Saturday, September 10, 2011

Working Women Seeding a Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

While Fareed Zakaria, Nick Kristoff and other talking heads are still stuck on the old stereotypes of Muslim women, the status of women in Muslim societies is rapidly changing, and there is a silent social revolution taking place with rising number of women joining the workforce and moving up the corporate ladder in Pakistan.



"More of them(women) than ever are finding employment, doing everything from pumping gasoline and serving burgers at McDonald’s to running major corporations", says a report in the latest edition of Businessweek magazine.



Beyond company or government employment, there are a number of NGOs focused on encouraging self-employment and entrepreneurship among Pakistani women by offering skills training and microfinancing. Kashf Foundation led by a woman CEO and BRAC are among such NGOs. They all report that the success and repayment rate among female borrowers is significantly higher than among male borrowers.



In rural Sindh, the PPP-led government is empowering women by granting over 212,864 acres of government-owned agriculture land to landless peasants in the province. Over half of the farm land being given is prime nehri (land irrigated by canals) farm land, and the rest being barani or rain-dependent. About 70 percent of the 5,800 beneficiaries of this gift are women. Other provincial governments, especially the Punjab government have also announced land allotment for women, for which initial surveys are underway, according to ActionAid Pakistan.



Both the public and private sectors are recruiting women in Pakistan's workplaces ranging from Pakistani military, civil service, schools, hospitals, media, advertising, retail, fashion industry, publicly traded companies, banks, technology companies, multinational corporations and NGOs, etc.



Here are some statistics and data that confirm the growth and promotion of women in Pakistan's labor pool:

1. A number of women have moved up into the executive positions, among them Unilever Foods CEO Fariyha Subhani, Engro Fertilizer CFO Naz Khan, Maheen Rahman CEO of IGI Funds and Roshaneh Zafar Founder and CEO of Kashf Foundation.

2. Women now make up 4.6% of board members of Pakistani companies, a tad lower than the 4.7% average in emerging Asia, but higher than 1% in South Korea, 4.1% in India and Indonesia, and 4.2% in Malaysia, according to a February 2011 report on women in the boardrooms.

3. Female employment at KFC in Pakistan has risen 125 percent in the past five years, according to a report in the NY Times.

4. The number of women working at McDonald’s restaurants and the supermarket behemoth Makro has quadrupled since 2006.



5. There are now women taxi drivers in Pakistan. Best known among them is Zahida Kazmi described by the BBC as "clearly a respected presence on the streets of Islamabad".



6. Several women fly helicopters and fighter jets in the military and commercial airliners in the state-owned and private airlines in Pakistan.

Here are a few excerpts from the recent Businessweek story written by Naween Mangi:

About 22 percent of Pakistani females over the age of 10 now work, up from 14 percent a decade ago, government statistics show. Women now hold 78 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, and in July, Hina Rabbani Khar, 34, became Pakistan’s first female Foreign Minister. “The cultural norms regarding women in the workplace have changed,” says Maheen Rahman, 34, chief executive officer at IGI Funds, which manages some $400 million in assets. Rahman says she plans to keep recruiting more women for her company.

Much of the progress has come because women stay in school longer. More than 42 percent of Pakistan’s 2.6 million high school students last year were girls, up from 30 percent 18 years ago. Women made up about 22 percent of the 68,000 students in Pakistani universities in 1993; today, 47 percent of Pakistan’s 1.1 million university students are women, according to the Higher Education Commission. Half of all MBA graduates hired by Habib Bank, Pakistan’s largest lender, are now women. “Parents are realizing how much better a lifestyle a family can have if girls work,” says Sima Kamil, 54, who oversees 1,400 branches as head of retail banking at Habib. “Every branch I visit has one or two girls from conservative backgrounds,” she says.

Some companies believe hiring women gives them a competitive advantage. Habib Bank says adding female tellers has helped improve customer service at the formerly state-owned lender because the men on staff don’t want to appear rude in front of women. And makers of household products say female staffers help them better understand the needs of their customers. “The buyers for almost all our product ranges are women,” says Fariyha Subhani, 46, CEO of Unilever Pakistan Foods, where 106 of the 872 employees are women. “Having women selling those products makes sense because they themselves are the consumers,” she says.

To attract more women, Unilever last year offered some employees the option to work from home, and the company has run an on-site day-care center since 2003. Engro, which has 100 women in management positions, last year introduced flexible working hours, a day-care center, and a support group where female employees can discuss challenges they encounter. “Today there is more of a focus at companies on diversity,” says Engro Fertilizer CFO Khan, 42. The next step, she says, is ensuring that “more women can reach senior management levels.”


The gender gap in South Asia remains wide, and women in Pakistan still face significant obstacles. But there is now a critical mass of working women at all levels showing the way to other Pakistani women.

I strongly believe that working women have a very positive and transformational impact on society by having fewer children, and by investing more time, money and energies for better nutrition, education and health care of their children. They spend 97 percent of their income and savings on their families, more than twice as much as men who spend only 40 percent on their families, according to Zainab Salbi, Founder, Women for Women International, who recently appeared on CNN's GPS with Fareed Zakaria.

Here's an interesting video titled "Redefining Identity" about Pakistan's young technologists, including women, posted by Lahore-based 5 Rivers Technologies:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Status of Women in Pakistan

Microfinancing in Pakistan

Gender Gap Worst in South Asia

Status of Women in India

Female Literacy Lags in South Asia

Land For Landless Women

Are Women Better Off in Pakistan Today?

Growing Insurgency in Swat

Religious Leaders Respond to Domestic Violence

Fighting Agents of Intolerance

A Woman Speaker: Another Token or Real Change

A Tale of Tribal Terror

Mukhtaran Mai-The Movie

World Economic Forum Survey of Gender Gap

81 comments:

Tech said...

Wonderful story, Riaz sb. Really enjoyed reading it.

Khalid said...

Riaz Bhai:
Thanks for sharing some thing positive about Pakistan. This is very encouraging. My daughter and Grand Daughter will be able to show their American friends with PRIDE. God Bless you for Sharing.
Best Regards
Khalid

Akbar said...

Its highly inspiring, thanks a lot for sharing this fine material
Best regards
Akbar

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Newsweek Pakistan cover story about "100 Women Who Shake Pakistan":

They make up almost half of Pakistan's population of 180 million, but are rarely given the space and coverage they deserve. From Fatima Jinnah to Rana Liaquat Ali Khan to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan has produced some very remarkable women. Today, they are bankers, businesswomen, activists, artists, sport stars. From a pool of almost 350 women, here's our list of the 100 women who matter most.

http://www.newsweekpakistan.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=270&Itemid=53

Fahim said...

The article below is by Bryan Farris, an American who recently spent a month in Pakistan. Unlike most who 'visit' and discuss with armchair analysts he decided to 'feel' Pakistan. This country and its peoples have to be 'felt', not merely seen!

http://blog.acumenfund.org/2011/09/08/a-rubberband-kind-of-year-see-you-later-pakistan/

What most of the world fails to realize is just how beautiful this country is and how spectacular its people truly are. It is impossible to overlook the problems: Pakistan is facing lawlessness in Karachi, a violent political system, jaw-dropping inflation, an insufficient power supply and terrorists staking claim over the northern areas. These are real issues that do exist: but they do not define Pakistan—as much of the world would have you believe.

While it may be impossible to overlook the problems, it is (apparently) quite possible to overlook the splendor that a country like Pakistan offers.

Where else do you greet every stranger with the phrase “Peace be with you”?

Where else do you find BBQ Chicken Tikka that melts in your mouth?

Where else is being 20 minutes late considered on-time?

Where else can you see opportunity in every alley?

Where else do motorized scooters (100% of which are red hondas) weave in between cars which cruise past rickshaws, which veer around donkey-pulled carts, which are dwarfed by strutting camels?Where else can you buy seasonal fruit on every single street corner?

Where else do the echoes of a minaret bring an eerie peace to 4a.m. in the morning?

Where else do you find a people who take prayer so seriously, they start every flight with one?

Where else, but Pakistan?
-----------
Pakistanis are hospitable. I’ve spent my entire time here living with a host family. At first I was a guest, but Jean, Wilburn, Asim, Maria, Susie, John, Ben, Thomas, Annie, Tashu and Ethan made me feel so welcome that they became family. I know I have a home here forever. Anywhere you go in Pakistan, people will welcome you with open arms (and probably a even a hug—from strangers too).

Pakstanis are loyal. I mean…crazy loyal. When you make a Pakistani friend, you’ve created a serious bond. Leaving is so hard because I feel such powerful ties with people here. For my farewell dinner, a co-worker (but really a new best friend), Jamshaid, made two 9 hour trips between our site in the flood affected areas and Lahore just to join for dinner. Another friend of mine who had moved out of Lahore months ago made a 250Km round trip to meet me for Sehri breakfast at 3am. I’ve never felt so honored.

Pakistanis love tea. If this isn’t self-evident, I don’t know what is. Pakistanis love to sit down, stir their chai and chat. Spending time with others and building quality relationships is so important. Back home people tend to fly through their days, but in Pakistan, every moment with another is cherished.

Pakistanis are optimistic. I’ve never been somewhere where young people were as energized about opportunities in their own country as here. There is a bright future ahead and Pakistan’s youth are driving it. A few friends of mine—Ali, Babar, Zehra, Saba, Jimmy, Khurram—have inspiring aspirations for change in PK.

This is the Pakistan that the world needs to come to know. Yes, there are terrorists and violence, and that can’t be forgotten, but if that is your perception, then you are judging a book by the headlines.

Sure, there are probably safer ways I could have spent this year, but then I wouldn’t have been stretched in the way that I have been.

Pakistan has become a part of me; it has forever changed me, my perspective on the world, and my trust in humanity.

Here’s to you PK.

Shukria, Allah Hafiz. (Thank you, may God protect you).

~Bryan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report about Dawood Foundation encouraging entrepreneurship in Pakistan:

KARACHI - Six of the most dynamic women entrepreneurs talked about their experiences, triumphs and losses before a spell-bound audience at the second Ladiesfund Entrepreneurship Conference (LEC) hosted by the Dawood Global Foundation (DGF) at the Avari Towers.
The event was organised in partnership with the Higher Education Commission, the Avari Group, the Dawood Capital Management, and over 60 partners, sponsors and supporters. The audience was diverse and consisted of Very Important Persons, top entrepreneurs, budding entrepreneurs, journalists and enthusiastic university students.
The Ladiesfund was established in 2007 as an initiative to provide financial security to women and to promote and train women entrepreneurs. It aims to integrate the entrepreneurial needs based on the economic and social aspects of the local communities with respect to greater women participation in the workforce.
The conference started with recitation of the Holy Quran, followed by a welcome address by TU Dawood with an introduction to virtual businesses and how they are a fabulous option for women entrepreneurs. This was followed by a speech from British Deputy High Commissioner Francis Campbell, who was the chief guest. He spoke on the importance of entrepreneurship in Pakistan and how much it could help boost our economy.
To educate the budding entrepreneurs and students in the audience about what entrepreneurship really is, there was a short academic presentation by Avari Karachi General Manager Gordon Gorman. Then followed the first panel of the conference, which consisted of Mehrbano Sethi of Luscious Cosmetics, Ayaz Khan of Okra, and Wajeeha Malik of Olive Soap.
And as a pleasant surprise for the audience, Rohail Hyatt, the powerhouse behind the famous Coke Studio, joined the panel. This panel focused on the basics of entrepreneurship. They answered questions about the realities on entrepreneurship and what made them decide to become entrepreneurs.
The second panel comprised architect Naheed Mashooqullah, designer Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, and Naila Naqvi of Pie in the Sky and Chatterbox. They shared the inside scoop on how their brands tipped to being the best in their industries, despite facing the problems that all Pakistani entrepreneurs face, like electricity, human resources, etc.
They talked about expanding businesses, and whether expanding through other people, platforms or on your own is a better option. This was followed by a question-answer session. At the end was an art auction by Mehreen Ilahi of the Majmua Art Gallery to raise funds for the DGF, followed by a lucky draw conducted by the chief guest.
The conference was moderated and hosted by Sidra Iqbal. TU Dawood finally presented the plaques to the chief guest and panellists. The event concluded with thanking all the sponsors, supporters, students, event catalysts, volunteers and ambassadors. Funds raised from the LEC 2011 are audited by Ernst & Young Ford Rhodes Sidat Hyder, and go toward Ladiesfund Fellowships & Scholarships as well as women development initiatives.


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/09/women-entrepreneurs-discuss-experiences-triumphs-and-losses/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a World Bank report on employment in South Asia:

Among the five large countries in the region, employment growth since 2000 was highest in Pakistan, followed by Nepal and Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka. Total employment in South Asia (excluding Afghanistan and Bhutan) rose from 473 million in 2000 to 568 million in 2010, creating an average of just under 800,000 new jobs a month. In
all countries except Maldives and Sri Lanka, the largest share of the employed are the low‐end self‐employed (figure 1.2).3 Nearly a third of workers in India and a fifth of
workers in Bangladesh and Pakistan are casual laborers. Regular wage and salaried workers represent a fifth or less of total employment.


http://siteresources.worldbank.org/SOUTHASIAEXT/Resources/223546-1296680097256/7707437-1316565221185/Jobsoverview.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

A just released World Bank report says that "Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, which together account for 95 percent
of the region’s working‐age population and have the lowest rates of female participation (31 percent in Bangladesh, 30 percent in India, and 22 percent in Pakistan)."

http://siteresources.worldbank.org/SOUTHASIAEXT/Resources/223546-1296680097256/7707437-1316565221185/Jobsoverview.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an inspiring story of a brave woman beekeeper in Pakistan:

SWAT: Shahi Bakhta has single-handedly steered her life and those of her children out from the depths of poverty and managed to economically stabilise her family.

Bakhta, 38, lives with her five children in Nehrabad village in Swat’s Kabal town. She was widowed in May 2009 at the peak of the Swat insurgency when her husband, Mohammad Rashid, was hit by a stray bullet in crossfire between the security forces and militants.

In that one moment, Bakhta’s life changed and she was left to provide for her three sons and two daughters alone. “I have seen some tough and very bitter days in life. My children would ask for bread and I had nothing to offer to them. Sorely disappointed, I made many suicide attempts. But my children’s innocent faces stopped me.”

Rashid worked as a labourer but also operated a business on the side, where he bred honeybees. After his death, desperate for financial assistance, Bakhta decided to take over the business.

“I had to sell all the equipment of honeybee keeping to arrange for money for my children. I also sold poultry and other things one by one for survival,” she told The Express Tribune, adding that she would do odd jobs from dawn till dusk but not earn enough money to make ends meet.

Almost disillusioned with life, Bakhta was on the verge of giving up when the Sarhad Rural Support Programme, under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), reached out to her.

“I got detailed training of honeybee keeping for productive and sustainable use of it and learnt basic tools and techniques of honeybee keeping with proper nourishment of boxes,” she said. She was also paid Rs33,000 to start her own business.

The UNDP, with support from the Japanese government, has implemented a Peace and Development Programme in conflict-hit areas, such as Swat, in which cash grants are given to entrepreneurs for small businesses.

With this training, Bakhta now runs her business with scientific methods. “I have better knowledge of how to extract honey from the bees and my business seems to be improving day by day,” she says, happily. “My children’s future will now be bright.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/260475/how-beekeeping-pulled-a-woman-from-the-edge-national/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg report on rising consumer spending and growing FMCG sector in Pakistan:

...“The rural push is aimed at the boisterous youth in these areas, who have bountiful cash and resources to increase purchases,” Shazia Syed, vice president for customer development at Unilever Pakistan Ltd., said in an interview. “Rural growth is more than double that of national sales.”
--------------
Nestle Pakistan Ltd., which is spending 300 million Swiss francs ($330 million) to double dairy output in four years, boosted sales 29 percent to 33 billion rupees ($377 million) in the six months through June.

“We have been focusing on rural areas very strongly,” Ian Donald, managing director of Nestle’s Pakistan unit, said in an interview in Lahore. “Our observation is that Pakistan’s rural economy is doing better than urban areas.”

The parent, based in Vevey, Switzerland, aims to get 45 percent of revenue from emerging markets by 2020.
---------------
Haji Mirbar, who grows cotton on a 5-acre farm with his four brothers, said his family’s income grew fivefold in the year through June, allowing him to buy branded products. He uses Unilever’s Lifebuoy for his open-air baths under a hand pump, instead of the handmade soap he used before.
------------
Sales for the Pakistan unit of Unilever rose 15 percent to 24.8 billion rupees in the first half. Colgate-Palmolive Pakistan Ltd.’s sales increased 29 percent in the six months through June to 7.6 billion rupees, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
-----------
Unilever is pushing beauty products in the countryside through a program called “Guddi Baji,” an Urdu phrase that literally means “doll sister.” It employs “beauty specialists who understand rural women,” providing them with vans filled with samples and equipment, Syed said. Women in villages are also employed as sales representatives, because “rural is the growth engine” for Unilever in Pakistan, she said.

While the bulk of spending for rural families goes to food, about 20 percent “is spent on looking beautiful and buying expensive clothes,” Syed said.

Colgate-Palmolive, the world’s largest toothpaste maker, aims to address a “huge gap” in sales outside Pakistan’s cities by more than tripling the number of villages where its products, such as Palmolive soap, are sold, from the current 5,000, said Syed Wasif Ali, rural operations manager at the local unit.
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Unilever plans to increase the number of villages where its products are sold to almost half of the total 34,000 within three years. Its merchandise, including Dove shampoo, Surf detergent and Brooke Bond Supreme tea, is available in about 11,000 villages now.
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Pakistan, Asia’s third-largest wheat grower, in 2008 increased wheat prices by more than 50 percent as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sought to boost production of the staple.

“The injection of purchasing power in the rural sector has been unprecedented,” said Sherani, who added that local prices for rice and sugarcane have also risen.
----------
Increasing consumption in rural areas is forecast to drive economic growth in the South Asian country of 177 million people, according to government estimates.

Higher crop prices boosted farmers’ incomes in Pakistan by 342 billion rupees in the 12 months through June, according to a government economic survey. That was higher than the gain of 329 billion rupees in the preceding eight years.
-------------
Telenor Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd. is also expanding in Pakistan’s rural areas, which already contribute 60 percent of sales, said Anjum Nida Rahman, corporate communications director for the local unit of the Nordic region’s largest phone company.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a sad story by blogger Amna of how the elderly in Pakistan are being abandoned at places like Edhi Center:

Her name is Dr. Bibi Qureshi and she was abandoned by her family and left at Edhi shelter for women in Karachi at the age she needs family the most. She appears to be around 80 years old. Although each woman had a heartbreaking story to tell, that of Dr. Bibi Qureshi was especially compelling because in spite of the fact that she’s more well-educated than many people I know, she ended up destitute and abandoned after a lifetime of hard work and accomplishments. After being educated in Aligarh University, her family left India and traveled to Pakistan due to political unrest. She was an activist for women in Balochistan, going door to door to form an all women’s league (really wish I had a clip of the interview to remember the exact name of the organization she is responsible for founding). I can’t even imagine a time when it was safe for an activist to go door to door in Balochistan, much less a woman. She was a feminist before most of us were even born, long before that became a buzzword. She taught in Government College for Women in Pindi for eight years before traveling to London to pursue a PhD. from London School of Economics.

When asked why she never married, she replied that she chose to pursue an education instead. (In this society, if you don’t get married by 24, you’re considered an old maid by 25, at which point people start questioning if there’s something “wrong” with you. Around 30, the proposals pretty much just stop.)

