, happy. I asked SajadHussain, a project manager with the IRC, why they seemed peaceful. The people are now relieved, he tells me. “They know they are saved.”

Before the tents arrived, they had been forced to fend for themselves on the dusty road next to the tent city. Sajad tells me the women would not go to the bathroom all day – because there was no bathroom (or nearby trees or bushes). They would suffer all day and only relieve themselves at night under the cover of darkness. “Even then,” Sajad says, “they would look out for the lights of cars passing by.” The IRC has now built 250 latrines in their Mirpurkhas tent cities.

At another tent city, I observed the distribution of food. NIC card numbers were diligently verified to make sure everyone got their share. There were orderly queues, a humbling decency and calm.

As always, children seem to adjust the best. Heading off with their mother or father carrying a sack containing atta, rice, daal, oil, sugar, salt, chillies, potatoes and matches, the children were eager to help, even walking along with a skip in their stride.

At the first tent city, Mariam, Sajad and IRC colleagues distributed shelter sheets, jerry cans and other items. Mariam was distraught when she realised they were four mosquito nets short, as nearby stagnant water is fertile ground for malaria and dengue. The numbers affected by the floods are in the millions, but every detail counts.

The camp also has a temporary learning centre, which is essentially a school in a tent. UNICEF has donated about 200 of these to the IRC. In another tent city, set up largely through funds from the Turkish government, I heard children in one of these centre sing ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’. The booming rendition had more soul than a thousand playgrounds.

Teaching goes on for five hours a day. Ironically, many of the kids have never actually been to school before: it has taken a natural disaster for them to receive education for the first time in their life. The IRC hopes to continue educational projects with these communities once they return home.For now, the community’s livestock – what remains of it – occupies a narrow patch between the camp and the road. Life will move on, eventually.

The IRC’s office in Mirpurkhas is bare-bones officialdom. Behind his desk, Saleem Ahmed, the group’s district manager, told me about the difficulties the IRC faces this year. On cue, the electricity went mid-conversation.

Lack of funds has choked their effectiveness. “The reasons for low donations are disaster fatigue, the economic crisis, lack of coverage and suspicions that aid will be siphoned off in corrupt ways,” Saleem says. “The UN also has taken its time with needs assessment surveys.”

Saleem and his team are not bitter that donations are miniscule compared to last year, merely frustrated. “This is not a job. We are humanitarians,” says Sajad. Mariam adds: “We are trying to do what we can with what we have. The IRC will be there for those affected, no matter how long.” For the 6,500 children the IRC alone looks after, these words are immense consolation.

Politics has also impeded their work. Everything is political, even in a crisis. Correction: especially in a crisis. Local authorities, it has been reported, have discriminated against some communities. Many landlords have also not been overly keen to allow their land to be used temporarily for tent cities. Saleem also says that government departments often play favorites. Plus there are the usual messy social structues to deal with: bonded labour, feudalism and sectarianism are dark forces even at the best of times. Saleem is realistic about the work ahead. I am amazed he is not more fatalistic. “Climate change will make this happen every year,” he says. “Ninety per cent of the cotton crop is gone. The knock-on effects are only just emerging. People will go to already over-burdened cities looking for work. The social effects will be catastrophic.”

The IRC’s remit is to “change rural lives in Pakistan”. However, the last two years have hindered their usual work as an NGO. Projects in poverty alleviation, education, health, environment and gender are still on-going, though inevitably resources have been cut as the IRC stretches every organisational sinew to do what they can for flood relief.
Most of their donations within Pakistan come from a handful of individuals. They would like this to change. As a needs-focused and unimpeachably transparent organisation, the economic climate and disaster fatigue are surely the only reasons potential donors are put off.

With relief stocks running out, the IRC’s damage assessment charts are complete, their accounts are forensic and up-to-date, and their staff is ready and waiting. Many other charities are equally equipped.

The rest, Pakistanis, is up to you.

By RubabKarrar
Published in the October 2011edition of in Herald magazine,

The road from Hyderabad to Mirpurkhas is lined with fields of roses, sugarcane, cotton and, of course, mango orchards. This wealth of crops is now submerged in water; while the crops are clearly destroyed, many fear for the mango trees as well. Against the backdrop of lush green but water-logged fields, displaced families are camped along the road with their livestock. Some of this livestock belongs to the area’s land owners, who employ local families to till their lands. Some of these families have worked with traditional, feudal land-owning families for decades. The tillers and their families remain under their landlords’ charge even in conditions of displacement. Most of them are workers from nearby fields who were forced to evacuate their homes when the water rose to dangerous levels. According to the Indus Resource Centre (IRC), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) engaged in flood-relief work in Mirpurkhas, most people are still stranded in fields and villages and are either unable or unwilling to vacate. “Those whose villages are near the road have vacated their homes, while those who are far [from roads] don’t see the point [of evacuating] as people are not receiving much assistance,” says SaleemLashari of the IRC. “They feel it is better to stay on their own land.”

