Thursday, October 2, 2008
UN Millennium Goals in Pakistani Village
"We need a hospital," one man said, "and a school for girls. If something could be done about the drinking water, we'd be grateful."
"One day it's diarrhea, the next day it's fever, the next day, vomiting" said a village woman, speaking about her children.
These villagers reluctantly spoke to their feudal prince of Ratrian, a poor village in north of Pakistan, highlighted by TVE and BBC recently. The young prince is Rafeh Malik, the son of the feudal lord Malik Atta Mohammad, whose family's vast land holdings include this village. The prince took the initiative to ask for his villagers' opinions about what needs to be done to improve their lives.
Apparently, Prince Rafeh Malik has been influenced by the United Nations Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) and he wants to try and implement them within his domain. He has taken the initiative by convincing his father that it must be done.
Here's a brief overview of the UN MDGs:
1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2 Achieve universal primary education
3 Promote gender equality and empower women
4 Reduce child mortality
5 Improve maternal health
6 Combat HIV/Aids, malaria, and other diseases
7 Ensure environmental sustainability
8 Develop a global partnership for development
These goals can not be achieved by governments alone. In spite of Pakistani government's efforts and international assistance, Pakistan does not have a lot to show in terms of real progress toward UN MDGs. Ranked at 136 on a list of 177 countries, Pakistan's human development ranking remains very low. Particularly alarming is the low primary school enrollment for girls which stands at about 30% in rural areas, where the majority of Pakistanis live. In fact, the South Asia average of primary school enrollment is pulled down by Pakistan, the only country in all of Asia and the Pacific with the lowest primary enrollment rate of 70 per cent in 2005. This is 12 percentage points lower than that of Maldives, which, at 80 per cent, has the second lowest rate in Asia and the Pacific. However, whereas Pakistan is rapidly reducing the proportion of children out of primary school - the net enrollment rate was just 60 per cent in 2003 - the rate in Maldives actually dropped 18 percentage points between 1999 and 2005.
The government effort is necessary but the real success will require active participation of private Pakistani citizens of all classes in society. People, including young, educated and enlightened feudal princes, need to come together to light candles rather than curse darkness.
The mission that Rafeh Malik has embarked on is an extremely welcome and necessary effort to change the feudal attitudes toward the poor in Pakistan. There are obviously risks and fears associated with any change. But Rafeh Malik's work should be an inspiration to other young men and women of the feudal class in Pakistan. "I am scared," Rafeh told his friend Shehryar Mufti, a Dawn TV journalist, "but I'm willing to take the risk."
Let's hope Rafeh Malik, and others like him, succeed in bringing about peaceful and positive changes in Pakistani feudal-tribal society that will ultimately benefit all Pakistanis, including the villagers, the middle class and the feudal and tribal chiefs. It has been shown in many developed nations that peaceful transitions from traditional feudal societies to modern democratic, successful, industrialized societies have brought wealth, peace and prosperity for all. The children of the feudal lords in Europe benefited from better education and lucrative business investments to remain rich and powerful, without keeping their people impoverished and illiterate. The transitions were clearly win-win situations for both the rulers and the ruled. The alternatives to peaceful transitions will be far worse for the big zamindars and sardars in Pakistan. Resistance to change by of the feudal-tribal leaders will prove dangerous and futile over the long run.
Light a Candle, Do Not Curse Darkness
United Nations Report on School Enrollment
Volunteerism in Pakistan