I lived a full life, she said, but I ended up here because I mismanaged my money. I gave it to family, to my brother, to my nephews, to charities and to the poor. Now I have nothing and my brother left me here. Yet she is still grateful, she said, for having a clean bed to sleep in, clothes to wear and food to eat.

When asked if she thought she wouldn’t be in this state had she married and had children, she replied that most of the women in the shelter had children but none willing to house them or care for them. The abandoned woman in the bed next to her had 5 daughters and 2 sons. “It’s a strange world,” she said, shrugging her shoulders in defeat. Who knows what would have happened. If I had children, I may have ended up somewhere else. I may have still ended up here. People come here and ask for interviews, then they leave and everything stays the same. (At which point the pancake-makeup-ed show host made an awkwardface and got up and left to interview someone else.)


http://weareourdesires.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/if-youre-in-karachi-do-this

Riaz Haq said...

Rising per capita income and a growing, young population spending more time online and at Western movies are helping build a mass market in Pakistan, according to Businessweek:

One way to take a city’s economic pulse is to check out where locals shop. In Karachi, Pakistan, shoppers are flocking to Port Grand, which opened in May. Built as a promenade by the historic harbor for almost $23 million, the center caters to Pakistanis eager to indulge themselves. This city of 20 million has seen more than 1,500 deaths from political and sectarian violence from January to August. At Port Grand the only hint of the turmoil is the presence of security details and surveillance cameras. “The whole world is going through a new security environment,” says Shahid Firoz, 61, Port Grand’s developer. “We have to be very conscious of security just as any other significant facility anywhere in the world needs to be.”

Young people stroll the promenade eating burgers and fries and browsing through 60 stores and stalls that sell everything from high fashion to silver bracelets to ice cream. Ornate benches dot a landscaped area around a 150-year-old banyan tree. “Port Grand is something fresh for the city, very aesthetically pleasing and unique,” says Yasmine Ibrahim, a 25-year-old Lebanese American who is helping set up a student affairs office at a new university in Karachi.

One-third of Pakistan’s 170 million people are under the age of 15, which means the leisure business will continue to grow, says Naveed Vakil, head of research at AKD Securities. Per capita income has grown to $1,254 a year in June from $1,073 three years ago.

The appetite for things American is strong despite the rise in tensions between the two allies. Hardee’s opened its first Karachi outlet in September: In the first few days customers waited for hours. It plans to open 10 more restaurants in Pakistan in the next two and a half years, says franchisee Imran Ahmed Khan. U.S. movies are attracting crowds to the recently opened Atrium Cinemas, which would not be out of place in suburban Chicago. Current features include The Adventures of Tintin and the latest Twilight Saga installment. Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol is coming soon. Operator Nadeem Mandviwalla says the cinema industry in Pakistan is growing 30 percent a year.

Exposure to Western lifestyles through cable television and the Internet is raising demand for these goods and services. Pakistan has 20 million Internet users, compared with 133,900 a decade ago, while 25 foreign channels, such as CNN (TWX) and BBC World News, are now available. And for many Pakistanis, reruns of the U.S. sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond are a regular treat.

The bottom line: With per capita income rising quickly, Pakistan is developing a mass market eager for Western goods.


http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/pakistans-consumers-flex-their-newfound-muscle-12012011.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about Emmy award winning Pakistani documentary producer Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy:

“We’re all storytellers,” says documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who knows how to make the most of people's storytelling abilities. A recent film about children groomed by the Taliban to become suicide bombers won her an Emmy award, making her the first Pakistani woman to get television's highest accolade. And her most recent film, Saving Face, about Pakistani women who've survived acid attacks is on the Oscar nomination shortlist.
----------
She's the brains behind the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a database that collects stories from people across the country. “Our goal is to create a repository. We want to make a space to record how the nation has changed over the past years. And currently CAP is the only organization that is recording the personal stories of people,” she says.

Obaid-Chinoy feels that history is in danger of being wiped from her country's collective memory because politics is re-writing the national narrative. "Many children today are barely aware of what happened during the 1971 war," she says. "The defeat of the Pakistani army which led to the creation of Bangladesh is something the government is eager to forget. But CAP found enough people willing to talk about their personal experiences of the war."

The organisation's website offers a chance to browse - for no charge - through an extraordinary collection of videos. Each one is one person's story; their memories of a specific time in history.

It's a simple idea, but a powerful one. Obaid-Chinoy says it’s critical to record the stories because



“Pakistan has been extremely bad at recording its own history properly. Every new government has tried to erase the previous rulers from history. What is left in museums and school textbooks is propaganda from the latest government.”

Bringing the stories to the people
The spirit of the project however is not just to make a preserved video archive for historians.

“We’re also bringing our archive to the people. In Pakistan, information is a privilege of the wealthy, unfortunately. If you have money you can afford education and become more aware of the world around you. The CAP wants to change this,” explains Obaid-Chinoy.

And one of the ways its doing this is through their School Outreach Tour, a program sends a mobile archive of videos, photographs, and newspapers to schools around the country. The aim is to teach children more about Pakistan’s rich history and make them feel proud of it again.

“Part of the reason why Pakistan is in the shape it is in today is because it’s hard for young people to believe in the possibilities of their country. They don’t understand what the idea was behind the creation of this nation. They know so little about Pakistan’s good years,” Says Sharmeen.
----------
“They like telling people about the dreams they had back then. But Partition came with traumas as well. Many people left their homes to follow that dream. It was the turning point in their lives, but the moment itself was filled with hope.”

And hope is something that has been in short supply in Pakistan in recent years. The country has paid a high price for the US-led war on terror. As the forces of extremism, violence and western manipulation pull the nation in different directions, it could well be Obaid-Chinoy's story bank that may end up being definitive repository of Pakistan's soul.

Riaz Haq said...

Veena is safe, reports NY Daily News:

A Bollywood beauty whose racy magazine cover photo sparked outrage in Pakistan was reported missing Friday, but has turned up safe and sound in a hotel in India.

Veena Malik, who posed nude for the latest issue of the India version of FHM magazine, apparently vanished last week, causing her manager, Pratiek Mehta, to report her missing, according to London's Daily Mirror.

He was concerned because he said she told him she was feeling depressed and had received several death threats over the photos.

The report led to rampant speculation in the Indian media, including claims that she had snuck back into her home country of Pakistan garbed in a burqa because her visa in India had expired.

PHOTOS: COVER CONTROVERSY? CELEBRITY NAKED COVERS

The 33-year-old - who is in India filming a movie - has since emerged and her spokesperson said she was safe in a hotel in Mumbai.

"Touched base with Veena this morning, she is fine," the spokesperson said, according to the Mirror.

Malik, a Muslim, posed for the men's magazine topless with a tattoo on her shoulder of Pakistan's dreaded intelligence agency, ISI. Conservative clerics in Pakistan called the photos an insult.

The model, who gained fame on the Pakistani version of "Big Brother," said the images were doctored and is suing the magazine.

"I agreed to a photo shoot and having an ISI tattoo in a humorous way but I did not have any nude photos. My pictures have been morphed," she told a Pakistani television station.

FHM denies her claims.

"Maybe she is facing some kind of backlash, so maybe that's why she is denying it," FHM India editor Kabeer Sharma told Agence France-Presse. "We have not photoshopped or faked the cover."


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/veena-malik-muslim-model-featured-nude-fhm-india-cover-safe-india-article-1.993309#ixzz1guUpRU86

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Economic Times story on promoting women entrepreneurs:

Prominent leaders from India and Pakistan today called for concrete steps to empower women in South Asia by enabling them to assert their economic independence through entrepreneurship as a means of eradicating poverty, illiteracy, disease and crime.

Providing women with networking platforms is essential in the current globalised world, said Member of Parliament Najma Heptullah at a seminar organised by industry chamber Assocham here.

The seminar, titled, 'Fostering Women Entrepreneurship - The Way Forward for South Asia', was organised ahead of the visit of an Assocham delegation of business leaders to Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi from January 9 to 14, 2012.

Expressing her views, Pakistan Minister of Social Welfare Nargis Khan said women can play an important role in developing societies and nations.

"The country is exploring new channels to promote entrepreneurship with micro loans. Pakistani women are more empowered now after a prolonged dictatorship in a male-dominated society," Khan said.

Speaking at the seminar, Creative Living Organisation Founder and Chief Executive Officer Harbeen Arora said the formation of women associations and support groups should be encouraged to provide them bandwidth for both critical thinking and also critical mass.

"There is need more than ever for having more examples of successful entrepreneurship by women and inspiring role models," she said.

Qadim Moosarat, the Executive Director of the Paiman Trust in Pakistan, said space for women in economic and political spheres is essential for equitable development and peace in South Asia.

National Youth Congress leader Alka Lamba said both countries have many commonalities and traditional linkages. Indian and Pakistani business leaders should pursue their entrepreneurial ambition by forging economic partnerships with the neighbouring nation to promote core values of unity and peace, she said.


http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/india-pakistan-leaders-for-steps-to-encourage-women-entrepreneurs/articleshow/11155918.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some findings of Buffalo University researchers on Pakistani women:

"Despite the overwhelming media attention to the rise of fundamentalism and Pakistan's geopolitical role in the 'war against terror,' Pakistan has an often-unrevealed side, characterized by an active women's movement that serves as a key democratic force committed to expanding women's rights," Filomena Critelli writes in her study, "Struggle and Hope: Challenging Gender Violence in Pakistan."

Forthcoming in the journal Critical Sociology, Critelli's analysis is based on interviews with activists who founded a legal aid practice to defend women's rights and a private shelter for women fleeing from abuse.

People seldom hear about the activism of these women's groups, Critelli says. But their work and resiliency, often in the face of resistance, harassment and safety threats, should be recognized as much as the elements of fundamentalism that have attracted international headlines.

"Within civil society (in Pakistan), women activists are advocating to implement strategies to limit gender violence as well as provide care for survivors," she writes in the study. "The women's movement continues to negotiate women's interests with the state and society, and has become increasingly effective over time, strengthened by regional and international recognition of its work."

The struggle against abuse against women in Pakistan -- which often reaches graphic proportions such as "honor killings," forced marriages, child marriages and other forms of gender violence -- is seen through a "secular human rights framework" by these activists, according to Critelli, assistant professor of social work at UB. Critelli has authored several studies on gender-based violence and women's rights activism in Pakistan. Her most recent research paper was prepared with her former student, Jennifer Willett.

It's a movement that often surprises people who do not realize the pluralistic Pakistani culture, she says, one that exists with sometimes contradictory elements that include these strong advocates of women's rights, changing political climates and traditional patriarchal social orders that inhibit independence of women.

For example, this vibrant women's rights movement has been active for over 30 years in Pakistan. Pakistan was the first Muslim country to elect a women leader, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and has adopted policies that set a quota of 30 percent of reserved seats for women in Parliament. As a result, women's representation in Pakistan's parliament is the highest in South Asia.

Although the women's rights movement is alive and well in Pakistan, the country also is marked by a strongly patriarchal society where male power manifests itself in a high incidence of domestic violence.

"Gender violence is estimated to take place in as many as 80 to 90 percent of the households in Pakistan," notes Critelli. "Gender violence in Pakistan takes a variety of forms, some of which are common across cultures such as marital violence, including verbal abuse, hitting, kicking, slapping, rape and murder, and economic and emotional abuse.

"Other forms of violence are rooted in traditional practices that continue under the guise of social conformism, customs and misinterpretations of religion, that also include exchange marriage, death by burning (stove deaths, which are presented as accidents), acid attacks and nose cutting (a form of humiliation and degradation)," Critelli writes. "Women are also raped and abused while in police custody, which further deters many women from reporting crimes against them."

All these practices are contrary to Pakistani law, human rights treaties ratified by Pakistan, as well as the tenets of Islam...


http://www.buffalo.edu/news/13155

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Brown Daily Herald report on an upcoming Pakistani documentary "The Other Half of Tomorrow: Women Changing Pakistan":

Samina Quraeshi is a Renaissance woman in every sense of the phrase. A native of Pakistan, she has worn the hats of author, artist, architect, speaker, academic, photographer, curator — and now filmmaker.

Quraeshi presented clips from her upcoming documentary, "The Other Half of Tomorrow: Women Changing Pakistan," to a rapt audience of roughly 30 students and Rhode Island natives Wednesday night in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. The richly detailed and tenderly shot film tells the stories of women in Pakistan trying to make positive changes in their surroundings as entrepreneurs, public health workers and dance instructors, among other jobs.

In an address before the screening, Quraeshi said her motive behind producing the film was to present the human face of a region often vilified in the media.

"I want to use art to introduce complex cultural nuances," she said. "Sensationalist portrayals begin to warp the public's consciousness of the people who live in (Pakistan)."

Soft-spoken and often dryly humorous, Quraeshi also emphasized that understanding a place's history is essential to understanding its culture.

"During the past Bush era, there was a culture of fear on top of a lack of awareness," she told The Herald. "It made people want to get into their houses and watch their TVs, but all the media coverage was doing was propagating stereotypes."

The film preview was part of a national series called "Caravanserai: A Place Where Cultures Meet," which aims to introduce American audiences to contemporary Muslim artists. The Providence nonprofit FirstWorks competed fiercely with organizations across the country to host Caravanserai in the city, said Kathleen Pletcher, executive artistic director of FirstWorks. Only four other U.S. nonprofits earned a spot as a stop on the tour.

"There's this idea of a caravanserai as a place where weary travelers along the road stop and rest and share their stories," Pletcher said. "It's a very collective act. And that's what we're hoping to do here — connect art with audience."

The next Caravanserai event is a Feb. 7 screening of "Made in Pakistan," a documentary from Pakistani filmmaker Ayesha Khan. Quraeshi's film is slated to be released in October.


http://www.browndailyherald.com/granoff-hosts-pakistani-renaissance-woman-1.2694725#.TywcK-RWGSo

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Pakistan's fast growing entrepreneurial companies:

In the midst of challenging political and economic circumstances, the Pakistan100 broke many AllWorld records in relation to 15 other country rankings in the region, coming in only second to Turkey in terms of entrepreneurial growth and transparency. Many of the companies have been founded in the last ten years, and have already grown to be industry leaders. An average of only 42 years old, most Pakistan100 entrepreneurs plan to establish another company in the next two years.
----------------
The Pakistan100 was an unprecedented partnership between AllWorld Network, Cyan Limited, and partners Mishal, P@SHA, LadiesFund, CIOPakistan, TiE, Abacus Consulting and Rozee.PK. Thousands of emails were sent to companies around the country inviting them to compete for a spot on the Pakistan100. Companies had to be rapidly growing private non-listed companies, and they could come from any industry and any part of the country. Each company had to provide audited statements to confirm their revenues and each applicant’s business practices and ethics were strenuously vetted. The fastest growing of these became the inaugural Pakistan100.

Leading the Pakistan100 is number 1 company e2e Supply Chain Management, which grew 1,918 percent between 2008 and 2010, with 2010 revenues above $50 million and 297 employees. Launched in 2005, e2e has risen to become one of the most successful end-to-end logistics companies covering Pakistan and Afghanistan. Taking the second spot for Pakistan was Exceed Private Limited, with a growth rate of 1,320 percent and 90 employees. Founded by the youngest entrepreneur on the Pakistan100, Exceed rose to prominence for its historic restoration of Saidpur Model Village, redeveloped as an 18th Century city-museum with 5,000 residents.

Pakistan also had the most number of women entrepreneurs of any AllWorld list at 8 percent, and 7thranked Luscious Cosmetics of Pakistan topped the list of the fastest growing women entrepreneurs with growth of 392 percent and 82 employees. The Pakistan100 entrepreneurs have built globally competitive businesses with one quarter of their revenues coming from international markets and companies such as ROZEE.PK (#12) having secured VC investment from Silicon Valley.

Commenting on the success of Pakistan100 at the Awards Ceremony, AllWorld co-founders Deirdre Coyle and Anne Habiby urged the Pakistan100 to go further “When no one expected much, the Pakistan100 broke records for growth, transparency and competitiveness. They are the personification of what every country dreams of having. Now raise the bar higher and build Pakistan as a leading entrepreneurial nation.” Added Pakistan100 Founding Director Malik Ahmad Jalal, “As the Pakistan100, you send a signal to everyone in Pakistan and around the world that Pakistan is open for business. There is no more important message to secure peace and prosperity.”

The Pakistan winners are in Lahore for the two-day Pakistan100 Awards & Summit from March 9-10. The Summit will be an action packed two days featuring the Pakistan100 along with prominent speakers, panel discussions, networking sessions, and Pakistan100 Awards Dinner. Over 160 representatives from the winning companies will be in attendance and close to 150 VIPs and influencers.


http://www.newspakistan.pk/2012/03/10/pakistan-fast-growth-100-break-entrepreneurial-records/

http://www.allworldlive.com/feed/press/pakistan-2-arabia-fast-growth-500-pakistan-breaks-records-hub-entrepreneurs

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of an Op Ed in The Atlantic titled "The White Savior Industrial Complex"
By Teju Cole:

What Africa needs more pressingly than Kony's indictment is more equitable civil society, more robust democracy, and a fairer system of justice.
--------------
1- From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex.

Teju Cole @tejucole

2- The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.

Teju Cole @tejucole

3- The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm.

Teju Cole @tejucole

4- This world exists simply to satisfy the needs—including, importantly, the sentimental needs—of white people and Oprah.

5- The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.

Teju Cole @tejucole

6- Feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of choice. Worry about that.

Teju Cole @tejucole

7- I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.

These tweets were retweeted, forwarded, and widely shared by readers. They migrated beyond Twitter to blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, and other sites; I'm told they generated fierce arguments. As the days went by, the tweets were reproduced in their entirety on the websites of the Atlantic and the New York Times, and they showed up on German, Spanish, and Portuguese sites. A friend emailed to tell me that the fourth tweet, which cheekily name-checks Oprah, was mentioned on Fox television.

These sentences of mine, written without much premeditation, had touched a nerve. I heard back from many people who were grateful to have read them. I heard back from many others who were disappointed or furious. Many people, too many to count, called me a racist. One person likened me to the Mau Mau. The Atlantic writer who'd reproduced them, while agreeing with my broader points, described the language in which they were expressed as "resentment."

This weekend, I listened to a radio interview given by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof. Kristof is best known for his regular column in the New York Times in which he often gives accounts of his activism or that of other Westerners. When I saw the Kony 2012 video, I found it tonally similar to Kristof's approach, and that was why I mentioned him in the first of my seven tweets.

Those tweets, though unpremeditated, were intentional in their irony and seriousness. I did not write them to score cheap points, much less to hurt anyone's feelings. I believed that a certain kind of language is too infrequently seen in our public discourse. I am a novelist. I traffic in subtleties, and my goal in writing a novel is to leave the reader not knowing what to think. A good novel shouldn't have a point. ....


http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Samaa TV report on a girl rickshaw driver in Karachi:

A deprived but very bold girl has started rickshaw driving to feed her five-member family in Karachi, SAMAA reported on Monday.

Rubeena is young but not afraid of driving rickshaw on busy roads of Karachi as she is committed to feed her old mother, three sisters and one injured brother.

It is first case of its kind in the largest city of Pakistan, where no female has dared to earn living by driving a rickshaw or taxi up till now.

Rubeena is not familiar with the uncountable roads of the metropolis so, initially she is picking nearby passengers in her area including few regular passengers only.

Few female passengers and other trustworthy regular travelers used to call her on mobile phone number when they need to go somewhere.