And indeed, the numbers along the Hyderabad-Mirpurkhas road are not large. The majority are Hindu farm or kiln workers from the Bheel, Kohli and Bangri castes. Dhia, a grandmother from the Bheel community, is one of them, living in an NGO-donated tent with her sick husband, children, grandchildren, and extended family comprising nephews, nieces and in-laws, including a sister-in-law with six children who has lost her eyesight. Not one for mincing words, Dhia is eager to talk to anyone who stops to listen, gesturing towards the horizon identifying her village, a couple of kilometres away. The village, named after the landlord that she and her family work for, Purtak Khan Pathan, is one of many inundated by this year’s flooding in Sindh. Dhia’s family started working for Pathan about four or five years ago when the previous landlord they worked for died and his family sold the land. Now they are tied to Pathan with bonds which seem unbreakable — that of debt. Dhia had borrowed a sum of 100,000 rupees from her employer for her child’s wedding. Years and thousands of hours of labour later, the debt still stands at 100,000 rupees. Meanwhile, the official agreement between the landlord and Dhia’s family is that of crop sharing, with her family providing the labour and sharing the cost of seeds and fertilisers, while Pathan provides the land. According to Dhia, though, her family never receives its rightful share of the crop; most of it goes towards paying for the money they had borrowed for seeds and fertilisers.

For many days after the rains, Dhia said her family was not allowed to leave the land. She says the landlord told them to swim when they said the water was rising. According to reports, some landlords asked their workers to stay behind to drain the fields. Not long into our conversation, Dhia is interrupted by a man cutting a stranger’s appearance in the crowd due to his relatively affluent dress and demeanor. While we already have interpreters to translate between Sindhi and Urdu, he tries to take over the task. Jumping to answer questions put to Dhia, about how her family will cope now that the crops have been destroyed, he says that the landlord has also suffered great losses and will help the workers as much as he is able to. Not surprisingly, it turns out that he is Pathan’smunshi. The general consensus is that he dropped by to make sure no one runs away so that the landlord is not left without his workers.

By HajraKomalFeroz
Published in Newsline Magazine August 8, 2011

Revolutionary Road
After 10 years of working towards developing rural education, the Indus Resource Centre (IRC) held their first event ever at the Avari Towers Karachi on July 25. The event comprised speeches by members of the IRC, presentations on what they have already done and what the future holds, an interactive session with the students and teachers at the IRC schools and a small skit staged by the students.

The NGO has reopened what were once ghost schools in areas like Khairpur, Dadu and Sukkur, and provides students with uniforms, transport and books. Now, the IRC “plans to expand the schools (to the secondary level) in some areas,” shares SadiqaSalahuddin, founder and executive director of IRC.

Among the IRC’s numerous innovative ideas is a plan to encourage female literacy by offering incentives like admitting two boys if a girl in the family is sent to school.

The highlight of the event was a 15-minute skit presented by female students of IRC’s school in Khanot. The awe-inspiring stage performance masterfully highlighted critical social problems. In the middle of the stage a map of Sindh was created. As various tragic scenarios unfolded in the performance, one of the girls lamented the loss of the wonders of Sindh. A mother heard that her only son, the repository of her hopes and dreams, was killed in a bomb blast. A child’s hopes of becoming a teacher were shattered because of her gender. After each scenario the girls would gather and chant “Allah Hu,” pleading for divine intervention.

However, the skit ended on a positive note, with a musical performance written and composed by the students that highlighted the beauties of Sindh and emphasised the need to live and let live.

The attendance of personalities such as MPA Aisha Khoso, writer and activist Amar Sindhu, Secretary Education Muhammad SiddiqueMemon, Dr Kaiser Bengali and DrQaziMasood helped raise the profile of this otherwise modest event.

By SumairaJajja        
Published on 26 July, 2011, in Dawn

KARACHI, July 25: For the young schoolgirls on their first trip to Karachi, the big, bright lights and the glistening corridors of the local hotel were no less than fairyland. However, rather than be overawed or nervy, they were beaming with confidence, secure in the thought that their education would lead them to some better place sooner or later.

