PAKISTAN - Shaheen Attiqur Rahman
A graduate in administration from the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Ms Attiqur Rahman has led an extremely active career. After beginning in 1975 as a District High Court lawyer, by 1985 she was appointed Provincial Minister of Social Welfare. In the meantime and in parallel, she had assumed numerous assignments, varying from the position of the Chairperson of Women’s Prison/Jails Committee to that of Chairperson of the Punjab Red Crescent Society. The list of Ms Rahman’s achievements runs long.
She used the experience of belonging to the upper echelons of Pakistani society to ‘have an overview’ and to fully understand the gravity of problems faced by its lowest socio-economic classes, in particular, the abysmal and unfortunate situation of the illiterate of the country, especially women and girls. She realized that the way towards a decent human life lay through education and, first of all, through literacy.
She then took a decision. She gave up a promising political career to devote herself entirely to the social uplift of the neglected sections of society in remote rural areas of her native Punjab. The desire for education in these underprivileged areas was productively harnessed by Shaheen Attiqur Rahman to mobilize communities into action.
Together with a group of like-minded persons, she created a non-governmental, non-profit organization called Bunyad Literacy Community Council (BLCC). Bunyad aims at strengthening the social development process in rural communities through multi-sectoral programmes targeting the poorest of the poor and underprivileged sections of society. Under its auspices she was able to unite thousands of teachers, volunteers, parents and representatives of marginalized communities who all joined forces to promote the cause of literacy and education.
In the past two years, the activities of BLCC developed mainly along four axes: non-formal basic education; combating child labour; women’s empowerment; and a social action programme.
Concerned by the fact that nearly 40% of women in rural areas can read the Quran but are otherwise illiterate, Bunyad developed a primer (Quida) which helps them to learn to read and write in Urdu very quickly-in just ten months-since the written script is identical. This method proved to be very successful, having been tested on over 1,000 adult rural women. Ms Rahman is a living example of reaching the unreached as Bunyad has expanded to cover schools in 850 villages. According to estimates, she has been personally involved in making nearly 75,000 women and girls literate.
A special effort is currently being made in co-operation with the provincial government to increase enrolment and decrease dropout in rural schools in the quest for universal primary education. Some 160 villages were selected at random for this experiment and the first results are very promising.
To use Ms Rahman’s own words, ‘Bunyad is determined to break the lethargy of illiteracy and bring Pakistan into a literate society-education for all, soon.’
E-105/A-9, Gulgusht Colony,
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