Rubeena does not care that what people think about her as a rickshaw driving girl; she just cares about her cause and commitment with the family.

It seems that Rubeena’s bold step will open door for many other brave girls to earn living and change their families’ destiny.


http://samaa.tv/newsdetail.aspx?ID=44499&CID=1

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Financial Times story on a women's only university in Pakistan:

Established in Rawalpindi in 1999 as the first public sector university exclusively for women, the FJWU makes education accessible to women from conservative Muslim homes who would otherwise not be allowed to attend a mainstream university. It also takes female students from impoverished families who cannot afford the exorbitant fees charged by private universities.

“Young women who come to FJWU include many from circumstances beyond your imagination. They come from poor families who are simply unable to afford even a regular bus fare let alone a car,” says Prof Qadir.

The FJWU’s MBA programme accepts about 60 students a year and in the past decade has seen more than 800 students graduate. It is located in the Old Presidency – the former official residence of Pakistan’s heads of state. Previous residents include the late military dictator Zia ul Haq who introduced some of the most rigorous laws targeting women, an irony for those who see FJWU’s role as the empowerment of young women.

Many of FJWU’s students enter the programme under the impression that they will not be taught alongside men. However, the reality of going through an MBA programme soon exposes women to an environment where men and women work side by side. The six-week obligatory internship takes place in a non-segregated environment and students can find themselves working in organisations ranging from the ministry of the environment, to the Pakistan Red Crescent society to the US embassy in Islamabad. The students also find themselves competing aggressively with male students from other universities in events such as job fairs.

“From day one, we push our business students to face the rigour of the practical world” says Prof Qadir.

“The students may step into a segregated campus which is for women only, but they must then face the realities of the practical world. That’s what an MBA programme is all about.”


http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/5a9b1e6e-687d-11e1-a6cc-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1qBxQGnq1

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of Pakistan empowering poor Tanzanian women with sewing machines gift:

Twenty five poor women in Dar es Salaam city and its precincts on Friday felt Pakistan’s heartiest greetings of her 72nd national day after they each received a sewing machine to help them fight poverty.

The machines, each worth 100 US Dollars were issued by the High Commissioner for Pakistan in Tanzania, Tajammul Altaf for Tanzania at a brief ceremony at the High Commissioner’s office in the city…

A sigh of relief engulfed Sophia Mngole from Kinondoni area, one of the recipients of the donation. Sophia,37, has since her childhood been working as a house girl in various areas in the country. This was after her mother died when she was still at a tender age.

Poor Sophia had shown great dedication to her house-girl work which has made her live happily with every family she had been labouring for. She has been keeping her meagre pay she received to pay to a tailoring mart so that she could learn the art.

She is now able to make various designs for both male and female customers. That is why owners of the mart have retained her to assist them in their work. She however receives peanuts at the end of the day although her work mints much money for the owner of the mart.

After the Pakistan offer of the sewing machine she only said, ‘God is great.’ She has began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The future looks bright for her.

‘This machine will liberate me from poverty. The sewing machine will make me raise money to take care of my nine-year old daughter Rispa who is in standard three.

The same feeling was felt by the other 19 recipients of the donation. Smiling, many had even enquired from the Pakistanis at the function how to say ‘Long live Pakistan’ in Urdu which is the national language of Pakistan.

“Pakistan Painda abad,’ meaning Long live Pakistan, they replied to any Pakistanis who greeted them at the function.

A flag hoisting ceremony to mark the 72nd Anniversary of the Pakistan was held at the High Commission for Pakistan in Dar es Salaam.


http://www.ippmedia.com/frontend/index.php?l=39890

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a VOA report on USAID helping women entrepreneurs in Pakistan:

Despite tensions between Washington and Islamabad, Pakistan remains a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid, including efforts to boost the earning power of women. One such program is helping thousands of embroiderers market their garments and manage their businesses. A mother of seven has quadrupled her monthly income since taking part in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Entrepreneurs Project.

An accomplished embroiderer with no formal education, Jamila struggled for years to augment her husband’s income by doing stitching and beadwork in a poor Karachi district. Thanks to USAID-funded business training, she now manages a team of embroiderers, spearheading a thriving enterprise.

“My life has been transformed. I am proof that a woman can earn and do something productive for herself and her children,” said Jamila.

She also said the instruction she received from USAID is invaluable.

“The training showed us how to run a successful business. We were taught marketing and improved our skills. We learned to take orders and the importance of on-time deliveries for growing the business,” said Jamila.

Helping female entrepreneurs like Jamila is a cornerstone of USAID’s global anti-poverty efforts.

“If you can effectively engage women in development solutions, you get better results, more sustainability, more kids in school, reduced malnutrition,” said Agency administrator Rajiv Shah.

The strategy has the backing of some American lawmakers who decide USAID funding levels.

“Empowering women is one of the most critical tools in our toolbox to fight poverty and injustice,” said Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.

At a time of runaway U.S. debt, many lawmakers want assurances that foreign aid money is wisely spent and generates real results.

“Our national debt has grown to more than $15 trillion. This scenario brings great pressure to our government’s financial obligations, and places our entire economy at some risk. In this context, the dollars available for global development will necessarily be limited,” said Republican Senator Richard Lugar.

In Pakistan, training provided by USAID helps to build a lifetime of higher incomes for women like Jamila.

"I am now earning up to 2,000 rupees [$22] a month, up from 450 rupees [$5], and 40 other women are working with me. I hope even more will come forward after seeing how my life has been changed,” said Jamila.


http://www.voanews.com/english/news/asia/USAID-Boosts-Female-Entrepreneurs-in-Pakistan-144260265.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Newsweek Pakistan on women entrepreneurs:

What inspired you to start your own businesses?

Roshaneh Zafar: I never thought I’d start my own business at 27, but I met [Grameen founder] Dr. Muhammad Yunus at a conference and he changed my life. He talked about women’s economic empowerment and how a simple loan could change lives. I spent time with him in Bangladesh and he encouraged me to help Pakistani women [with microfinance opportunities]. He said if I fail, I could blame it all on him.

Ambarine Bukharey: I started gemstone exports in 1989 and never thought this would become a serious business. I was the first woman in this line, and I think so far the only one who’s also mining. When I first went out in the markets in Peshawar to buy gemstones, all these men would just stop and stare and laugh at me. They were highly skeptical. But now we’re one big happy family. Now I can sit with five or six Pathans in the middle of the night examining stones. I feel safe now, because they look after you like family.

Sajida Zulfiqar Khan: I started this furniture business after my husband died. People here and abroad have been very responsive to our work.

Nasreen Kasuri: I’m afraid my story is not as glamorous as the rest. I started out in 1975 when my own children were starting school. I looked around for the right nursery school in town, and felt that none of them was suitable for children aged 2 and 3. So I started my own Montessori in Lahore. After that it was just a series of fortunate coincidences.

Zeenat Saeed Ahmed: I was bored with marriage. So I started making little gifts and set up a small boutique store, Sehr. Later, I set up a garment factory and had 600 people working for me at one time. In 1993 I went bankrupt, so I closed down and also got divorced the same year. It wasn’t a happy time. When I ran out of whatever little money I had left, I decided to start Taneez. I started from home, and when we did our first store in 2000 it was an instant success.

Did you face any resistance from your families in striking out on your own?

Khan: A little, but it gets better every day.

Kasuri: I didn’t really face any resistance, not in the beginning. They thought this was just a hobby which would keep me busy and out of mischief.

What do you consider your first achievement in the profession? When did you realize you had made it?

Zafar: It took me 10 months after setting up Kashf to organize women in groups and encourage the concept of women working at home or in the community. There were these five women who were the first risk takers, who took Rs. 4,000 to start their business some 18 years ago. It was just incredible when the first repayment installment came in and then the next; these women had begun to feel confident because they could invest in a business, earn and actually be able to repay their loans.

Bukharey: For me it was being able to break through the culture of the male-dominated mining market and become accepted as an equal.

Khan: My business is pretty simple. Every woman in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa told me this would be a difficult business, dealing with labor and everything. But it has worked and I’m pretty happy about it.

Kasuri: What I started was very small. For the first few years it didn’t make any money, and that didn’t matter. I was doing my own accounts. Every time I was short of money I would put some money in and keep it going. When it did finally make money I was quite excited, except that real accountants told me I hadn’t made any money. They put in the amortization and depreciation and told me I had actually lost money. So it took me some time to figure out that when you think you have made money, you haven’t really.

Ahmed: When I got my first check something like 35 years ago, I was pretty excited...


http://www.newsweekpakistan.com/features/946

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Summitpost story on Pakistani woman mountain climber Samina Baig:

The Pakistan Youth Outreach Second Climbing Expedition in winter to Mingligh sar 6050m was indeed amazing, Samina Baig being the first woman from Pakistan to go on a winter attempt in the Karakorum was a great mile stone in Pakistani women’s adventure history.Samina Baig who had topped Chashkin Sar Peak,which was uncllimbed, in August-Septermber 2010. The team along with Samina set High Camp at nearly 5525m which was new for any girl from Pakistan in winter and pushed for the summit the next day. Due to extreme cold and insufficient clothing for Samina (due to financial constraints) mainly down jacket and pants, the team decided to return approximately 150m short of the summit. Samina reached the height of approximately 5900m. Later the weather turned to hell and we called off the Expedition however the PYO first basic mountaineering training camp for young school boys and girls was very successful.This expedition was dedicated to all those who have been affected by the floods in Pakistan this year.
Since Karakorum has different weather conditions, the winter arrives late November in the high mountains of Karakorum, according to the calendar year it has been said that December climbing expeditions are not a full calendar year expedition. However a few years back the Alpine club of Pakistan organized a climbing expedition to Peer Peak in the Karakorum which was named “Winter Expedition”. Similarly there was another expedition in November by locals which was also named Winter Expedition. Looking at the extreme weather situation in the high mountains, December and January is normally considered winter in the Karakorum, Pamir area hence the expedition is also Winter Expedition.
The expedition kicked off on the 8th of December 2010 after three days acclimatization in Shimshal Valley. We hired 12 porters, two cooks and Mr Yausaf Khan, former army climber as our expedition advisor. The first day was spent at Korband. During the winter days are short and most streams at different summer camp sites get frozen therefore the first night spent at Korband was pretty chilly and there was a lot of frost in the tents. After a steep climb of Ghar Sar the next day the team managed to reach Uch Forzeen in 9 hours, the chill was great though the day was sunny. Uch Forzeen provided us with good shelter for cooking in the hut but sleeping in the tent was pretty hard, at midnight I found my sleeping bag frosty and frozen half due to my breathing but a great adventure all the same! Uch Forzeen to Arbon Purian was a nice journey, the frozen slopes of Arbon Purian were nice for practice and play adventure in the cold climate.


http://www.summitpost.org/samina-baig-account-of-first-pakistani-women-s-winter-climbing-expedition/698778

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on Benazir Income Support program in Pakistan:

Clutching photocopied ID cards in bony fingers, a roomful of Pakistan's poorest women sit on gray plastic chairs and wait in silence for something many have never experienced: a little bit of help from the government.

It comes in the form of a debit card that is topped up with the equivalent of $30 every three months, enough to put an extra daily meal on the table, buy a school uniform or pay for medical treatment in a country where soaring food and fuel costs are hurting millions who already live hand-to-mouth.

The program is something of a success story for a government widely seen as corrupt and inefficient, as well as for international donors that help implement and fund it. But the very need for the scheme highlights the poverty stalking a country whose stability is seen as key to the fight against Islamist extremism.

Other cash-transfer programs in Pakistan have been plagued by graft and allegations that only supporters of the party in power received the funds. Many feared this program, named after Benazir Bhutto, the late wife of President Asif Ali Zardari, would go the same way.

But that hasn't happened, at least not significantly. The Benazir Income Support Programme is modeled on similar efforts in Africa and South America, part of a quiet revolution in the way countries and development agencies are helping the poor. Initial concerns that recipients would fritter away the money have proven unfounded, and giving cash is now accepted as a vital and cost-effective aid tool.

"I spend the money on my kids, what else would I do?" said Rifat Parveen, a mother of five who sometimes has to serve only bread and boiled chili peppers for the evening meal. "Even if a poor person gets 10 rupees (5 cents), he or she will be grateful."

When a woman is called, she goes to a room where her identity is checked against an electronic database and her thumb print taken electronically. A bank employee then gives her the card — and a crash course in how to use it — before she returns to her village.

As they do elsewhere in the world, women in Pakistan must receive the money on behalf of their families because research shows they spend it more responsibly than men do. They must also first obtain a valid identity card to be eligible. Both requirements have been credited with pushing women, discriminated against in Pakistan, a little into the mainstream.


http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/04/17/in-pakistan-welfare-scheme-shows-signs-success/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a special CNN report on a Pakistani village by Wajahat Ali:

This is a story affecting millions of Pakistanis — and it does not involve suicide bombings, honor killings, extremism or President Zardari's mustache.

"What would you like to be when you grow up?" I asked Sakafat, a boisterous 12-year-old girl, while visiting a remote Pakistani village in the Sindh province.

"A scientist!" she immediately replied. "Why can't we be scientists? Why not us?"

The confident Sakafat lives in Abdul Qadir Lashari village, which is home to 500 people in Mirpur Sakro. It is in one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan.

There was a characteristic resilience and optimism in this particular village. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Pakistan's often dysfunctional, surreal yet endearing daily existence.

The 500 villagers live in 48 small huts, except for the one "wealthy" family who recently built a home made of concrete. The village chief, Abdul Qadir Lashari, proudly showed off his village's brand-new community toilets, paved roads, and water pump that brings fresh water to the village.

These simple, critical amenities, taken for granted by most of us in the West, resulted from the direct assistance of the Rural Support Programmes Network, Pakistan's largest nongovernmental organization. RSPN has worked with thousands of similar Pakistani villages to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency.

I visited the Sindh village with RSPN to witness the results of using community organizing to alleviate poverty. The staff told me its goal was to teach villagers to "fish for themselves."

Every household in the Abdul Qadir Lashari village was able to reach a profit by the end of 2011 as a result of professional skills training, financial management, community leadership workshops and microloans.

Specifically, a middle-aged, illiterate woman proudly told me how she learned sewing and financial management and was thus able to increase her household revenue, manage her bills, and use a small profit to purchase an extra cow for the family. She was excited to introduce me to her cow, but sadly due to lack of time I was unable to make the bovine acquaintance.
--------
Asked what single thing she felt was most important most for her village, she replied education. Upon asking another elderly lady what she wishes for Pakistan, she repeated one word three times: "sukoon," which means peace.

When it was time to depart, the people of the village presented me with a beautiful handmade Sindhi shawl, an example of the craftwork the villagers are now able to sell for profit.

As I left the village with the dark red, traditional Sindhi shawl adorned around my neck, my thoughts returned to the 12-year-old girl, Sakafat, who passionately asked why she couldn't become a scientist.

I looked in her eyes and could only respond with the following: "You're right. You can be anything you want to be. And I have every confidence you will, inshallah ("God willing"), reach your manzil ("desired destination").

By focusing on education and local empowerment to lift the next generation out of poverty, Sakafat's dream could indeed one day become a reality for all of Pakistan.


http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/13/world/asia/pakistan-empowerment/index.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India report on women migrant workers from India & Pakistan:

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan together account for 71% of international female migrants from South Asia. While 2.7 million were from India, about 1.9 million female migrants came from Pakistan.

Widespread poverty, unemployment at home and wage differences at the destination have triggered international labour migration from India to Gulf countries, according to a study 'Migration of Women Workers from South Asia to the Gulf'.

The study by UN Women and the V V Giri Labour Institute analyzed the current situation in five major sending countries of South Asia - Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - and six major receiving countries of the Gulf region - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Women are half of international migrants, comprising 49.6% of 190 million migrant workers. A majority of these women migrate alone as domestic workers to make more money or to support their families with an ever-increasing proportion of migrants from South Asia migrating to the Gulf region, where the demand for domestic workers, especially female workers, is high.

In 2010, about 6.45 million international female migrants originated from South Asia. Of these, 71% came from India and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia was the Gulf country that received the highest proportion of Indian migrant workers.

"Most of the low-skilled women migrants are caught in a web of marginal existence, on account of being women and low-skilled migrants working in the confines of the households where the piercing eyes of labour law do not reach," Anne F Stenhammer, regional programme director of UN Women South Asia said.

The report recommended making policy discourse more sensitive to the needs of women migrant workers, coordinated regional interventions by sending countries and countries of employment, standard operating procedures for gender sensitive labour migration management and joint response by UN agencies and intergovernmental bodies.

"The impact of the migration of women workers is much broader than its immediate economic aspect. There is great potential of such migration to bring forth the social and political empowerment of women, and reshape gender power relations," Dr S K Sasikumar, V V Giri National Institute lead author, said.


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/India-Pakistan-account-for-71-of-female-migrants-from-South-Asia/articleshow/13831960.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET article by economist Shahid Burki on the rise of women in Pakistan:

Over the last 17 years, from 1993 to 2010, the number of girls enrolled in primary education has increased from 3.7 million to 8.3 million. This implies a growth rate of 6.7 per cent a year, about two and half times the rate of increase in the number of girls entering the primary school-going cohort. However, even with this impressive rate of increase, it is worrying that girls still account for less than one half — the proportion was 44.3 per cent in 2010 — of the total number of children in school.

It is in higher education that girls have made a most spectacular advance. The numbers of girls attending what are described as ‘professional colleges’ has increased in the same 17-year period, at a rate of eight per cent per annum. In 1993, there were only 100,400 girls attending these institutions. Their number increased to more than 261,000 in 2010. There are now more girls in these institutions than boys. Their proportion in the total population of these colleges has increased from 36 per cent to 57 per cent in this period.

It is attendance in the universities, though where the real revolution has occurred. There were less than 15,000 girls in these institutions in 1993; their number increased to 436,000 in 2010. The proportion of girls is approaching the 50 per cent mark with the rate of growth in their numbers an impressive 28 per cent a year. While a very large number of girls drop out between the primary stage and the stage of professional and university education, the numbers completing higher education is now much greater. Three quarter of a million girls are now leaving the institutions of higher learning every year.
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There are a number of sectors in modern areas of the economy where women now make up a significant part of the workforce. These include the traditional areas where educated women have been active for decades. These include teaching and medicine. However, more recently, as the number of women with high levels of skills increased, they have become players in sectors such as banking, communications, law and politics. Women also now makeup a significant proportion of the workforce in companies engaged in IT work. Some IT experts have estimated that in their sector, there are tens of thousands of women working in what they call ‘cottage businesses’. These are women with good computer skills, who are working from their homes undertaking small contractual work for members of their families or their friends who are living and working abroad. Some estimates suggest that more than a billion dollars worth of work gets done in these informal establishments. These are, by large, one-person shops that receive payments through informal transactions. However, it is the entry of women in the entrepreneurial field where the real revolution is occurring. I will take up that subject in this space next week.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/401995/a-quiet-revolution-by-women-in-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ESPN report on Pakistani women cricketers receiving central contracts from PCB:

The PCB has awarded central contracts to 17 women cricketers for the year 2012, reducing the number of signings from last year's pool of 19. Mariam Hassan Shah, Sania Iqbal Khan and Asmavia Iqbal are the new players to earn the 12-month contract for the first time while 2011 contract holders Kainat Imtiaz, Faryal Awan, Areeb Shamaim and Masooma Junaid have missed out this year.

Seam bowler Qanita Jalil, who was in category B last year, has been promoted to category A, while Sania Iqbal, who missed out on a contract last year after sustaining an injury during the Asian Games, was included in category C.