One wanted to be a lady health worker as she was inspired by the way “an LHW treats sick children”. Another one wanted to be like Farzana, a success story from the interior of Sindh, and yet another wanted to be a make-up artist.

These were no ordinary girls. Rather they were girls from marginalised communities in the interior the province. They had travelled from small towns and villages to Karachi to attend the Indus Resource Centre’s “10 years of contribution in rural education” event on Monday.
From the presentation of a thought-provoking tableau to their giggles whenever a camera was focused on their faces and their interaction with the media persons, the girls were a delight to watch and made one wonder how a little support goes a longway.

In her address on the occasion, IRC’s executive director SadiqaSalahuddin said: “The more women are empowered, the more actively they will be able to take part in their personal and social uplift.” She said that their aim was to achieve equality for all humans and for that mainstreaming education and particularly imparting it to the females was important.
Talking about the journey that began in 2000, she said that it was a shaky start and “when we started out it felt as if things would never change.”

Although it might not seem like a drastic change, the lives of over 10,000 students in 130 schools in Khairpur, Sukkur, Dadu, Jamshoro and Karachi districts, did improve over the last few years, she said.

During the last decade, the IRC has worked on education and literacy with a particular focus on girls’ education, sustainable livelihoods, governance, democracy and human rights and disaster response.

She said the one thing that connected all these initiatives was the active participation of women and girls. Under a sustainable livelihood programme, women had been trained as masons and painters.Sharing her story, Farzana, an IRC worker said that she felt privileged to be a part of this team. “My journey wasn’t an easy one. My parents have nine daughters and one son. My father was a labourer but he felt that we should be educated. Despite his limited means, he sent us to schools and whatever I am today is due to my father.”

With a Masters degree, Farzana felt that it was her duty to give back to her community and was working hard on it. “Today, I am more aware than I was at the age of 22. Nine years of work with IRC has taught me that there are people in situations worse than what I personally experienced. However, one must not be deterred by what cannot be done. Rather one should focus on what can be done and try doing it more often. It is a sustained effort that helps us change our lives,” she said.

Then there was Steve Sheen, a physics graduate from Britain working as a head master at one of IRC’s schools in the interior, who highlighted the need for indefatigable efforts in the fields of education and health.

“It’s an experience in itself, working in a place where there is not much. However, the community living there is very supportive and the kids are eager to learn.”

Despite his limited Sindhi skills, Mr Sheen said, he was able to communicate with students. “Some of them are very bright butagain lack of resources makes it harder for them to compete with candidates from better backgrounds. However, we should not stop good work because of this. Rather a persistent effort will help us in the years to come.” “Over the years I have seen IRC flourish as an organisation and better still is the fact that I have seen some hope in our district,” said former Khairpur DCO Abbas Baloch.

He said the place needed lots of health and education facilities and in this situation the IRC provided a sustainable model to follow. “I hope that more people will come forward and help the public sector deliver service to the masses,” MrBaloch hoped.

Dr Kaiser Bengali, the chief guest, minced no words when it came to stating things as they are. “The state has to provide sufficient conditions for education and other sectors to flourish and if it is unable to provide these, questions will be raised about its credibility.”

Lamenting how graduates were unable to write a decent application, he blamed the faulty policies and the wrecked education system for the current state of affairs. “The state does not have the resources or the institutional capacity and this is where the public-private partnership comes in. We have seen some success but in the long run, it’s the duty of the state and not of civil society to provide amenities and necessities to the population.”

While the event was remarkable in that it highlighted the contributions and collective efforts of public-private partnership, it was also a stark reminder that a lot more was needed to be done for the people in Sindh and elsewhere.

Published in Dawn- BOOKS AND AUTHORS, July 10, 2011


A recent study carried out by the Indus Resource Centre in three tehsils of district Khairpur provides a grim analysis of women’s health and at the same time shows a way out. It proposes a three-pronged combined approach based on improved girls’ education, enhanced community awareness and easy access to quality health along with family planning services.

Pakistan will fail to meet the UN prescribed millennium development goals (MDGs) of achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds and reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters.

The IRC study, conducted with technical support from Aga Khan University’s Community Health Sciences unit, has helped “firm up” a project being undertaken by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation that looks at reproductive health through the prism of girl’s education, and provides ample information for experts in the fields of health, education and women development to come forward and work together to reduce “misconceptions, prejudices and harmful practices” related to women’s health and strengthen the status of the women.

