Tag Archives: Pakistan

Hero of the Week Award: March 15, Perween Rahman

15 Mar
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week’s hero is a sad example of how great work often goes unnoticed until it is eclipsed by tragedy. Perween Rahman was a Pakistani architect. She left her potentially lucrative career at a young age to join the Orangi Pilot Project, a group founded in the 1980s to address sanitation, health, and housing issues in Karachi.

The largest city in Pakistan, Karachi has boomed from under 500,000 to over 18 MILLION people in five decades. Much of that insane growth has been the rise of slums and squatter villages. Unscrupulous developers, capitalizing on the rising value of property, would sell small plots to poor families. This land had no structures and no connection to basic infrastructure. As a result, most of the city lives in horrific conditions–thank you, neoliberalism.

The Oragni Pilot was established as a local power program, using microfinance and local organizing to get residents to create innovative solutions to their own problems–good social work. It has been enormously successful in raising the standard of living for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis. Over time, it has expanded to apply its model to rural health and sanitation and other research and application projects. After several years of work with Orangi, Perween Rahman became its director.

Sadly, this great humanitarian work ran against powerful developer interests and crime cartels that profited from property turnover and sales scams. Rahman and her colleagues frequently received threats but carried on for the greater good. On March 13, at the age of 54, Perween Rahman was shot four times in the chest and neck; she died on the way to the hospital. This woman dedicated her life — literally — to improving conditions for others against great odds. We should all celebrate her work and honor her sacrifice, taking it as an inspiration in our lives.

Number 1 Hero of the Year 2012: Malala Yousafzai

31 Dec
Number 1 Hero of 2012

Number 1 Hero of 2012

Even with all the wonderful nominations TSM received for Hero of the Year, the winner was clear from early on. No one received more nominations than Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai. The final decisions were based on more than just votes, however. Yousafzai — a young woman of 15! — is a shining example of social justice. Having virtually no inherent power or privilege, she found her voice at the age of 11 and has used it to great effect.

All of the heroes and honorable mentions have made the world a better place. What sets Yousafzai apart is the very real risks she takes every day. She has less to start with and has put it all on the line, even suffering a potentially fatal gunshot wound from Taliban assassins.

Her mission is simple but powerful — every child in the world should have access to a reasonable education by 2015. Coming from a place that believes women should never be educated, she understands the power of learning and reading. Nurtured by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, also an education activist, she began blogging about conditions in her province for the BBC at age 11. She also attended a Peshawar press club event, getting rousing applause for her powerful question:

How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?

For her powerful voice, tireless activism, willingness to risk all, and youthful promise, TSM is proud to honor Malala Youfsazai as Hero of the Year.

Honorable mention for the top spot goes to another Muslim activist seeking change. Ludovic Mohammed Zahed started the Unity mosque in Paris, the first fully LGBT embracing house of Islamic worship. Zahed’s mission includes full inclusion for women and transgender worshippers. He’s another brilliant example of change from the grass roots and a great example of using personal power to change the world for everyone’s benefit.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: March 28

28 Mar

Honoring Benazir Bhutto

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Benazir Bhutto.  Not only was Bhutto the first woman ever to lead a Muslim country, but she was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan twice. Bhutto started and chaired the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). In 2008 she was again on the PPP ticket in the Pakistani General Election. From 1979 on, when her father was hanged, Bhutto took on the role of social reformer, which meant she was a constant opponent to an unjust government. Her dedication to social justice and to Pakistan never wavered.

Although Bhutto came under harsh criticism and allegations of misconduct from former Pakistani President, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, President Musharraf cleared Bhutto of all charges of corruption. I can’t imagine it was easy for Bhutto to play in a predominately all boys club, as it is still difficult for women in the United States, e.g. the double standards here.

Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007, just two weeks before the General Election was to be held. In 2009, Bhutto was a posthumous winner of United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights.  To learn more about Benazir Bhutto, click here.

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