Elizebath Khan and Masooma Junaid, who have been
 selected for the upcoming tour of Ireland and England, are the two notable exclusions from the list.

Pakistan's next assignment starts from August 18 in Ireland, where the women cricketers will participate in a tri-nation series involving the hosts and Bangladesh. The team, thereafter, will play 7 Twenty20 matches in England against various teams (including England women, England Under-19 women and West Indies women).

"We have picked up the best possible 17 women cricketers for the contracts," Ayesha Ashar, PCB women wing's manager, told ESPNcricinfo. "Those who are left out shouldn't be discouraged and should try to win back the top contact by performing well. Contracts are meant to reward players who are consistent and contributing significantly at domestic and internationally."

The PCB in 2011, initiated an unprecedented move to sign women cricketers, giving an opportunity to the women to play full-time cricket in a bid to boost the national team's performance at major tournaments.

The list of players awarded contracts:

Category A: Sana Mir, Javeria Wadood, Nain Abidi, Bismah Maroof, Qanita Jalil, Sadia Yousaf

Category B: Nida Dar, Asmavia Iqbal, Marina Iqbal, Batool Fatima, Rabiya Shah

Category C: Mariam Hassan Shah, Sana Gulzar, Sidra Ameen, Sania Iqbal Khan, Nahida Khan, Namra Imran


http://www.espncricinfo.com/pakistan/content/current/story/576280.html

waseem said...

Salam Riaz sahab, jo time and effort you put to get all those reports are salute-able, I am a TV producer/ director currently working on a documentary project to highlight successful Pakistani women. I am sure you will be good advice to have, please spare some time to discuss it in detail. khush rehiye.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an NBC report on Pakistan's Gen Y women:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Khalida Brohi's new life began when another girl's life ended.

Born and raised in Pakistan's remote, conservative province of Balochistan, Brohi was 16 years old when the community's traditions collided with her own personal beliefs.

"I found out about a girl who was murdered in the name of honor," she recalls. "I knew her and why she was killed. She wanted to marry someone she liked and she was killed just for that. When I found out about this girl, I knew that was the turning point in my life."

While still a teenager, Brohi founded Sughar Women's Program, a nonprofit organization with the mission of educating women about their basic rights. In many conservative communities across Pakistan, a woman's world extends only so far as the walls of her home. Their social interactions are restricted to family members and opportunities are defined by husbands, fathers and elder brothers.

But training and micro-loans provided by Brohi's group have resulted in CDs, books and embroidered handbags the women produce being sold across the country as well as at a flagship Sughar store in Karachi.

Now 23, Brohi is somewhat of a veteran in her field, and she's not alone.

All over Pakistan, where the majority of the 180-million-strong population is under the age of 30, members of Brohi's generation are striking out on their own to work toward change in their country, at an age when most are still finding their footing in life.

These social innovators, "change-makers" and "new radicals," as they've been called, represent an increasingly influential segment of civil society, in a country where the decision-making power has always been confined to limited circles....


http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/10/13682714-new-radicals-pakistans-generation-y-battles-to-shape-countrys-future?lite

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation story on women entrepreneurship in Pakistan:

Vital role of female entrepreneurs can help in improving the economic conditions of Pakistan. Therefore Khushhalibank joined hands with Dawood Global Foundation (DGF), Dawood Capital Management Limited (DCM) and Higher Education Commission (HEC) to promote women entrepreneurship by sponsoring the third LADIESFUND Entrepreneurship Conference, themed Cutting Edge Entrepreneurship (LEC 2012), recently held in Karachi.

Khushhalibank President Ghalib Nishtar said we are pleased to sponsor this dynamic event. The LADIESFUND Conference is a platform where women are supported and celebrated as the nucleus of change and betterment in the family unit, a vision that is a mainstay at Khushhalibank. This year, LEC 2012 hosted Pakistan’s first Student Entrepreneurship Exhibition which showcased the work of deaf student entrepreneurs as well as handicapable student entrepreneurs, an effort to celebrate the especially gifted disabled students of our community.”

Additionally the event served as a fundraising effort with partial proceeds directed towards ovarian cancer awareness as well as LADIESFUND(r) Fellowships and Scholarships, the awards for which are to be presented at the 5th LADIESFUND(r) Women’s Awards in March 2013.


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/business/21-Sep-2012/businesswomen-to-help-improve-economy

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post story on working women driving retail boom in Pakistan:

LAHORE, Pakistan — A perfectly coiffed model, draped in diamonds, shoots a sultry gaze from the cover of a glossy in-room magazine at a luxury hotel chain in downtown Lahore. The cover line on the ad-packed issue screams: “Wow! World of Women.”

And with good reason. Economists say that, in recent years, Pakistani women have fueled a retail boom in name-brand shopping as they move from a traditional homebound life into the working world.

“You can go into any shopping mall or any cafe, and you will see young girls sitting, having lunch, chatting away,” said Rashid Amjad, vice chancellor at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in Islamabad. “Despite all this conservatism that has been growing at the same time, you have a change.”

In many urban centers, the days when girls were forced to abandon education and eschew employment in favor of remaining within the walls of their homes seem to be mostly a memory.

Traditionally, men here bear the burden of sustaining the household, so for many middle-class women, their paychecks are entirely their own to spend — a boon for the newly booming retail industry.

“I can afford to spend whatever I like,” said Rabiya Bajwa, 37, a lawyer. “My income is roughly 20 percent more than what it was five years ago.” Bajwa does contribute to the household budget, but her two-income family enjoys a comfortable “cushion,” and she splurges on expensive designer clothes.

But this good fortune is not evenly distributed, said Hafiz Pasha, a noted economist at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore. Pakistan, he said, is still far behind other countries in terms of women’s economic contribution.

“This growth is witnessed in urban centers where middle-class working women are found,” Pasha said. “In rural areas, although the participation of women in the economy is more than the urban centers, they are not well-paid, and their share in the economy is much less.”

Although women have long been underpaid and subject to discrimination in the Pakistani workforce, they are coming into their own at a surprising rate. Since about 2002, Amjad said, participation by women, traditionally low, has been rising.

Many men left agriculture jobs, so work was being generated and women readily moved in, Amjad noted. Now, somewhere between 28 percent and 36 percent of women work in Pakistan, he said, but many work in home-based businesses, so their numbers are not easily ascertained.

In schools and colleges, young women study side by side with their male counterparts. “They seem to be very easy together, they talk very easily, and they discuss issues quite comfortably,”Amjad said, “so in a way higher education has increased female confidence to work with men, and that has helped.”

Three retail store owners surveyed in Lahore said most of their customers are working women, and they credited them with increasing their business.

“We started from a small store, but now we have five outlets in various parts of the city,” said Hasan Ali, manager of Bareeze, a leading brand of women’s clothing. “We have been in the market for the last 10 years, and roughly the business has expanded 40 percent in that period. . . . There are those out there who don’t even ask the price, and pay.”

Rukhsana Anjum, 47, a senior instructor at the Government College of Technology in Lahore, said she earns about 100,000 rupees, or $1,054, a month. “Gradually in the last five years I have become brand-conscious,” she said. “Today, definitely I spend more on my clothes and jewelry.”


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/pakistani-women-drive-retail-boom/2012/09/30/b6e38eea-0a3f-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times on female Muslim Imams in China:

BEIJING — Could an old religious tradition from China help solve one of the world’s most pressing problems — violence committed in the name of Islam?

The irony of an officially atheist country possibly offering a way out of an international religious problem is intense. Yet that is what some Islamic scholars in China and elsewhere hope may happen as they point to a quietly liberal tradition among China’s 10 million Hui Muslims, where female imams and mosques for women are flourishing in a globally unique phenomenon.

Female imams and women’s mosques are important because their endurance in China offers a vision of an older form of Islam that has inclusiveness and tolerance, not marginalization and extremism, at its core, the scholars say.
------------
Female imams and women’s mosques are not “a new thing here. It’s just a cultural tradition that was never interfered with,” Ms. Shui, an author and researcher at the Henan Academy of Social Sciences in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, said in an interview.

That is what makes it so important, said Khaled Abou El Fadl, a prominent Islamic legal scholar.

“The Chinese tradition of women’s mosques is rooted in Islamic history. It is not novel, a corruption or innovation or some type of heretical practice,” Mr. Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a recorded interview.

China’s liberal Hui tradition therefore challenges the power of Wahhabism, a puritanical, patriarchal sect dominant in Saudi Arabia today that is behind much Islamic extremism, he said.

“The Chinese example preserves and reminds Muslims of an important jurisprudential and historical phenomenon that Wahhabism tried to wipe out,” he said.

“Contemporary fundamentalist movements use the space provided by the mosque to affirm all types of patriarchy and male power over women,” he said. “When you have something like the Chinese example, which ultimately empowers women to work within their own space and lead prayer and manage that space on their own, it’s a significant form of women asserting themselves in the Islamic tradition, helping in constructing it and perpetuating it.”

“I always see Islam in places in China as reminding Muslims of their authentic tradition before it was impacted by petrol dollars and this very gruff and dry form of Bedouin Islam that came out of Saudi Arabia,” said Mr. Abou El Fadl. “So the point is there’s an old, historically rooted tradition, and the Chinese, if they tap into this tradition, they can effectively provide resistance or examples of resistance to puritanical Islam.”

Muslims arrived in China during the Tang dynasty, more than 1,000 years ago, and their numbers swelled during the Yuan dynasty in the 13th century. Mostly from Persia and Central Asia, though some were Arabs, they brought with them traditions that had always emphasized women’s education, said Ms. Shui. But women’s status really took off in the early Qing dynasty, more than 300 years ago, when the numbers of Hui declined as they were absorbed into the majority Han Chinese culture, she said.

By then, she said, “most Muslims couldn’t read or speak Arabic. So they relied on women to spread the word, to educate. It wasn’t possible to rely just on the men. There weren’t enough of them.”

Far away, in the Arab world, Wahhabism began spreading....


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/world/asia/10iht-letter10.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BR on Darawt dam to help Jamshoro farmers, including land for landless women farmers:

Divisional Commissioner Hyderabad Ahmed Bux Narejo has directed the executing authorities of Darawat Dam project to keep their ongoing works continue as per their schedule and assured that the matter for land acquisition pertaining to development works of project would be resolved very soon on priority basis.

He also directed the Deputy Commissioner Jamshoro and Deputy Commissioner Thatta to conduct the survey of the land coming in the utilisation of Dam, ascertain its status, whether it was private or government land and also identified that it has been processed for section 4 or not. This he said while presiding over a meeting regarding allotment of land to the management of Darawat Dam held at his main office today. Deputy Commissioner Jamshoro Agha Sohail, Deputy Commissioner Thatta Mohammad Nawaz Sohu, Project Director of the project Gul Mohammad Junejo, Iqbal Shaikh from Wapda attended the meeting.

Addressing the meeting, Ahmed Bux Narejo said that President Asif Ali Zardari was taking keen interest in the early implementation of the project. He said that this project to conserve 1,21,000 acre ft of flood water from its catchments area Nai Baran scattered over 3150 square KM and to irrigate 25,000 acre of district Thatta. He said that this Dam to bring Socio-Economic upliftment of remoted areas of Sindh and to pave the way for irrigation, fisheries development, women emancipation, provision of water for domestic and drinking purpose, providing employment and recreational facilities as well. He said that during the first phase, 100 women landless Haries have been identified by Revenue Department and National Rural Support Programme jointly and added that each to be allotted up to 25 acres of land after completing all formalities as per revised land grant policy of the PPP government.

The Project Director Gul Mohammad Junejo while briefing to the meeting said that the reservoir area of the project falls in Jamshoro district, where as its command area falls in Thatta district. He said that this Dam located across Nai Baran near Jhangri Village in Jamshoro District, 70 KM west of Hyderabad. He said that the Dam has source of water from Hill torrential scattered over the area of 3150 square Kilo meters in lower Kherthar range. He said that now the executing works by the Chinese company Sinohydro-MAJ (JV) involve in this task heading toward reservoir and its command areas where some problems of land acquisition have been arisen. He said that the work on this project was going at full swing.


http://www.brecorder.com/agriculture-a-allied/183/1248563/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an Express Tribune story on rise in Pakistani women in workplace:

according to the 2011 Pakistan Employment Trends Report, compiled by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, female labour force participation has jumped from 16.3% in 2000 to 24.4% in 2011. That jump represents an extra seven million women in the work force.

So who are these women? There is very little specific research on the profiles of women who have entered the workforce, but the 2012 Economic Survey of Pakistan, issued by the federal finance ministry, states that a major proportion of the rise appears to be taking place in urban areas. The government does not break down employment data by specific sectors or levels, but it appears – at least from anecdotal evidence – that women are entering the workforce, to varying degrees, at most levels and virtually all sectors.

Their reasons for joining the workforce have also not been documented in detail, but there are at least a few statistics that provide hints about their motivations. Education levels appear to be rising across the board, and fertility rates are hitting an all-time low virtually every year. Pakistani women are better educated and are less burdened with child-care than at any time in history (much more than men, but less than their predecessors a generation ago.)

Another factor appears to be need: according to The Express Tribune’s analysis of data provided by the Household Integrated Economic Survey, the bottom 20% of households in Pakistan have not seen their incomes keep pace with inflation. Many patriarchal households have had to abandon their traditionalist strictures against women working outside the home and let their female relatives work to bring in more income.

Seven million women is not a number to be trifled with: while women have yet to crack the glass ceiling in Pakistan (representation at senior levels of management remains shamefully low), they are beginning to gain increasing economic clout. And this increased clout is changing the way business is done in Pakistan, largely by making it more inclusive than it used to be.

Many companies, for instance, have caught on to the idea that female customers have money to spend, but may not necessarily be comfortable speaking to male salespersons, regardless of how friendly or courteous they may be. That, in turn, has led to the rise in hiring of female staff members, creating stable corporate-style employment opportunities for blue-collar women. The rising spending power of upper-middle class women is helping their lower-middle and working class sisters get jobs.

It is also perhaps not a coincidence that the first Pakistani law against sexual harassment in the workplace was passed in 2011. Perhaps politicians now feel that urban women are an increasingly important electoral constituency.

And the rise in female consumers has also given birth to a new breed of female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. This is a game being played not just by the daughters of rich businessmen, but also by more working class women, aided by government efforts like the incubation centres set up by the Punjab government in Lahore, and the state-owned First Women’s Bank providing lending facilities.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/464126/social-revolution-rising-economic-power-of-pakistani-women/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on women entrepreneurs in Pakistan:

The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (Smeda) organised the Women Business Incubation Centre (WBIC) in Pakistan to promote women’s participation in the consumer sector. The major goal of the project is to provide a protected and hassle-free business environment to women entrepreneurs and to help them develop business skills that will enable them to compete successfully in the modern marketplace.

“Pakistani women entrepreneurs need to start inventing their own business concepts,” said Asma Maryam, project director of WBIC while talking to The Express Tribune.

Majority of women entrepreneurs fall within the 20 to 40 years age group. Women entrepreneurial ventures can create jobs, in which women are either the owner or the sales staff, Maryam added.

All the facilities provided by Smeda in WBIC like, electricity, gas, telephone bills, security are at a nominal rent of Rs7,260 per month, she added.

There are two operational WBICs in Pakistan; one is in Lahore and the other in Peshawar. Centres in Quetta, Swat and Karachi are under construction. The Karachi project will be operational very soon. The Sindh government approved two more WBICs in Karachi, said Alamgeer Chaudhry, general manager of Smeda, Lahore while talking to The Express Tribune.

The funds are provided by the government but these projects may face financial constraints as Smeda’s funding will be suspended by the next fiscal year. Smeda is approaching international donors to fund the project. For this purpose, the University of Southern Queensland Australia and Lahore College for Women University have expressed their interest, he added.

Women are likely to buy products if they are sold by women, which has increased revenues of the women’s business centre by 60%, said Shahida Tahir, shopkeeper in WBIC in Lahore, while talking to The Express Tribune. She added that women were earning handsome profits because of this project and hoped that if granted increased funding, the project will open doors to more upcoming female entrepreneurs.

Huma Kiran, a designer in WBIC, said that previously, she was earning Rs15,000 per month by designing dresses at her home. But now her income has jumped three-fold to Rs50,000 after she managed to find a shop in the Smeda centre.

Mehwish Zahid, a customer at WBIC, said that she was feeling more comfortable while purchasing goods from women.

She said that lack of motivation coupled with limited capital and skilled workers are the main causes of economic backwardness of females.

There is a need to setup both general and specialist support organisations in the country at various levels to encourage this sector. This can be done by financial institutions, business organisations and concerned governmental departments.

Mena bazaar of Karachi is the best bazaar where women are doing business; the government of Punjab should also organise such bazaars in Punjab to promote the culture of women entrepreneurs.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/464107/bosses-at-home-but-denied-leadership-in-corporate-world/

Riaz Haq said...

David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy and Mather, used to say "The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife." Here's an ET story on marketing FMCG to women:

KARACHI:

With more women participating in the country’s work force, fast moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs) seem to have found a new market for products that they once considered ‘a small category’.

Take for example feminine hygiene products – referred to as ‘quiet products’ in the advertising world. According to industry sources, it used to be a very small category – however, this does not seem to be the case anymore especially when one looks at ongoing ad campaigns marketing such products.

These products are portrayed more openly in television ads today than a few years ago – one can also notice gigantic billboards on main thoroughfares of city displaying these products.

The increase in ad campaigns of ‘quiet products’ has helped FMCGs increase their revenues manifold in the respective category; according to Saad Hashmi, Senior Accounts Manager, Client Services and Business Development at Orient Advertising.

Some ten years ago, Hashmi said, women from elite and upper-income classes were the main customers of feminine hygiene products but now, even urban middle class women are buying it.

Explaining, Hashmi said, over the past few years the participation of the middle-class women in education and labour rose significantly thus increasing their awareness and income respectively. They are more adaptive to such products for they have that additional income to do so; he said.

Hashmi, who has worked with FMCGs on advertising such products, further said that heavy marketing of these products created awareness about brands, which increased demand of branded products. Some ten years ago, he said, there was no concept of branded products due to lack of awareness; women mostly used standard napkins or plain old cotton for personal hygiene. Giving an example of a famous brand that is currently advertising its product on TV, he said, the company carried out an awareness campaign on the sidelines of their ad campaign.
--
The source, however, acknowledged that their sales for feminine hygiene products have increased, linking it to various factors.

Today’s consumers, the source said, have developed more sophisticated shopping habits because they have got more money. Raw fabric or cotton, the alternate option, has little to no cost while branded products have a cost; the source said – an indication that these women are willing to spend on quality. These products, the source said, are a convenience for working women and even come in small sachets that are affordable by the low income sectors.

The source, however, did not rule out the media’s role as far as awareness is concerned. Media has helped increase awareness about feminine hygiene products, he said. It, therefore, amplified demand for such products.

Unlike both FMCGs and advertising agencies, the working women, The Express Tribune spoke to, disagreed if their choices were affected by ad campaigns. According to these women – one of whom does not even have a TV at home – they are not bothered about ads as long as their trusted brand does not compromise on quality. These women, however, agreed that it is their own or family’s income, which made it easy for them to choose between cheap raw fabric and costly feminine hygiene products.