The findings clearly expose the low status of women. Low decision-making power and poverty limits opportunities for the marginalised as “poverty exacerbates pre-existing social dynamics to the detriment of women.” Education is the agent of change, but to be effective, education needs to be continued to the secondary level and men need be a critical part of the collective attitudinal change. “Community acceptance is important for women and any gains women can achieve can be offset by the authority men yield,” states the report.

The report also provides valuable suggestions for other programmes that are under design. For example, apart from breaking myths that exist even in the minds young women, strategies should be designed to counsel girls who remain the most marginalised in terms of access to health.

It also points out that respect for a girl’s opinion is closely connected to the larger issue of women’s status in society. There should be focus on changing the status of girls as productive members as opposed to burdens to be passed on.

The study highlights lack of quality health services and suggests ways to hold health practitioners accountable. It also suggests setting up mobile clinics, training women about safe motherhood practices and encouraging women networks. Most importantly, the report recommends a participatory approach at every step, where the community suggests solutions to the problems it encounters, as that can bring about a more lasting change.

The reviewer is a Karachi-based freelance journalist.

By Zubeida Mustafa
Published in Dawn, 01 June, 2011

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 TandoKolachi 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 DrBux 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 ArfanaMallah, who teach at Jamshoro, have been waging a tireless battle against the evil practices that have become so familiar to us — karokari, 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. ParveenSiddique (of Aurat Welfare Organisation, Nawabshah) and SiddiqaMuzaffar (of Nari Welfare Organisation, TandoAllahyar) 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 KhairoDero (Larkana district) where the Ali HasanMangi Memorial Trust under the dedicated supervision of NaweenMangi 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 SadiqaSalahuddin, 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.

By SaadiaQamar
Published in the Express Tribune, March 26, 2011

A three day exhibition of traditional handicrafts opened on March 25 at The Forum in Karachi. PHOTOS: NUSRAT GHUMRO


KARACHI: Run by SadiqaSalahuddin, ‘Khazana’ is an off-shoot of Indus Resource Centre (IRC). The IRC is a not-for-profit organisation provides education and sustainable livelihood to people residing in rural Sindh. The exhibition showcases mostly Sindhi handicrafts such as patchwork, hand embroideries, table-mats, coasters, baskets made of date tree bark and ceramic items from Multan,  are all part of the  three day exhibition that opened on March 25 at The Forum in Karachi.
Mariam Solangi, a Sindhi patchwork maker from Khairpur said: “I have been involved with ‘Khazana’ for the past four months, it is just one way of meeting financial needs, when there are 18 mouths to feed, you need to come out and make a living!” Solangi, along with her two daughters-in-law provide patchwork cushions to the brand.
“Today ‘Khazana’ employs over 100 women who make these traditional handicrafts. Not only does this increase their self-worth, financial independence boosts their self confidence. In the rural areas, where women are generally marginalized from society, we try to provide them with an opportunity to generate income themselves” Salahuddin told The Express Tribune. Giving insight on trying to setup a permanent space for these products she said: “setting up a stall in a city like Karachi, requires strong networking skills, our basic purpose is to further the cause of small scale cottage industries, more importantly, it is to make the people of Khairpur commercially viable.”
Chef Shai aka ShaistaKazi, spotted in the crowd of people interested in buying traditional bread baskets, said: “I love this stuff, I’m looking for the right kind of bread basket, that I plan to buy.”
They started the project a year ago. Within 12 months they have managed to put together this exhibition and setup a stall at the infamous weekend market ‘Sunday bazaar’ in Karachi. “The shop number is A-23” boasted Salahuddin with pride.
What’s up next? Salahuddin hopes to take ‘Khazana’ beyond the boundaries of Sindh, and plans to hold an exhibition of the traditional handicraft products in Lahore and Islamabad, in the near future. The exhibition continues till March 27.

By SamiaSaleem

Published on February 28, 2011, in Express Tribune

Science projects and models for awareness were exhibited at the TaleemiMela. Most students were attending an education fair for the first time. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: School-going children from the coastal towns of Karachi were hesitant and uncertain when they were invited to an education fair arranged for them in their locality. They had never attended an inter-school event — most of them oblivious to fairs and large crowds.

The Indus Resource Centre (IRC) arranged a TaleemiMela (education fair) for government-school students at the Government Boys Secondary School, Younusabad, in Keamari on Sunday. Most of the children belonged to the fishermen and displaced communities.