“In the past, I would spend on necessities only,” said one woman, adding, “but now I have to maintain my personality because I work so I spend on luxuries as well. I have become more brand-conscious.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/464105/the-holy-grail-fmcgs-have-discovered-ways-to-communicate-with-women/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET piece by Shahid Burki on women i the work force:

Pakistan has one of the world’s youngest populations in the world with a median age of about 22 years. This means that one-half of the population, or 90.5 million, is below that age. A much larger share of this population should be in the workforce. If this were the case, the country would be benefiting from what the economists call the demographic window of opportunity, when the proportion of the working population is much greater than those who are dependent on it. This would be realised if both men and women of working age were able to work. This is not the case in Pakistan. The proportion of men in the workforce is relatively high; 68.6 per cent. That of women is very low; only 31.4 per cent. This means that while 63.5 million men are in the workforce, the number of working women is only 29 million.

This does not mean that millions of women are sitting idly in their homes. In fact, most of them are doing a great deal of housework looking after their children, preparing food for the family, and in the countryside, often tending farm animals. Would getting them out of the house and into the workforce add to the country’s gross output? The answer is, probably yes, if the marginal return to their work in the marketplace is higher than what would be paid to those who would be called in to provide help in the house. This will be the case certainly among the middle-income households in the urban areas. By stepping outside their homes, middle-income women will create opportunities for those women lower down on the income scale. This will produce a ripple effect in the economy or in the language of economics a ‘multiplier’ will get to work.

This brings me to one of the ‘what ifs… ?’ questions about the situation in Pakistan. What would be the impact on the economy — to its size and the rate of growth — if the proportion of women in the workforce reached, not quite the level attained by men, but close to it, say 50 per cent. This would mean an addition of 25 million women to the labour force. This addition to the workforce will have the capacity to add $85 billion to the gross domestic product of $200 billion — an increase of 42.5 per cent. With this increase in the country’s GDP, income per capita will increase from the current $1,100 to $1,575. In other words, women could make a larger contribution to the economy if they are allowed to be part of the workforce. But for that to happen, the society will have to lift the many burdens that weigh down women and prevent them from contributing to the economy.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/474164/the-economic-benefits-of-more-women-in-the-workforce/

Riaz Haq said...

63% of students entering medical colleges in Punjab are female this year, reports Dawn:

LAHORE, Dec 2: Female students have again considerably outnumbered the male in the fresh admissions to the public sector medical colleges of Punjab for the session 2012-13, it is learnt.

According to the data available with Dawn, out of total 2,942 students who secured admissions on open merit seats for the session 2012-13 at the public sector medical institutions of the province, 63.3 per cent were female while 36.7 per cent male, showing a visible gender-wise difference.

The data was compiled by the admission section of the University of Health Sciences under ‘MBBS Admission Statistics 2012-13’.

The figures showed continuity of the trend being witnessed for the last many years that the medical profession had become preferred choice for females as compared to the male students.

A senior official of the varsity said the girls’ considerably larger share in the admissions to the state-run medical institutions was one of the factors behind shortage of doctors at the government hospitals.

Explaining the dynamics of this situation, he said, “Only 10 per cent of the female students admitted to various state-run medical institutions joined the medical profession after securing their MBBS degrees while the rest either left before or after completing the house job”.

This showed that in majority of the cases medical degree was considered just a means to secure a better groom for the girls having such qualification, he said, adding the practice had flourished to the extent that a coinage, ‘medical marriage’ was being used for it.

---

According to the data, Lahore was at the top among the districts from where a majority of female students got admissions to the state-run medical institutions as out of total 627 admissions, 452 were of females while only 175 were male.

Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala were other major districts from where a majority of female students appeared and got admissions to various medical colleges of the province. According to the statistics, of 250 students admitted from Faisalabad, 158 were female and 92 male. Similarly, of 230 admitted medical students, 139 were female and 91 male from Multan and out of total 146 students, 102 female and 44 male belonged to Gujranwala.

Even in the backward districts like Bhakar, Layyah, Bahawalnagar where higher education was considered a low priority for girls, the number of female medical students was higher than that of the male.

Area-wise distribution of candidates admitted from central Punjab showed that out of total 1,839 students who got admissions to government medical institutions, 1,215 were female and only 624 were male.

Similarly, area-wise distribution of candidates admitted from southern Punjab showed that 506 female and 430 male students got admissions to various medical institutions out of the total 936.

The situation was not different in northern Punjab from where 167 students got admitted as 140 of them were female and only 27 were male.

According to college-wise gender distribution, Rawalpindi Medical College (RMC) is at the top among other institutions, admitting 202 girls out of 299 total admissions. The other prominent medical institutions which admitted majority of female students include the Punjab Medical College (Faisalabad) 184 female, 104 male, Allama Iqbal Medical College (Lahore)170 female, 132 male, Quaid-i-Azam Medical College (Bahawalpur)168 female, 106 male and King Edward Medical University admitted 167 female and 136 male students.

This difference could also be witnessed at the newly-established Gujranwala Medical College which admitted 81 girl students and only 19 boys out of total 100 admissions this year.


http://dawn.com/2012/12/03/medical-admissions-girls-again-leave-boys-far-behind/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a PakObserver report on rural women entrepreneurs from flood-affected areas:

Out of great disasters come great opportunities. This notion has fascinated and revived the humanity out of hardships since the earliest days. As Pakistan shifts from relief to recovery phase in the post-flood scenario, the focus was the rebuilding livelihoods. During these hard times, Pakistani women have emerged as the strength of the economy and the communities as they are helping the families get back on their feet and start their lives all over again. A conference in Islamabad, organized by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Entrepreneurs Program, gathered women, particularly from the flood and conflict affected areas, who shared their stories of livelihoods improved, and incomes boosted.

The women group from Swat, with their faces well covered in their long hand-embroidered dupattas, is one of the beneficiaries of the Entrepreneurs project. “Earlier these skilled women won’t get due credit or compensation for their art as the major chunk of profits was seized by the middle-men (between the skilled worker and the consumer),” said Farzana Akram, Project Officer at Lasoona, one of the implementing partners of the Project that is providing women micro-entrepreneurs from Swat access to bigger markets and buyers.

With skilled workers, and access to better markets, the product quality has improved and there has been a huge increase in the incomes of micro-entrepreneurs. “Some 964 women have been trained. And we have just successfully delivered 476 pieces of hand embellished fabrics to Generation, Pakistan’s leading retain chain. The order was worth Rs. 485,000” told Ms. Farzana gladly. The project has adopted an integrated value chain approach to support women embellishers by improving access to the premium markets such as national retail stores chain, boutiques and formal exporters. Alternatively, the initiative is agreeably satisfying the growing popularity for ready-to-wear hand embroidered fabrics among urban Pakistani consumers.

“The project is enabling skilled people, particularly women, from rural areas to tap into the huge, unseen potential of domestic markets and forge linkages that might expand to eventually access international markets” informed Ms. Catherine Moore, Deputy Mission Director of USAID Pakistan. “41,500 flood-affected families across Pakistan have recovered their livelihoods through the assistance and in many cases, the families are now earning incomes higher than what they used to earn before the flood” added Ms. Moore.

Women micro entrepreneurs, working in fields as diverse as textile, livestock sector, farming, are now able to generate an income, successfully improving their home conditions with the help of financial innovation known as micro-credit “The Entrepreneurs project has so far helped in restoring livelihoods of some 7,200 conflict-affected people in 233 villages of Malakand region through in kind micro-grants (agriculture inputs, livestock inputs and enterprise/trade skill tools),” as per the report of MEDA ‘Malakand Livelihood Recovery Project’.

The Entrepreneurs Project is working in value chains with high potential for market expansion and provides the platform for increasing incomes of the targeted number of entrepreneurs in these areas: Dairy in North Sindh and South Punjab, Medicinal plants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Embellished fabrics across Pakistan and Honey in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=186219

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a recent Khatmandu speech by Pak social scientist Arif Hasan:

.. ...In my city, Karachi, anyone my age will similarly tell you how wonderful Karachi used to be...the calm that we enjoyed was really like the peace of the dead. It was a kind of peace made possible by the feudal system.
------------
I asked an elder from the taluka whom I had met in 1983, now much older, “Sahib, did you have honour killings before?”

He said, “Yes, we used to have one in perhaps ten years. It was a rare occurrence, and we would discuss one for ten years until another happened.”

“Then why it is happening now with such regularity?”

He said, “Now, everyone has become shameless, without honour, so honour killings are taking place.”

I asked, “Why is there no honour today?”

He responded, “The young people, they’ve gone to the city, and they’ve done all the wrong things. The girls have learned how to read and write, they’ve gone to school, some of them have gone to university as well. They have no morals left, so this is bound to happen.”

“You mean this is going to continue like this forever?”

“No, no, it will stop!”

“How and when will it stop?”

His reply was educative: “The honour killings will stop when everyone becomes shameless, then it will end.” Then he added, “But I hope that I die before that day.”

He was a man of the old, feudal rural culture, with its own pattern of behaviour and way of thinking. He was part of it, and it was dying, so he wished to die with it.

In 1992, the applications for court marriages in Karachi amounted to about 10 or 15, mainly applications from couples who were seeking the protection of the court for wedlock without familial consent. By 2006, we were seeing more than 250 applications for court marriages per day in Karachi. Significantly, more than half of the couples seeking court recognition of their betrothal came from rural areas of Sindh. This is yet another indication of how the entire feudal system and its values are in rapid collapse.

This collapse is also heralded by the advances in women’s education. According to 2006 figures, fully 72 percent of the University of Karachi student body is today female. Among medical students, 87 percent are women, and the figure for architecture and planning is as high as 92 percent. In fact, our vice chancellor was so concerned that he suggested a quota for men. I used to teach a class with one boy and 15 girls. That has changed a little now as we have tried to even it out. But the reason is simply that women do better on the entrance tests. There’s no other reason for it.

In 1971, I started working in low-income settlements in Karachi, and a decade later I joined the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). The settlements that we worked in at that time were primarily working-class, and when we went over we were met by older men who were mostly illiterate. They spoke to us in very formal, feudal language – janaab, huzoor, sahib, miyan, “We are all your children and need your protection,” and all that. At that time, in the 1980s, the women hardly worked. Things are entirely different when you go to the OPP today; it’s not what you would call a shanty settlement. It’s mostly the younger generation who will meet you, and they will address you as ‘uncle’ rather than ‘sahib’. The people you meet are bank managers, school teachers, professionals working in the service sector of Karachi.
-----------
... The recent shooting of Malala Yusufzhai has shown what Pakistani society really feels and how it thinks on issues. For the first time the Pakistani establishment – the army as well as the three major political parties – have all condemned the Taliban for the shooting. The people have spoken in the huge rallies, in Karachi and elsewhere. ...


http://himalmag.com/component/content/article/5126-the-eclipse-of-feudalism-in-pakistan.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP story about love online in Pakistani town of Muzaffargarh:

MUZAFFARABAD: Sania was just a schoolgirl when she logged onto an Internet chat room and met a young college student called Mohammad. They fell in love and decided to get married.

Internet dating in the West is now so common that it is no longer considered an act of shameful desperation but an acceptable way for busy professionals to discover a like-minded partner.

But for Sania, the 22-year-old daughter of a conservative truck driver in Pakistan, online romance and her subsequent marriage has meant repeated beatings and death threats at the hands of her relatives.

“No one gets married outside our community. It is our tradition,” Sania told AFP. She is from the garrison city of Rawalpindi and Mohammad comes from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

At first she and Mohammad chatted online. Then they both bought mobiles to continue their relationship by telephone. For several years they asked their parents for permission to marry, but were refused.

So Sania decided to escape.

She packed a bag and sneaked out while her brother was at school, her mother sleeping and her father out at work. She took the bus straight to Muzaffarabad.

“I spent the four-hour journey in fear. I kept thinking that if my family caught me, they’d kill me,” she told AFP.

In Muzaffarabad, Mohammad met her off the bus and they got married immediately. But while his family quickly accepted Sania, nearly two years later the couple still live in fear of her relatives.

Twice they have dragged her back to Rawalpindi since her marriage and have demanded repeatedly that she break off relations with Mohammad.

“Last time they took me back three months ago and put lot of pressure on me to break off this relationship. I got in contact with my husband and asked him to fetch me. I escaped from the house at midnight and we managed to flee,” she said.

Now Sania and her 24-year-old husband have moved to a new one-room house in a slum, changed their phone number and dare not venture out of the city.

“They say they will kill us whenever they find us,” Sania says.

Women in Pakistan who marry against the wishes of their parents are ostracised or even killed by male relatives for supposedly bringing dishonour on the family.

But online relationships are a new phenomenon.

---

Mohammad Zaman, professor of sociology at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, who has written a book about marriage, says arranged unions that have dominated for centuries are on the wane.

“Internet marriage is a new trend emerging in Pakistan. Technological advancement has entered into our homes and traditional taboos are slowly vanishing in educated and affluent families,” Zaman told AFP.

Online, they can share personal information and swap photographs — things that would be restricted or prohibited in the traditional selection of partners.

The Internet is changing mindsets, giving young people freedom and privacy, and a forum to discuss matters frowned upon by Pakistan’s traditional, conservative society.

“There is a kind of emancipation in society and young people want their say in the selection of their future partner,” Zaman said, although he conceded that parents find it easier to accept a son’s choice than that of a daughter.

Tahir, a Pakistani peace activist, knows only too well how the freedom of the Internet can collide with the restrictions of everyday life — not only conservative sensibilities but politics and war.

The 26-year-old fell for university student Nazia on Facebook and Skype.

All fine and good, except that Nazia lives on the other side of one of the most heavily militarised borders in the world — that which divides the Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

--


http://dawn.com/2012/12/16/love-online-challenges-pakistan-taboos/

Riaz Haq said...

The "peace of the dead" is ending with the "eclipse of feudalism" in Pakistan. What we are seeing now is an "unplanned revolution" in the words of a Pakistani sociologist, a revolution that is transforming Pakistan for the better in the long run.

http://books.google.com/books?id=EKHZAAAAMAAJ&q=feudalism#search_anchor

http://himalmag.com/component/content/article/5126-the-eclipse-of-feudalism-in-pakistan.html

http://himalmag.com/component/content/article/5126-the-eclipse-of-feudalism-in-pakistan.html

http://sai.columbia.edu/outreach_files/Social%20&%20Structural%20Transformations%20in%20Pakistan.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on provocative paintings in Pakistan:

...The uproar was sparked when the college’s Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture over the summer published pictures of a series of paintings by artist Muhammad Ali.

Particularly infuriating to conservatives were two works that they said insulted Islam by mixing images of Muslim clerics with suggestions of homosexuality, which is deeply taboo in Pakistan.

One titled “Call for Prayer” shows a cleric and a shirtless young boy sitting beside each other on a cot. The cleric fingers rosary beads as he gazes at the boy, who seductively stretches backward with his hands clasped behind his head.

Mumtaz Mangat, a lawyer who petitioned the courts to impose blasphemy charges, argued the image implied the cleric had “fun” with the boy before conducting the traditional Muslim call for prayer.

A second painting shows the same cleric reclining in front of a Muslim shrine, holding a book by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho in one hand as he lights a cigarette for a young boy with the other. A second young boy, who is naked with his legs strategically crossed to cover his genitals, sits at the cleric’s feet. The painting has caused particular uproar because verses from Islam’s holy book, the Quran, appear on the shrine.

Aasim Akhtar, an Islamabad-based art critic who wrote an essay accompanying the paintings in the journal, wrote that Ali’s mixing of images was “deliberately, violently profane,” aimed at challenge “homophobic” beliefs that are widespread in Pakistani society.

“Ali redefines the divine through a critique of authority and the hypocrisy of the cleric,” wrote Akhtar, an Islamabad-based art critic who is also listed as a potential defendant in the blasphemy complaint.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely believed to be a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, issued a statement after the paintings were published demanding the college issue a public apology and withdraw all issues of the journal.

College staff members also began receiving anonymous text messages threatening violence, said a member of the journal’s editorial board. They were afraid to push back for fear of being killed, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted.

Extremists gunned down two prominent Pakistani politicians last year for speaking out against the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, which can mean life in prison or even death. Human rights activists have criticized the laws, saying they are often used to persecute religious minorities or settle personal scores.

Yahya Mujahid, the spokesman for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, denied the group sent any threats but said the state should punish those responsible.

“It’s part of Western and American plans to malign Islam,” claimed Mujahid.

A court considering whether to press blasphemy charges held its latest session in mid-December, but it has not said when it will rule whether such charges apply in the case.

Shahram Sarwar, a lawyer representing the college’s editorial board, said his clients did not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings but he was prepared to apologize on their behalf if they did.

Besides shutting down the journal, the college also closed the department where its staff worked, said Sarwar.

The current head of the National Arts College, Shabnam Khan, denied the institution caved to pressure from hardliners, saying the editorial staff quit voluntarily. She said the department was closed because no one was left to run it...


http://www.salon.com/2012/12/28/paintings_outrage_islamic_hardliners_in_pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of a BBC post by Soutik Biswas on heavy abuse faced by India women:

Female foetuses are aborted and baby girls killed after birth, leading to an an appallingly skewed sex ratio. Many of those who survive face discrimination, prejudice, violence and neglect all their lives, as single or married women.

TrustLaw, a news service run by Thomson Reuters, has ranked India as the worst country in which to be a woman. This in the country where the leader of the ruling party, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, at least three chief ministers, and a number of sports and business icons are women. It is also a country where a generation of newly empowered young women are going out to work in larger numbers than ever before.

But crimes against women are rising too.

With more than 24,000 reported cases in 2011, rape registered a 9.2% rise over the previous year. More than half (54.7%) of the victims were aged between 18 and 30. Most disturbingly, according to police records, the offenders were known to their victims in more than 94% of the cases. Neighbours accounted for a third of the offenders, while parents and other relatives were also involved. Delhi accounted for over 17% of the total number of rape cases in the country.

And it is not rape alone. Police records from 2011 show kidnappings and abductions of women were up 19.4%, women being killed in disputes over dowry payments by 2.7%, torture by 5.4%, molestation by 5.8% and trafficking by an alarming 122% over the previous year.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has estimated that more than 100m women are "missing" worldwide - women who would have been around had they received similar healthcare, medicine and nutrition as men.

New research by economists Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray estimates that in India, more than 2m women are missing in a given year.

The economists found that roughly 12% of the missing women disappear at birth, 25% die in childhood, 18% at the reproductive ages, and 45% at older ages.

They found that women died more from "injuries" in a given year than while giving birth - injuries, they say, "appear to be indicator of violence against women".

Deaths from fire-related incidents, they say, is a major cause - each year more than 100,000 women are killed by fires in India. The researchers say many cases could be linked to demands over a dowry leading to women being set on fire. Research also found a large number of women died of heart diseases.

These findings point to life-long neglect of women in India. It also proves that a strong preference for sons over daughters - leading to sex selective abortions - is just part of the story.

Clearly, many Indian women face threats to life at every stage - violence, inadequate healthcare, inequality, neglect, bad diet, lack of attention to personal health and well-being.
---------
Angry citizens believe that politicians, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, are being disingenuous when they promise to toughen laws and speed up the prosecution of rapists and perpetrators of crime against women.

How else, they ask, can political parties in the last five years have fielded candidates for state elections that included 27 candidates who declared they had been charged with rape?

How, they say, can politicians be believed when there are six elected state legislators who have charges of rape against them?

But the renewed protests in Delhi after the woman's death hold out some hope. Has her death come as an inflexion point in India's history, which will force the government to enact tougher laws and people to begin seriously thinking about the neglect of women?

It's early days yet, but one hopes these are the first stirrings of change.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-20863860

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Reuters on rising divorce rate in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani women are slowly turning to divorce to escape abusive and loveless marriages, once taboo and still a dangerous option in this strict Muslim nation even as more women become empowered by rising employment and awareness of their rights.

But the number of women with the courage to seek divorce remains small in the face of Pakistan's powerful religious right and growing Islamic conservatism, and in a male-dominated nation where few champion women's rights.

Women are often killed while pursuing divorces, with some shot on the way home from court or in front of their lawyers.

In the capital Islamabad, home to 1.7 million people, 557 couples divorced in 2011, up from 208 in 2002, the Islamabad Arbitration Council said. The Pakistani government does not track a national divorce rate.

"If you are earning, the only thing you need from the guy is love and affection. If the guy is not even providing that, then you leave him," said 26-year-old divorcee Rabia, a reporter who left a loveless arranged marriage to a cheating husband.

Despite their small numbers, Rabia and other women like her are seen as a rising threat from Pakistan's conservative forces.

"The women have been given so-called freedom and liberty, which causes danger to themselves," Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters.

There were at least 1,636 "honor killings" last year, said Pakistani rights group The Aurat Foundation. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack.

Pashtun singer Ghazala Javed became a statistic in June. A famous beauty, she married after fleeing Taliban threats. Then she discovered her new husband already had a wife. When she asked for a divorce, she and her father were shot dead.

FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT

While women divorcing their husbands is widespread in the West, growing markedly in the 20th century in many developed nations, it is a relatively new phenomenon in Pakistan.

And while a divorce case in the Muslim family courts must be resolved within six months, civil divorce cases can drag on for years, making it even harder for tens of thousands of women from religious minorities to get a divorce.

In the commercial hub Karachi, lawyer Zeeshan Sharif said he receives several divorce enquiries a week but virtually none a decade ago.

Women seeking a divorce usually come from the upper and middle classes, he said. Lawyers' fees are at least $300, a year's wage for many of Pakistan's 180 million citizens. For poor housewives, hiring a lawyer is impossible.

Most Pakistanis think the higher divorce rate is linked to women's growing financial independence, a 2010 poll by The Gilani Foundation/Gallup Pakistan found.

The number of women with jobs grew from 5.69 million to 12.11 million over the past decade, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said.

"Women are also making money now and they think if they have empowerment, they do not need to sacrifice as much," said Musfira Jamal, a senior member of the religious party Jamaat-e-Islami. "God does not like divorce ... (but) God has not given any right to any man to beat his wife or torture his family."

In 2012, clerics and a religious party demanded a review of a bill to outlaw domestic violence, saying it risked undermining "family values".

Western culture, not abuse, is why women seek divorces, said Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan.

Yet domestic violence was one of the most common reasons for divorce, said lawyer Aliya Malik. Around 90 percent of Pakistani women experienced domestic violence at least once, a 2011 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll found....


http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBRE90806J20130109

Riaz Haq said...

Here's PakistanToday on Acumen Foundation and JS partnership to promote social change in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD - The Acumen Fund and JS have launched Pakistan Fellows Programme aiming to develop the social change leaders of next generation who are building innovative businesses and strong institutions across the country.
The Acumen Fund, a pioneering nonprofit global venture firm addressing poverty across Africa and in South Asia, hosted an event on Sunday to introduce the first class of Acumen Pakistan Fellows, said a statement issued here on Monday.
In partnership with JS Bank, the Mahvash & Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation and the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations, Acumen was working to develop the next generation of social change leaders who were building innovative businesses and strong institutions across Pakistan.
Twenty individuals have been selected out of over 500 candidates to participate in this year-long training, while simultaneously continuing to pursue their social impact initiatives.
Fellows’ initiatives range from creating an interest-free microfinance institution, to a disaster relief project and to a teaching training programme. In addition to a presentation given by the newly selected Pakistan Fellows, the launch event featured remarks by Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder & CEO of Acumen Fund, and Edmond de Rothschild Foundations Executive Director Firoz Ladak.
“Pakistan today faces many challenges, and we need new leaders who are dedicated to creating a better future for this country,” said Acumen Fund Pakistan Country Director Farrukh Khan. “It is exciting to help develop a community of leaders with the financial skills, operational excellence and moral imagination to address pressing social issues and we’re humbled by the support and interest we’ve received from our partners and local community.”
“The depth and breadth of talent in the applicant pool size is evidence that the people of this nation want to seek ways to improve the prevailing conditions and challenge the existing status quo,” stated Mahvash & Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation CEO Ali J. Siddiqui, “With this inaugural class of bright and ambitious individuals, we are creating a brighter future of this country by providing the tools and the knowledge required to develop a new generation of Pakistani leaders.”
The Pakistan Fellows programme was just one part of Acumen’s investment in leadership and community of the Acumen Fund alumni network.
The East Africa Regional Fellows Program was in its second year and just selected its fellows for 2013.
Acumen intends to launch similar Regional Fellows Programs in India and West Africa in the coming years.
Additionally, Acumen Fund had invested over $ 7 million in Pakistan since 2001, focusing on a wide range of sustainable, scalable businesses-in agriculture, housing, health, water and energy-that use market-based approaches to deliver products and services to millions of rural and urban poor.
Recent additions to Acumen Fund Pakistan’s portfolio include the NRSP (National Rural Support Program) Microfinance Bank, which was the first agency in Pakistan to provide financial services to rural agricultural markets, and Pharmagen Healthcare Ltd, which supplies safe, clean, and affordable drinking water to low-income residents in Lahore.


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/01/22/news/profit/acumen-fund-and-js-launch-pakistan-fellows-programme/

Riaz Haq said...

British secretary of DfID in Pakistan, reports Asian Age:

Secretary of State for the UK’s Department for International Development, Justine Greening, is in Pakistan.

She confirmed confirmed the UK’s commitment to help support four million of Pakistan’s children in school during a visit to two schools in Rawalpindi.

Justine Greening said: “Education is the single most important factor that can transform Pakistan’s future.

"Education helps to increase economic growth and will give the next generation of Pakistanis the chance to build a better future for themselves and their families.

"That’s why education is the UK’s number one priority in Pakistan. We will continue to work with Pakistan, as a partner, to help support four million children in school by 2015.”

Over the next six years alone, UK support for the planned Punjab Education Sector Programme, working with government and other donors, will help an additional 2.9 million children gain access to education, 71 per cent of whom will be girls.

Progress by the Government of Punjab has seen the primary enrolment rate for girls rise to 68 per cent (from 59 per cent) across the province, and to 64 per cent (from 55 per cent) in rural areas, between 2006 and 2010.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the UK’s education programme is focusing on tackling the educational disadvantages faced by girls, providing monthly ‘stipends’ so that poor families can send their girls to school and helping them to stay longer by investing in secondary education facilities for girls schools. 400,000 girls received vouchers this year.

And a new Education Fund for Sindh will educate 200,000 children through vouchers for low cost private sector schools, by working with organisations educating the poor and by supporting public private education partnerships. In its first year, the Education Fund for Sindh is already supporting the education of over 11,600 children.

She also met with Minister of Finance Hafeez Shaikh.

Justine Greening said: “I am pleased to be in Pakistan to see for myself the results that UK aid is helping to deliver in transforming people’s lives and to reiterate the close and enduring bond that our two countries share.

“The elections are a crucial milestone in Pakistan’s democratic history. We look forward to the peaceful transition of power with elections that are credible and support economic reforms that will help Pakistan thrive in the future providing basic services for a fast growing population. The UK stands ready to support Pakistan’s effort to deal with these critical issues.”

The UK’s aid programme is linked to the Government of Pakistan’s progress on results and reform at both the federal and provincial levels, particularly following the upcoming elections.

Discussions between the British Development Secretary and Minister of Finance focused on steps being taken to build a more dynamic economy, strengthen the country’s tax base and tackle corruption.


http://www.asianimage.co.uk/news/10175690.UK_International_Development_Secretary_in_Pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Harvard Business Review piece on women in Pakistan:



"Pakistan is a highly complex and ambiguous country," Ehsan Malik, Country Manager for Unilever Pakistan, told me. "The media projects Pakistan as conservative, but there is a large segment of society that is liberal and broad minded." (Disclosure: Unilever is a client of mine globally, but not the Pakistan branch particularly.)

"My predecessor at Unilever Pakistan was a woman who went to run L'Oreal Pakistan. My wife runs a business and both our mothers and sisters have always worked, as do many in our families and friends. So for me Unilever's gender balance drive is not something extraordinary." Two of the people on Malik's six-person Management Committee are women, and he sees the possibility that his successor could be female. "There are three senior women who have been listed as high potential so we could have a majority female Management Committee in the foreseeable future."

"We aimed to set an example and become a model on gender balance. Now, virtually all our competitors are doing the same... In Pakistan, despite the bad press, when it comes to gender, employers are progressive."

How do the men react? "There was a debate two or three years back, around a concern that we were favoring women. We made it very clear: between two equal candidates, we said we would pick the woman because there is an imbalance that needs to be corrected." In Pakistan, as in a growing number of countries, women perform better academically. "Medical colleges are 70% women but less than half of them continue working beyond a few years of qualifying, partly because of family reasons but also due to working conditions," notes Malik.

In many companies I work for, some of the greatest openness and action on gender balance is in emerging market operations. I have found managers in Brazil, India or Malaysia more enthusiastic and convinced of the business case than their Western colleagues, in much more challenging contexts. And ready to go to much greater lengths to adapt to women's needs.

Like Pakistan. Unilever Pakistan has achieved its gender balancing targets internally (ahead of most Western countries), which Malik considered "relatively simple," yet by doing things that might appear inconceivable elsewhere. So, for example, to recruit female engineers in its remote factories, Unilever provides security-guard staffed housing for the women next to the facilities, ensuring their safety and reassuring their families. Flexible working from different locations — home, distributor premises, or ad agency offices — is another step that benefits all managers. However, he observed, "some female managers prefer coming to the office — there is a day care center to look after their children, they want to get away from extended families that many in Pakistan live with, [and] they can escape the power cuts that plague large cities."

These seemed like obvious investments to Malik who is now setting his sites on "a much bigger agenda" with gender as a competitive advantage with consumers, and a condition for working with suppliers.

---

For the moment, there are 900 women who have gone through the training, and Malik is planning on increasing this to 7,000. "The rural population's bank is usually a couple of villages away. So we are finding that not only do other women come for beauty advice, they also start coming for advice on how to open bank accounts and start a business. And it seems the men are starting to come too, looking for the same guidance."

"Where government fails," concludes Malik, " global companies can fill the void by building concepts that become platforms for change and progress."


http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/01/unilevers_pakistan_country_man.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Beast piece on girls' education in Pakistan:

Humaira Bachal was just a teenager when she looked around her impoverished Karachi neighborhood at the children roaming the barren streets, and realized that she and her sister were the only ones who were going to school. Bachal’s mother was making sure her daughters got an education, against her father’s wishes. When her father discovered she was going to take a high school entrance exam, he beat her mother. He also beat her. She took the exam anyway. And then, determined to improve the shameful number of girls completing a primary education in Pakistan—only 59 percent—Bachal she started teaching a handful of local children in her home.

A decade later, Bachal was sitting on stage in an ornate theater at Lincoln Center in New York, talking about the 1,200-student school she runs in a gang-ridden part of Karachi through the Dream Foundation Trust, which she created and runs. Bachal “doesn’t take any nonsense. And the [local] men respect that,” says documentarian Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (CEO, SOC Films), who made a movie featuring the Pakistani activist and who was also on stage for the fourth annual Women in the World Summit, hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Along with her fellow Pakistani panelist Khalida Brohi (founder and director, Sughar Women’s Program) and of course Malala Yousafzai, all of whom began their education activism as teenagers, Bachal represented a major thread woven through the 2013 summit: the promise of the rising generation of young women activists, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

Call it the girls-who-change-the-world summit. Of course there were many veteran activists among the featured delegates, but there was also a sense that the current crop of tech-savvy young women may be able to change women’s education and labor-force participation even more quickly and decisively than their immediate predecessors. As Hillary Clinton put it in her summit address, “Much of our advocacy is a top-down frame. It’s past time to embrace a 21st-century approach to advancing the opportunities of women and girls” by empowering youthful, grassroots leaders.

----
In India and Pakistan, the poorest 20 percent of boys get five more years of education than girls do.”

Technology

Though women are rocking education in the United States—they now get the majority of both college and graduate degrees—they are sorely underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, known in the jargon as STEM. In fact, they’ve lost ground in the past decade. As the summit’s “Grooming Titans of Tech” panel moderator Chelsea Clinton pointed out, the number of female computer science majors has dropped from 20 to 12 percent in the past decade. Reshma Saujani, the founder of the organization Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that teaches underprivileged teens how to code in computer science languages, is looking to change those dreadful numbers. Saujani bragged to the WITW audience about how evangelical her first group of graduates is: they teach their friends what they learn in their coding classes.....


http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/04/10/from-pakistan-to-syria-young-women-and-girls-demand-change.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Asia Times on a woman candidate defying tribal traditions in Pakistan's FATA region:

BAJAUR AGENCY, Pakistan - "My sole motive is to serve my people, especially women who have had no role in politics so far. I feel we can make progress only by bringing in women into mainstream politics." These are the words of Badam Zari, 40, who has filed her nomination papers with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Zari is contesting from the militancy-hit Bajaur Agency, one of the seven districts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) near the Afghanistan border.

Zari's tiny but lush green house in Arang village is buzzing with activity as women from the neighborhood come in droves to congratulate her for the exemplary courage she has shown in standing for elections.

Forget standing for election, women in FATA do not vote. It was only in 1997 that the federal government gave the six million residents of FATA the right of adult franchise. Before that, only a few government-nominated elders called Maliks were entitled to cast votes or stand in election.

In January this year, the Election Commission of Pakistan proposed an amendment to the Representation of People Act, 1976, making it compulsory for every polling station to have at least 10% of its total votes cast by women. It went so far as to suggest that results from polling stations not be taken into account till that provision was met. The government, however, paid no heed to the suggestion.

"I am extremely worried about tribal women, most of who stay in their houses, which has prevented them from making any progress," Zari told IPS. "My only ambition is to struggle for the improvement of women's conditions in Bajaur Agency. Women here are suffering as none of the lawmakers in FATA have ever worked towards their development."

Her action, she is sure, will motivate women to come to the polling booths on polling day and vote in her favor....


http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-01-100413.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on women making up majority of students at Karachi's Dow Medical University:

KARACHI, Pakistan — In a lecture hall of one of Pakistan’s most prestigious medical schools, a handful of male students sits in the far top corner, clearly outnumbered by the rows and rows of female students listening intently to the doctor lecturing about insulin.

In a country better known for honor killings of women and low literacy rates for girls, Pakistan’s medical schools are a reflection of how women’s roles are evolving. Women now make up the vast majority of students studying medicine, a gradual change that’s come about after a quota favoring male admittance into medical school was lifted in 1991.

The trend is a step forward for women in Pakistan, a largely conservative Muslim country. But there remain obstacles. Many women graduates don’t go on to work as doctors, largely because of pressure from family and society to get married and stop working — so much so that there are now concerns over the impact on the country’s health care system.

At Dow Medical College in the southern port city of Karachi, the female students said they are adamant they will work.

Standing in the school’s courtyard as fellow students — almost all of them women — gathered between classes, Ayesha Sultan described why she wants to become a doctor.

“I wanted to serve humanity, and I believe that I was born for this,” said Sultan, who is in her first year. “The women here are really striving hard to get a position, especially in this country where women’s discrimination is to the zenith, so I think that’s why you find a lot of women here.”

For years, a government-imposed quota mandated that 80 percent of the seats at medical schools went to men and 20 percent to women. Then the Supreme Court ruled that the quota was unconstitutional and that admission should be based solely on merit.

Now about 80 to 85 percent of Pakistan’s medical students are women, said Dr. Mirza Ali Azhar, the secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association. Statistics gathered by The Associated Press show that at medical schools in some deeply conservative areas of the country such as Baluchistan in the southwest and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest, men still outnumber women. But in Punjab and Sindh provinces, which turn out the vast bulk of medical students, the women dominate. At Dow, it is currently about 70 percent women to 30 percent men.

In comparison, about 47 percent of medical students in the U.S. are women, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

There are a number of different reasons why men don’t make the cut, say students, faculty and medical officials. Medical school takes too long and is too difficult. Boys have more freedom to leave the house than girls, so they have more distractions. Boys want a career path in business or IT that will make them more money and faster, in part because they need to earn money to raise families.

At Dow, for example, just about all the male graduates work as doctors, but only an estimated half the women do, says Dr. Umar Farooq, the school’s pro-vice chancellor. Nationwide figures on how many women graduates forgo actual practice don’t exist, but despite years of increased women’s enrollment, the gender breakdown of doctors remains lopsided. Of the 132,988 doctors registered with the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, 58,789 are women. The number of female specialists is even smaller: 7,524 out of 28,686....


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-pakistans-medical-schools-women-far-outnumber-the-men-pushing-back-on-society-pressures/2013/04/19/2a6410ea-a8b7-11e2-9e1c-bb0fb0c2edd9_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian story of Pakistani women in politics:

When Pakistan's new foreign minister arrived in India for talks in 2011 it triggered a media storm on both sides of the border – not because of policy but a Birkin bag. Hina Rabbani Khar, at 34 Pakistan's youngest and first female foreign minister, was put under international scrutiny for her pearl necklaces, Cavalli sunglasses and expensive handbags. "A guy in my place would never get such attention – nobody would be talking about his suit," she said at the time.

Powerful women the world over are evaluated on their appearance, but in Pakistan there are additional cultural constraints. However, as the country gears up for Saturday's general election – its first ever transition from one elected government to another – female politicians are standing up to change their future at the ballot box.

Figures released by the Election Commission show a 129.8% increase in the number of women contesting general seats since the 2008 election. As well as Khar, Pakistan has had a female prime minister in Benazir Bhutto and currently has Fehmida Mirza as speaker. Reserved seats for women have always been guaranteed in Pakistan's constitution, and over the years the number of quota seats has increased due to the efforts of activists. While reserved seats are improving representation (it stands at 22.5%, the same as in the UK, and better than the US's 17.8%), these women are predominantly from elite backgrounds. Those from poorer families remain excluded from the political system and, at the far end of the spectrum, many women are so disenfranchised that they cannot vote.

South Asia, despite its social conservatism, has a long history of female representation, with political systems often heavily dominated by a few families. Women such as Bhutto and India's Indira Gandhi stood in place of their father or husband, the family name allowing them to step outside traditional female roles: Khar contested elections because her father Noor was disqualified. Despite her swift rise to the cabinet she will not stand this year, because her father has been reinstated.