In the newly constructed school adopted by the IRC, stalls were set up and activities had been arranged in different blocks. SadiqaSalahuddin, the IRC founder and executive director, said that it was a day for children. “We want to create demand and pressure for quality education because if these communities do not ask for quality education, they will never get it.”

In one block, a talent show was going on. “There are so many acts that we had to limit each performance to five minutes. They talent show started at 10 am and will continue till 5 pm,” said an organiser.

Every room was packed with boys and girls, some putting on their costumes, others preening themselves for the stage. Some boys were guarding the girls’ changing room with sticks.
It was not just a children’s show as some important issues were also highlighted. A play was performed criticising the delay in salary payments for public school staff. Meanwhile, girls were seen spraying red paint on their hands to symbolise blood for a tableau on social issues.
As the girl’s performed their tableaux, eager boys peeped through – and some practically hung from the windows to catch a glimpse. With almost 800 children in the performance room, the boys were forbidden as “there was not enough space”.

Another block was dedicated to children’s movies. Another room was set up to display children’s art work.

On the main ground, schools exhibited their science projects and models for awareness. There were book stalls as well, with encyclopedias and dictionaries in Urdu, English and Sindhi up for sale.

This education fair was a good break for children from the strict eye of their teachers. Naseem and Ismail, class-three students from Kaka village, roamed around the science models arm in arm, chewing betel nut. One project amused them in particular because they could not tell whether the toy penguins in the mangrove model were real or not.  Mehr, Faiza, Hina and Sauleha had huddled into one corner and started dancing and singing among themselves.
“It’s for the first time we have come out together,” said Mehr, who was in a chiffon dress and heavy jewellery. The boys, too, weren’t to be left out. They were dressed to the nines, and duly accessorised, sunglasses and bandanas and all.

By SamiaSaleem
Published: February 10, 2011

Experts say dearth of female teachers major factor affecting enrolment.
KARACHI: Opening the event with an animated clip, the organisers directly hit on the point of concern – what can a female child, who herself is deprived and illiterate, give to her family? With this typical scenario for girls in rural households, Oxfam GB Pakistan launched a two-year education project for them titled “Helping Girls into Schools through School Improvement and Advocacy in South Punjab and Sindh” at the Hotel Marriott on Wednesday.
Oxfam GB, an international aid agency, is already running other programmes such as Land and Economic Opportunities, Ending Violence against Women, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change in Sindh. The main focus of most of these projects is to ensure equitable access to quality education for girls living in rural areas of the country, particularly where evidence of violence against women is most found, said DrNaureen Khalid, the programme manager of the girls’ education project.
Giving her presentation, she said the programme, already launched in four districts of the Punjab, has been extended to two districts of Sindh: Shahdadkot and Dadu. It aims to enhance enrolment and retention of students (especially girls) and restore access to quality education through rehabilitation of flood-affected and unaffected schools.
It has been expanded to Sindh in response to the abysmal situation of girls’ education particularly after the floods, said Dr Khalid. The literacy rate in Sindh is 47.2 per cent and women are only 20 per cent literate in the rural areas. Up to 105,588 girls were enrolled in schools in the province before the flood and after the calamity, the number decreased to 68,089, she informed the participants. According to Unicef’s damage assessment report, the number of damaged schools is the highest in Shahdadkot and Dadu, in comparison to other districts of the province.
The project that has been implemented by OGB and its local partners from January this year to December 2012 targets to make schools children-friendly, to sensitise all stakeholders for enhancing quality education and to enhance enrolment by 45 per cent and retention by 15 per cent.
Indus Resource Centre executive director SadiqaSalahuddin said the dearth of female teachers is also a contributing factor for the decreasing female enrolment. Despite all government efforts, the rate of female enrolment in Sindh is only 22 per cent.
DrBaelaRazaJamil, the executive director of the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi, called on the government to collaborate with NGOs and the civil society to scale up the efforts being made in the education sector.
Agreeing to DrJamil, Sindh education department deputy programme manager Naveed A Sheikh said, “After the floods, it is indeed time for us to work together. The set targets of the project can be achieved if the government unites.”
Talking about bottlenecks, he said public schools in rural areas have a low number of female teachers because of the low literacy rate.
“We don’t have many post-primary schools (secondary schools) in Sindh. According to available figures, out of the 49,000 schools in Sindh, hardly 4,500 are post primary. Out of these 40 to 50 are for girls, he said, asking the civil society and NGOs to intervene in this area.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2011.





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