"It is difficult for women," says Anis Haroon, a caretaker minister for human rights and women. "It's non-traditional ground to tread, and women still bear the responsibility of home and children. Character assassination is easy in a patriarchal, conservative society. Women must work twice as hard to prove their worth." Last month, an election official in Lahore told the husband of prospective candidate Sadia Sohail that if she were elected, "the arrangements at your home will be ruined and no one will be there to attend your children"....


http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/09/pakistan-female-election-candidates-confidence

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IBN Live story:

Finland best place to be a mother; India behind China, Pakistan
Press Trust of India | 08-May 17:47 PM
Beijing: Finland has topped the list of countries where mothers enjoy the best conditions in the world, while India ranks a low 142nd, below China and Pakistan, according to a new global report.
The annual report called 'State of World's Mothers 2013' was issued by an international NGO "Save the Children" before the Mother's Day in mid-May.
The report was featured by a ranking list of Mothers' index, showing the conditions of mothers in 176 countries, Xinhua news agency reported.
Among the reviewed countries, Finland was ranked the best country for being mothers followed by Sweden, Norway, Iceland while Democratic Republic of Congo was considered to be the toughest place.
The mothers' well-being was assessed under five indexes, including maternal health, child mortality, education, working income and political status.
According to the annual report, one in thirty pregnant women in DR Congo died from maternal causes, while in Finland the ratio was only one in 12,200.
As for education, women in DR Congo were likely to be educated for 8.5 years, compared with 17 years in Finland. Nearly 43 per cent of Finnish parliamentary seats were held by women, whereas the ratio in DR Congo was only 8 per cent.
Although Finland did not perform the absolute "best" in each index, it became the only country with all five indexes ranking among the top 12. The US places 30th this year while Pakistan was 139th on the list.
China ranked at the 68th place, the best ranking among the major emerging developing countries. The top ten countries attained very high scores for mothers' and children's health, educational, economic and political status. They include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Australia.
The 10 bottom-ranked countries, which are all from sub-Saharan Africa, performed poorly on all indicators. They include Cote d'Ivoire (167), Chad (168), Nigeria (169), Gambia (170), Central African Republic (171), Niger (172), Mali (173), Sierra Leone (174), Somalia (175) and Democratic Republic of Congo (176).
Conditions for mothers and their children in the bottom countries are grim. On average, 1 woman in 30 dies from pregnancy-related causes and 1 child in 7 dies before his or her fifth birthday, the report said.

http://m.ibnlive.com/news/finland-best-place-to-be-a-mother-india-behind-china-pakistan/390426-2.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' report on a newly-inducted female fighter pilot in Pak Air Force:

With an olive green head scarf poking out from her helmet, Ayesha Farooq flashes a cheeky grin when asked if it is lonely being the only war-ready female fighter pilot in the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

Farooq, from Punjab province's historic city of Bahawalpur, is one of 19 women who have become pilots in the Pakistan Air Force over the last decade - there are five other female fighter pilots, but they have yet to take the final tests to qualify for combat.

"I don't feel any different. We do the same activities, the same precision bombing," the soft-spoken 26-year-old said of her male colleagues at Mushaf base in north Pakistan, where neatly piled warheads sit in sweltering 50 degree Celsius heat (122 F).

A growing number of women have joined Pakistan's defence forces in recent years as attitudes towards women change.

"Because of terrorism and our geographical location it's very important that we stay on our toes," said Farooq, referring to Taliban militancy and a sharp rise in sectarian violence.

Deteriorating security in neighbouring Afghanistan, where U.S.-led troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year, and an uneasy relationship with arch rival India to the east add to the mix.

Farooq, whose slim frame offers a study in contrast with her burly male colleagues, was at loggerheads with her widowed and uneducated mother seven years ago when she said she wanted to join the air force.

"In our society most girls don't even think about doing such things as flying an aircraft," she said.

Family pressure against the traditionally male domain of the armed forces dissuaded other women from taking the next step to become combat ready, air force officials said. They fly slower aircraft instead, ferrying troops and equipment around the nuclear-armed country of 180 million.

"LESS OF A TABOO"

Centuries-old rule in the tribal belt area along the border with Afghanistan, where rape, mutilation and the killing of women are ordered to mete out justice, underlines conservative Pakistan's failures in protecting women's rights.

But women are becoming more aware of those rights and signing up with the air force is about as empowering as it gets.

"More and more ladies are joining now," said Nasim Abbas, Wing Commander of Squadron 20, made up of 25 pilots, including Farooq, who fly Chinese-made F-7PG fighter jets....


http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/06/12/pakistan-airforce-women-idINDEE95B0GZ20130612

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report on Pakistan Army's first female paratroopers:

Pakistan’s first group of female paratroopers completed their training on Sunday, the military announced, hailing it as a “landmark achievement” for the deeply conservative Muslim country.
Captain Kiran Ashraf was declared the best paratrooper of the batch of 24, the military said in a statement, while Captain Sadia, referred to by one name, became the first woman officer to jump from a MI-17 helicopter.
Women have limited opportunities in Pakistan’s highly traditional, patriarchal society. The United Nations says only 40 percent of adult women are literate, and are frequently the victims of violence and abuse.
But in 2006, seven women broke into one of Pakistan’s most exclusive male clubs to graduate as fighter pilots - perhaps the most prestigious job in the powerful military and for six decades closed to the fairer sex.
After three weeks’ basic airborne training, which included exit, flight and landing techniques, the new paratroopers completed their first jump on Sunday and were given their “wings” by the commander of Special Services Group, Major General Abid Rafique, the military said.


http://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/art-and-culture/2013/07/14/First-Pakistan-women-paratroopers-make-history.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an open letter in The Guardian from Pakistani writer Mohammad Hanif addressed to TTP leader Adnan Rasheed:

Dear Adnan Rasheed,

I am writing to you in my personal capacity. This may not be the opinion of the people of Pakistan or the policy of the government, but I write to thank you in response to the generous letter you have written to Malala Yousafzai. Thanks for owning up that your comrades tried to kill her by shooting her in the head. Many of your well-wishers in Pakistan had been claiming the Taliban wouldn't attack a minor girl. They were of the opinion that Malala had shot herself in order to become a celebrity and get a UK visa. Women, as we know, will go to any lengths to get what they want. So thanks for saying that a 14-year-old girl was the Taliban's foe. And if she rolls out the old cliche that the pen is mightier than sword, she must face the sword and find it for herself.

Like you, there are others who are still not sure whether it was "Islamically correct or wrong", or whether she deserved to be "killed or not", but then you go on to suggest that we leave it to Allah.

There are a lot of people in Pakistan, some of them not even Muslims, who, when faced with difficult choices or everyday hardships, say let's leave it to Allah. Sometimes it's the only solace for the helpless. But most people don't say leave it to Allah after shooting a kid in the face. The whole point of leaving it to Allah is that He is a better judge than any human being, and there are matters that are beyond our comprehension – maybe even beyond your favourite writer Bertrand Russell's comprehension.

Allow me to make another small theological point – again about girls. Before the advent of Islam, before the prophet gave us the holy book that you want Malala to learn again, in the times we call jahilia, people used to bury their newborn daughters. They probably found them annoying and thought it better to get rid of them before they learned to speak. We are told Islam came to put an end to such horrendous practices. If 1,400 years later, we have to shoot girls in the head in an attempt to shut them up, someone like Russell might say we haven't made much progress.

Like you, I did a bit of research in Malala's hometown in Swat valley, and I remember a wise journalist warning your commanders that the Taliban might get away with slitting people's throats in public squares but not to try shutting down the girls' school. The government practically handed over the valley to your comrades, but their rule didn't even last for a few weeks because they ordered all women to stay home.

There was only one lesson to be learned: you can fight the Pakistani army; you can try and almost kill Pakistan's commander-in-chief, as you so heroically did; you might wage a glorious jihad against brutal imperial forces. But you can't pick a fight with the working women in your neighbourhood and hope to win. Those women may never get an audience at the UN but everyone – from cotton picker to bank teller – cannot be asked to shut up and stay home, for the simple reason that they won't.

It has also been suggested that your letter represents the mainstream opinion in Pakistan. But don't fall for this praise. You might think that a lot of people support your just fight, but there is a part of them that worries whether their girl will get the grades to get into a good university. And if you tell them there is a contradiction there, they might tell you to leave it to Allah...


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/18/letter-taliban-leader-malala-yousafzai-girls

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's Burka Avenger female superhero reflects shifting ground realities with increasing women participation in the affairs of the nation.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2013/07/burka-avenger-pakistans-buka-clad.html

Examples include:

1. First women paratroopers inducted in Pakistan Army.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/pakistan-s-female/757556.html

2. First female combat pilot commissioned in Pakistan Air Force.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22895373

3. First female jirga held in Pakistan.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23442129

4. Malala Yousufzai emerges as an international icon for girls' education in Pakistan and elsewhere.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2013/07/pakistani-government-and-top.html

5. Increasing number of court marriages by young couples in defiance of tradition of marriages arranged by parents.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2012/12/violent-conflict-is-part-of-pakistans.html

6. Rising female participation in Pakistan's work force.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/09/working-women-seeding-silent-social.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Newseeek Pakistan story on Shazia Sikandar:

Her works are part of the permanent collections of some of the world’s most famous museums—the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the Guggenheim. In 2005, The New York Times called her an “an artist on the verge of shaking things up.” The year before that, Newsweek counted her among the clutch of overachieving South Asians “transforming America’s cultural landscape.” Shahzia Sikander, arguably Pakistan’s most famous living modern artist, has been wowing the international art world with her multidisciplinary works inspired from Mughal-era miniature painting techniques and tropes. She’s been scoring accolades since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995. Last year, the U.S. secretary of State awarded her the Inaugural Medal of Art. She’s previously won a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” While Pakistan hasn’t entirely ignored Sikander—she won the President’s National Pride of Honor award in 2005—she’s hardly a household name in her home country, and viewed by Pakistani critics as an outlier. We spoke with Sikander recently about her art and life. Excerpts:

From the National College of Arts in Lahore to the pinnacle of the global art scene, what’s the journey been like for you?

Complex, the way life is. It’s hard to summarize more than two decades in a single answer—besides, the journey is still unfolding. In retrospect I would have, perhaps, made some different decisions, but I’m appreciative of all the opportunities and detours I experienced that helped me develop my ability to think and express.

You’ve rarely held any shows in Pakistan, why?

Not being invited in any serious manner to exhibit works in Pakistan is an issue. Compounding the situation is also the fact that almost all of my work got collected rapidly by international museums in the late 1990s and early 2000s. To show the work, it has to be loaned directly from the [collecting] institutions. It was never as simple as putting the work in a suitcase to be brought over to Pakistan to exhibit.

Do you think your work has helped change how women artists from the Muslim world are viewed abroad, judged on the basis of the work rather than the baggage of biography?

Our actions speak for ourselves. If anything my choices in life do not fit into any stereotypes. I am a strong advocate for women’s education. The support I received from my family and mentors in Pakistan was instrumental in allowing me to think for myself, take responsibility for my actions, and develop a healthy sense of independence and self-worth. Unfortunately, stereotypes get resurrected often around the world for all sorts of people. Muslim women are subjected to this much more frequently. Over the years there have been numerous opportunities to debunk or challenge these stereotypes, and I have been there many times through my work and through my life.

How much of your work is informed by your heritage, your Pakistani identity?

My identity is very much about my being from the subcontinent. It is not as if I left my roots and have to find ways to engage with them. I came of age in Pakistan. My engagement with Indo-Persian miniature painting started in the mid to late-’80s when I was studying at the NCA........


http://newsweekpakistan.com/the-forgotten-daughter/

Riaz Haq said...

"If war breaks out, I will be flying on my senior's wing as his wingman, well, wingwoman," she said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph at the headquarters of the Pakistan Air Force in Islamabad.....For Fl Lt Farooq, it would provide the ultimate chance to prove that women were every bit the equal of men in the cockpit.
"When I get orders I will go and fight. I want to prove myself, to show that I'm doing something for my country."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/10279119/Pakistans-only-female-fighter-pilot-becomes-role-model-for-millions-of-girls.html

Riaz Haq said...

Malala inspires girls school enrollment surge in KP, reports Bloomberg:

MINGORA, Pakistan — The Pakistani Taliban's attempts to deter girls from seeking an education, epitomized by the shooting of 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the face last year, are backfiring as school enrollments surge in her home region.

While Yousafzai missed out last week on the Nobel Peace Prize, her plight is helping change attitudes in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which lies at the center of a Taliban insurgency. The four-month-old provincial government boosted education spending by about 30 percent and began an enrollment drive that has added 200,000 children, including 75,000 girls.

Yousafzai's story "is certainly helping us to promote education in the tribal belt," Muhammad Atif Khan, the province's education minister, said by phone. "Education is a matter of death and life. We can't solve terrorism issues without educating people."

Taliban militants targeted Yousafzai in retaliation over her campaign for girls to be given equal rights to schooling in a country where only 40 percent of adult women can read and write. Though the Nobel award went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Yousafzai was showered with accolades in a week in which she published her memoir: she won the European Union's top human rights prize and met President Barack Obama at the Oval Office.

The shooting occurred a year ago as Yousafzai traveled home on a school bus in Mingora, a trading hub of 1.8 million people where a majority of women still cover their faces and girls aren't comfortable answering questions from reporters. The bullet struck above her left eye, grazing her brain. She was flown for emergency surgery to Britain, where she lives today.

The increased media attention on Swat since the shooting is pressuring government officials to improve educational standards and encouraging locals to send their kids to school.

Three days ago in Mingora, as local channels flashed the news that Yousafzai didn't win the peace prize, high school student Shehzad Qamar credited her for prompting the government to build more institutions of higher learning.

"She has done what we couldn't have achieved in 100 years," Qamar said. "She gave this town an identity."..
------------
"Taliban wanted to silence me," Yousafzai said in an interview with the BBC last week. "Malala was heard only in Pakistan, but now she is heard at the every corner of the world."

Sadiqa Ameen, a 15-year-old school girl in Swat, said she wanted to read Yousafzai's book, titled "I am Malala." The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, has threatened to kill Yousafzai and target shops selling her book, the Dawn newspaper reported, citing spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

"This is probably the first ever book written by a Swati girl," said Ameen, who lives near Yousafzai's school. "I am sure her story will be something we all know and have gone through during the Taliban rule."

Musfira Khan Karim, 11, prayed for Yousafzai's success in the Nobel competition with her 400 schoolmates in Mingora.

"I want her back here among us," Karim said in her school's playground. "I want to know more about her. I want to meet her."


http://www.registercitizen.com/general-news/20131013/taliban-intimidation-backfires-as-shot-teenager-inspires-school-enrollment-surge

Riaz Haq said...

The Saudi guardianship law for women is a vestige of its Medieval past when all women, including adults, were required to have a male guardian's permission for almost everything in life: To work, marry, travel, do business, stay at a hotel, etc. Male guardian could be father, husband, brother, etc. Ban on driving is also an example of how Saudis treat women as chattel.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/12/will-saudi-society-change-peacefully.html

Anonymous said...

According to Pakistan's Federal Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of women at work in the country has increased from 16.3% to 24.4% in a decade.

But activists say that despite this, many women still find it difficult to be accepted in the male-dominated workforce.

Qualified driver Aliya Bibi spoke to the BBC about her struggle to find employment in Rawalpindi.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25421606

Riaz Haq said...

Women participation in the work force in Pakistan has increased to 25% from 16% a decade ago. Jobs held by Pakistani women range from airline pilots, fighter jet pilots, military generals, soldiers, police officers, parliamentarians, ministers, business executives, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, fast food workers, taxi drivers, farm workers, etc etc.

Women now make up 4.6% of board members of Pakistani companies, a tad lower than the 4.7% average in emerging Asia, but higher than 1% in South Korea, 4.1% in India and Indonesia, and 4.2% in Malaysia, according to a February 2011 report on women in the boardrooms.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/09/working-women-seeding-silent-social.html

Riaz Haq said...

Forbes magazine released its third annual "30 Under 30" list on Monday, "a tally of the brightest stars in 15 different fields under the age of 30," and three Pakistani women made the cut in the Social Entrepreneurship category (ET). The most well-known woman on the list is Malala Yousafzai, who became an international champion of girls' education after she was shot by the Pakistani Taliban in October 2012. She is credited with co-founding the Malala Fund, which aims to increase girls' enrollment in formal education in the developing world; her co-founder, Shiza Shahid, is also on the list. Shahid, a graduate from Stanford University, was also listed on TIME magazine's "30 Under 30" list in December 2013. Rounding out the list is Khalida Brohi, who founded Sughar, a non-profit organization that helps women start small businesses so they can become more financially independent, after witnessing the death of her friend in an honor killing.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a VOA report on a woman chef in New York:

NEW YORK — Few women make it into the top ranks of chefs in New York City. It’s even harder for women who are not U.S. citizens, but one young Pakistani woman has broken this barrier.

Fatima Ali is the sous - or assistant - chef at the famous Café Centro in Midtown Manhattan. She is also one of the very few Pakistani women to graduate from America’s top culinary institute, the Culinary Institute of Arts.

But what makes Ali even rarer, according to a VOA survey, is that she may be the only non-American female chef in any of 70 top New York restaurants.

Ali grew up in Pakistan, and she says there’s so much for her to take back to her home country.

“There’s so many things that I've been exposed to in the U.S., that I may not have been exposed to in Pakistan. Like the plethora of ingredients that are available here," she said. "But it’s been really interesting, taking what I have learned in America and then whenever I go back home to visit, cooking for my family and friends with the ingredients that I love from there.”

In July, Ali competed with other chefs on the Food Network TV show, "Chopped." Her blend of Pakistani spices and Western cuisines won her the top award of $10,000.

“The fact that I won, I suppose was such wonderful validation, all like the sacrifices that my family has made to put myself through school, and to be away from home for so long and the biggest thing for me was to inspire other young Pakistani girls to follow their dreams,” explained Ali.

“She has great potential, and I give her another two to three years, and she definitely will be a master chef,” said Jan Hoffmann, executive chef at Cafe Centro.

Ali wants to make a difference through her cooking. She was first inspired by poor children at her mother’s charity organization.

“I think I was 12 or 15 when I set up my first food stall at one of my mother’s festivals to raise money for these kids the fact that I had made even a small amount of difference cooking for somebody, I think that’s what just sealed the deal for me,” Ali added.

Ali hopes to return to Pakistan and establish subsidized kitchens where poor families can enjoy low-cost, organic meals - and where teens can learn cooking and other job skills.


http://www.voanews.com/content/pakistani-woman-makes-it-big-as-new-york-chef/1508082.html

Anonymous said...

GUJAR KHAN: Only 22 per cent of Pakistani women are recognised as working in the formal sector, although many more play an active role in the country's economy.

The contribution of those in the informal sector has been undervalued for years, but now, many women in rural areas are taking the lead in their families, some through micro-credit loans.

Ambreen Ashraf got a loan of around US$230 two years ago, with which she bought a cow.

Selling its milk every month has enabled her to earn money - something she had never been able to do before.

She said: "It feels good that we can run our home easily and it helps my husband. The money from the cow makes things easier- there is a good atmosphere at home. Children are happy - they go to good schools and we're happy they can now get a good education."

Access to credit can be difficult for people in rural areas, so a local initiative has helped those like Ms Ambreen borrow money to start their own businesses.

The loan is guaranteed by the community organisation, made up of other villagers who then monitor repayments themselves.

It has been hugely successful and 60 per cent of the beneficiaries are women.

Rubeena Bibi, a mother of four, was given an interest-free lump sum, which helped her become the family's breadwinner.

She said: "I sew and earn money every month - can pay the bills and buy milk and also save. My husband earns less than me, so we're able to save with my money.

“I feel happy that I can help my children and husband, who is ill."

Across most of Pakistan and in rural areas especially, men call the shots and women's work are often undervalued.

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, women make up only 22 per cent of the labour force, but campaigners said this does not take into account those who work informally.

Some people however, welcome the idea of working women.

Community elder Mohammad Fazal said: "The women, besides making dinner and doing housework, used to sit around all day. But I think it's good to make them active in the community so they can also benefit. They're poor and hardworking and just want to increase their income."

Mohammad Tariq Nazir from National Rural Support Programme said: "They are earning and they are helping their husbands and they are providing support to their families. So within the family the women who are earning have their own say and they are being heard by the men now because of these activities."

While the situation is still bleak for many women when it comes to equal opportunities, some households are slowly shifting the traditional views of what a woman's role should be.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/micro-credit-loans/1025488.html

Anonymous said...

On the surface, it looks like it is all bad news, especially for female journalists. Despite the harsh working conditiones (low salaries, stress, violence), the fact remains that more and more women are joining media in Pakistan. And for a good reason. This is a country that has a story in every corner, waiting to be told. And women, by default, are great story-tellers. They also have so much to say, and are natural born "fixers". Journalism is thus a great career choice for us.

Pakistan's situation, of late has unearthed some new fields and exposed some voids waiting to be filled by reporters, who can choose them as their niches in the world of journalism. With the risk of sounding cliche, there are the proverbial "silver linings" to this mayhem.

Here's an example of one of the new beats opening up before women journalists: If earlier I was writing features just focusing on reproductive health and family planning, I now focus on how the security crises have affected women in conflict-ridden parts of the country. If roads are blown up and the infrastructure is damaged, women end up paying the highest price. For example, women in such areas would not be able to access hospitals for childbirth, and female doctors, for safety reasons, cannot travel to conflict zones. All this needs to be highlighted. And women reporters do that well.

In times of conflict, the vulnerable sections of society like women and children, are most impacted by displacement and losing the men in their lives. Women, as stakeholders in peace processes at any level, are often ignored. Their voice needs to be heard. Over time, the importance of this particular "beat" or focus as a journalist became obvious to me.

It was important that I was there at Peshawer's Lady Reading Hospital to talk to Fatima Bibi (not her real name) whose 14-year-old son had lost his limbs in a blast. She wanted to do something about it more than just weep. She went on to become a peace-builder in her own town. Her story needed to be told. And it was.

Defining factors

The good part, however, is that it doesn't really matter if you were a male or a female journalist in Pakistan. Media in this country is quickly becoming a sphere where the man-woman dynamic is not necessarily the defining factor. We are not second-guessed because we are women. We are treated as equals to our male colleagues. There is a definite air of synergy which is conducive to the nature of this craft.

Yes, we want to see even more women in key leadership positions in media houses, even right at the top. Indeed, many have gotten there, while others are on their way up.

The professional hazards, like being stared at or harassed, are not specific to journalism or Pakistan. If, as women we ask for equality, we have to handle these hiccups, although this does not mean staying silent about it. Over time, we learn to handle it. There may be a few "boys' clubs" that are a tad bit over-protective about their female counterparts, but generally, Pakistan's female journalists are a strong voice in the country's overall narrative.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/pakistan-women-journalists-want--20143717951496363.html

Anonymous said...

MANDRA, Pakistan (AP) — Amna Bhatti has spent half a century shaping mud into bricks in a huge kiln south of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. She started by paying off her parents' debt and now she's on to her late husband's. She'll probably spend the rest of her life here.

Bhatti was 10 when she started working at the kiln to pay off her parents' debt. Now, at 60, she is paying off the 250,000 rupees (approximately $2,500) in debt her husband left behind when he died 12 years ago.

She has managed to cut 1,000 dollars off that original loan, but has taken more loans from her employer — so it is doubtful she will ever emerge from debt in her lifetime.

"We are poor, and we will always stay poor. When you enter this road the only way out of it is death," Bhatti said, speaking next to the clay she was shaping into bricks.

Tens of thousands of other poor Pakistanis work hard in brick kilns, agriculture fields and other hard labor across Pakistan in what is called "bonded labor" to pay off family loans often passed down through generations. They often have no proper living facilities or basic amenities like running water or bathrooms. They generally make about 350 rupees a day (approximately $3.50) for their hard work.

There are no reliable statistics about the number of Pakistanis living and working as bonded laborers. But they can be found across the country working in agriculture, the carpet-making industry, brick kilns and other industries, according to the National Coalition Against Bonded Labor, a joint platform of different rights organizations.

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/mar/07/ap-photos-women-brick-makers-in-debt-in-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Change is most difficult to recognize when it is actually happening.

It can often resemble chaos, even to those who demand it loudest.

Riaz Haq said...

Humera Ashique created history after becoming the first Pakistani woman to clinch gold in an international event in Nepal on Sunday.

The 24-year-old judoka took gold at the South Asian Judo Championship in Kathmandu as she defeated a Nepalese athelete to clinch the 48kg event.

The Lahore-based athlete is happy to realise her dream after training hard at the national camp since November. "I'm just relieved now," said Humera.

"I was so tired of failing to win the ultimate title. But after so many years and hard work I've finally managed to win a gold medal. Before leaving for Nepal I told my parents that I'll succeed. I performed sensibly and outplayed very tough opponents."

Meanwhile, Pakistan took second position in the overall championship with three gold medals, three silver and six bronze, next to India on the top, while Nepal finished third.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/humera-first-pakistan-woman-to-clinch-judo-gold-114041400480_1.html

Anonymous said...

KARACHI, Pakistan – Just days into her job running a police station in Pakistan's largest city, Syeda Ghazala had to put her training to the test: she opened fire with her .22-caliber pistol at a man who shot at police when they tried to pull him over during a routine traffic stop.

It's not clear whether it was Ghazala's shots that wounded the man before he was arrested, but as the first woman to run a police station in Pakistan's often violent port city of Karachi, she'll likely have many more chances to hit her mark.

When Ghazala joined the police force two decades ago, she never dreamed that one day she would head a police station staffed by roughly 100 police officers — all men. Her recent promotion is part of efforts by the local police to increase the number of women in the force and in positions of authority. Shortly after she assumed her new job the city appointed a second woman to head another police station.

In a country where women have traditionally not worked outside the home and face widespread discrimination, the appointments represent a significant step for women's empowerment.

"The mindset of people is changing gradually, and now they (have) started to consider women in leading roles. My husband opposed my decision to join the police force 20 years ago," said the 44-year-old mother of four. But by the time this job rolled around, he had come full circle and encouraged her to go for it. "It was a big challenge. I was a little bit hesitant to accept it."

The station house is in Clifton, a posh area home to the elite of this sprawling metropolis of more than 18 million people. But in a city prone to family feuds, political unrest and jihadist violence — where 166 officers were killed in the line of duty last year — it's by no means an easy assignment. Crimes ranging from petty theft and muggings to terrorism or murder are all part of a day's work, Ghazala says.

Running a station is a high-profile job in the Pakistani police, one that requires the officer to constantly interact with the public and fellow officers. It's also a key path to advancement. Senior police officer Abdul Khaliq Sheikh, said he and others in the top brass hope Ghazala's appointment leads to more women joining the force.

"Our society accepts only stereotype roles for women. There is a perception that women are suitable only for particular professions like teaching," he said.

The police force is also training the first batch of female commandos, a group of 44 women going through a physically intensive course involving rappelling from towers or helicopters and shooting an assortment of weapons.

Currently, the two in Karachi are the only women running police stations in Pakistan. In the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where women make up less than one percent of the roughly 75,000-member police force, women only run stations specifically designed to help female crime victims.

In the southeastern Baluchistan province, there are only 90 women on the police force and no women station heads. In Punjab province, only one woman has ever run a station house, back in 2005, but currently no women hold the position.

Ghazala said most people she has encountered in her new job have been supportive, and she's become a bit of a celebrity in the neighborhood. She said during her career she's only had a few instances where she's felt discrimination. When she got the highest marks in a training course required for promotion, some of the men objected, saying that in Islam women couldn't lead men.

But she said the commander simply told the men they should have gotten better grades.

"It was the only moment somebody objected to me as a woman," she said. "Otherwise, all my career, fellow and senior officers encouraged me a lot."

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/06/15/locked-and-loaded-pakistan-largest-city-gets-first-woman-leader-police-station/

Riaz Haq said...

Samina Baig becomes the first Pakistani to scale Mount Everest

“Today at 7:40am local time Samina Baig has successfully reached the summit of Mt Everest together with her brother Mirza and the Indian twin girls Tashi and Nugshi!” Mirza Ali updated his blog on Sunday.
The brother and sister have engaged several dangerous mountains for the last 4 years. Against all the odds in a largely male dominant society, Samina and her brother have pushed all the limits for what they call “mission for gender equality and eco-realization’’.
The Everest Expedition was started on April 1st and is reported to be privately sponsored by Mirza and Samina’s Kiwi friends through Seven Summit, a Nepali tour operator. The people of Gilgit Baltistan have extended their congratulations to Samina and Mirza on the latest mountaineering accolade.
In a special message from London, MQM’s chief Altaf Hussain has congratulated Samina Baig for her courageous achievement.
"Samina Baig has made the nation proud by scaling the highest mountain of the world. I salute to the courage of the lady. Hopefully, Samina will be followed as role model by women of Pakistan. Her achievement will ignite zeal in women folk of the country”, Altaf Hussain said.
The love for Everest demands life. It always reciprocates human feelings with dangers. Gender equality, women empowerment and love for ecology were so dear to Samina that she did not stop until she had to— to pitch the victory flag on the top of the Everest.

http://www.dardistantimes.com/News/1844513019/samina-baig-becomes-first-pakistan-scale-mount-everest

Riaz Haq said...

One recently became the country’s first female fighter jet pilot. The other is CEO of a group of schools. Yet another left an engineering degree to become captain of the national cricket team.
Though terrorism has plagued Pakistan, women are bravely making inroads in different fields, defying all odds to represent the modern face of their country.
News and images of honour killings and acid attacks on women in the country often make headlines around the world, but the progress made by Pakistan’s women is hardly shown.
Women in Pakistan are building impressive careers, launching successful, independent ventures of their own and training young girls to follow in their footsteps.
With impressive resumes and university pedigrees that rival most male executives, these women are making waves.
“Most women in Pakistan are extremely progressive in their presence in every field whether it is politics, sports, entertainment, fashion, performing arts or business but all we need is to portray them positively,” said Ambreen K, who is pioneer member of the Pakistan Change Initiative (PCI) — a Dubai-based group working to highlight positive image of Pakistan. Ambreen said the PCI strives to present the positive side of the country through various events.
“We recently held an event in Dubai to showcase modern face of Pakistani women and their contribution to the society and it was a big hit,” she said.
Though traditional gender roles still exist for many women in Pakistan, some are making impressive gains.
They are part of a growing cadre of women who are determined to move forward despite threats from hardliners.
Women make up slightly more than half of Pakistan’s population of 180 million. Though only 17 per cent of them are considered “economically active”, given the chance they have proved their mettle in every field.
The women in Pakistan have never been so proud as when First Lt Ayesha Farooq became the first female fighter pilot in the Pakistan Air Force in 2013.
She had joined the Air Force at the age of 17 after battling to convince her mother to let her realise her dreams.
Cultural practices used to prevent many women from working outside their homes in Pakistan. Today, that is changing. More women are now leading a number of successful businesses in various industries while creating previously unheard of opportunities for other women.
One such woman is Fatima, an educationist and model in Lahore.
Fatima is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Beaconhouse School System, a network of private schools founded by her mother-in-law. Another example is Sana Mir, captain of Pakistan’s women’s cricket team, who has become a great inspiration for girls to join sports. Mir was enrolled in an engineering degree at a national university, but left to pursue her passion for cricket.
Pilates instructor Zainab Abbas was determined to be different when she opened her fitness studio, Route2Pilates, in Lahore after receiving training in Bangkok, Thailand. She carries out rehabilitation workouts for people with joint problems as well as specialised workouts for pregnant women.
Zahra Afridi chose to be an interior designer and runs her own interior design company. Her most recent project was the Classic Rock Coffee café in Islamabad. She is also an avid kick-boxer and regularly trains to stay fit.

http://gulfnews.com/news/world/pakistan/beyond-terror-and-taliban-pakistan-s-women-rise-1.1358113

Riaz Haq said...

Shama Zehra is founder and CEO of newly-launched Aligned Independent Advisors, a boutique independent advisory firm on Wall Street. It’s still a male-dominated area of finance, just 13% of brokers and advisors are female but Zehra’s unlikely to be unfazed. As a glance at her career path proves – engineer, business-owner, pilot and banker –resisting convention comes pretty naturally.

As a teenager Shama Zehra started her first business, a clothing company with her mom and her sister from a rack in the corner of their apartment in Pakistan. Over time the trio outgrew the apartment and opened a small factory with six staff. This led to a flagship store, sales to the Pakistani equivalents of Macy’s and pop- up stores at five star hotels, which brought about lucrative exports.

Still, attitudes to women-owned businesses dragged out simple transactions, says Zehra. “Pakistan is a very male-dominated society so over there a man rules, so that was one of the biggest challenges,” she says. Even more difficult was negotiating constant security risks like thefts and curfews as well as electricity blackouts which meant the machines couldn’t run.


The trio sold Zehra’s, and after a stint as a pilot, Zehra got into finance. She built the number one wealth management business at Standard Chartered Bank in Pakistan before emigrating to the U.S to become one of the largest producers at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley MS +1.24%.

“Once you have your own business you really understand how to treat every job. I’ve always treated every job that I’ve had like my own company or my own business and that really does change the dynamic…as an entrepreneur you’ve got to do everything to make it work.”

With her latest venture, Aligned Independent Advisors, Zehra says she’s building a firm that’s totally independent but has a human touch, something she thinks has been lacking.

“It’s easy to find smart people in finance but it’s difficult to find good hearted, helpful and sincere people,” she says.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/hollieslade/2014/08/05/from-a-clothing-business-in-pakistan-to-a-wall-street-firm-lessons-from-a-serial-female-entrepreneur/

http://onforb.es/1s84hBt

Riaz Haq said...

‪#‎Pakistan‬ squash star Maria Toor of South Waziristan raises voice for equality at ‪#‎AsianGames2014‬ via @rapplerdotcom http://www.rappler.com/sports/world/69831-pakistan-squash-equality-asian-games …
INCHEON, South Korea- As a child Maria Toorpakay Wazir had to dress as a boy to be able to play sports in Pakistan and now as the country's number one women's squash player she says there is still too much resistance.

Toorpakay, competing at the Asian Games in South Korea, vowed not to stop helping girls in Pakistan overcome discrimination and cultural obstacles even though she has received threats for her work.

"I feel that this is my responsibility," said Toorpakay after she was beaten by Hong Kong's Annie Au in the women's singles late Sunday, September 21. "I have to raise my voice for the other girls."

Toorpakay's family comes from Waziristan, the lawless tribal area in northwest Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Malala Yousafzai, the acclaimed teenaged activist for girls' education, comes from the same region.
-------
Toorpakay at first competed in weightlifting, frequently beating the boys at tournaments. But her father made her switch to squash, where her gender was discovered.

After being required to produce a birth certificate to play squash at the age of 16, the truth about Toorpakay came out and she was bullied by other players.

Toorpakay said Pakistan is changing – but very slowly.

"Always there are people who do support this logic but there are people who still resist this logic," she said.

But Pakistan's number one women's squash player believes the tide cannot now be turned back. Toorpakay said her rise in international squash should be an example to other young women in Pakistan.

"I have to give them the same opportunity so that they become champions too," she said.

Toorpakay turned professional in 2006 and came third in the World Junior Women's Championship in 2009.

"This is a beautiful sport, and today I feel that God has given me a chance to come up to such position," she said.

She vowed to help Pakistan's women to emerge from the shadows through sport, saying it had helped her overcome her tough life in one of the world's most dangerous regions.

"Squash is my lord and I've worked so hard to get to this position," she said. - Rappler.com



Riaz Haq said...

PMDC’s decision to fix 50 pc seats in medical and dental colleges for females to flout merit as usually 70 pc of all seats are secured by females
• AIMC principal welcomes decision, says girls do not work in far-flung areas after securing education
• Students suggest govt takes surety from all medical college students to work after education, instead of adopting quota system



The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) has introduced a quota system in medical colleges restricting the seats for female students to 50 per cent, Pakistan Today has learnt, a decision which will ensure gender ‘equality’ but will discriminate against female students as more than 60 per cent of those securing admissions in medical colleges since 2008 are females.
Considering the “growing trend of females” in medical education but “decreasing sustainability” of females in the field, the council decided in a meeting in February that the “number of seats for males and females in medical education should be 50 per cent each”.
Interestingly, the decision taken in February was notified on September 18, stating that the new quota system would be applied on undergraduate admissions in all public and private medical and dental institutions for the Academic Year 2014-2015.
The notification comes at a time when the admission process in the medical colleges is ongoing across the country. Punjab held a medical college entry test (MCAT) in August and prospective students have now submitted their applications whereas the first merit list will be displayed on October 30. As per PMDC’s regulations, admissions in medical and dental colleges should be wrapped up by November 15.


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/09/26/national/pmdc-tilts-gender-equality-balance-in-boys-favour/

Riaz Haq said...

The spinners Sana Mir, Sadia Yousuf and Nida Dar claimed two wickets apiece, as Pakistan Women retained the gold medal in the Asian Games after beating Bangladesh Women by four runs according the D/L method in the final in Incheon.

Set a revised target of 43 from seven overs, Bangladesh were on course at 30 for 2 after 4.2 overs, but they completely collapsed from there and lost their next seven wickets for just eight runs. Rumana Ahmed and Fargana Ahmed were the team's top scorers with 10 each, but none of the other batsmen could muster more than seven, as Bangladesh could manage only two fours in the entire innings. Four of Pakistan's bowlers went at under six an over, as the team kept Bangladesh to 38 for 9 to successfully defend the gold medal they won during the 2010 Asian Games.

Pakistan, opting to bat, had made 97 for 6 from their 20 overs. Bismah Maroof, Pakistan's leading run-scorer in the tournament, hit 24 off 27 balls, while Nain Abidi chipped in with 18. Legspinner Rumana Ahmed was the pick of Bangladesh's bowlers and collected 2 for 13.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/784753.html

Riaz Haq said...

Womenomics from Financial Times on


The first convert to Islam was a businesswoman. She was a wealthy trader who inherited her father’s business and later expanded it into an even more impressive enterprise. At one point, she offered a job to a man. He accepted and conducted a trading mission from Mecca to Syria under the tutelage of his female boss.
Her name was Khadija. He was the Prophet Muhammad, and the two later married. Khadija’s personal loyalty to the Prophet and her financial independence were essential pillars of support in the early days spreading the message of Islam.


These facts highlight the unusual economic independence of the woman Muhammad married – and his approval of her sovereign existence. This history is often missing from the narrative within and about Islam – one of many reasons why women have not been a significant economic force in the Muslim world. But this is rapidly changing.
Today’s Muslim world is comprised of 1.6bn people. That is nearly a quarter of the global population, and they contribute about 16 per cent of global gross domestic product, growing at 6 per cent annually. It includes rich petro-states at the cusp of dramatic change such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar, as well as members of what Goldman Sachs calls the “Next 11”: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia and Iran.
Half of these people – 800m – are women. There is an untold, unfolding story hidden in their classrooms, in their careers, and in their purses. In just a generation or two, a widespread education movement has elevated the prospects of millions of women in these countries, from Tehran to Tunis.
---------

Millions of ordinary women and men have made conscious, and often deeply personal and brave decisions to break tradition, sometimes shunning cultural pressures. These myriad individual decisions will add up to a new segment of the labour market – and an unprecedented consumer power.
A movement has started where economics trumps culture. Changes that took half a century in the US are being compressed into a decade in today’s Muslim world, where they are set to continue at a significantly faster pace. Imagine if the US, in just a few years, had transformed from the 1950s era of The Feminine Mystique to Lean In in the 2010s. That is the magnitude of the change sweeping the Muslim world.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/1caaf96a-68b8-11e4-9eeb-00144feabdc0.html