Curing Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan
In 1988, polio existed in more than 100 countries and infected close to 1,000 children daily. Due to advocacy efforts and the implementation of preventable vaccinations, cases of polio have significantly dropped at a rate of 99 percent. In 1988, about 350,000 children had polio while statistics indicated that in 2017, only 22 documented illnesses existed. However, children are still struggling as Pakistan and Afghanistan attempt to eliminate polio their countries.

Children are most vulnerable to contracting polio between birth and age five. One in 200 contagions result in irreparable paralysis, most commonly in the legs; five to 10 percent of those infected die from this disease due to the disabling of their breathing muscles.

Most children that are living with polio do not experience manifestations; however, polluted water and food can still spread the disease. Polio is preventable through several doses of vaccinations, but there is no treatment.

Modernized Vaccines to Prevent Polio

In 2013, all countries began to implement one dose of the new vaccines and terminate the use of the oral vaccines by 2018, which the Polio Eradication & Endgame Strategic Plan instructed.

In order to eliminate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan is terminating the administrations of oral vaccines which only protected against type 2 of the virus; instead, Afghanistan and Pakistan are implementing doses of the inactivated polio vaccine, which should be more effective in preventing the disease as it prevents all three types of polio. The modern vaccine can also enhance immunity and inhibit further epidemics of polio.

Efforts to Eliminate Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan

In 2018, The Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan partnered with UNICEF and The World Health Organization to initiate the country’s third nation-wide polio vaccination campaign. Nearly 9.9 million children below age five received the vaccination.

Regions such as Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul contained nearly 1.2 million children who did not have access to the vaccine. However, this past program and future programs will ensure that these children can also receive the necessary dosages.

Vaccinated children also received Vitamin A capsules to strengthen their immunity and decrease diarrhea. This also strengthened their immune systems from respiratory infections. Immunity can increase their chances of survival by nearly 24 percent. Nearly 70,000 health workers visited every household to administer vaccinations. This was to ensure that other children received the preventable medication as well. Because polio is contagious, each family’s chances of surpassing the disease increases if every child receives a vaccination.

In Pakistan, the number of polio infections is at a low rate. Further, improved immunity has also begun to increase. While this country has made progress in battling polio, many children have not received the preventable vaccines in high-risk areas. Therefore, Pakistan has begun to implement various solutions such as customized vaccines. Additionally, the country has partnered with the Emergency Operations Centers to administer effective prevention techniques.

Polio is most common in Karachi as well as the federally administered tribal areas, the Quetta block and the Khyber-Peshawar corridor. While the disease is highly present in these areas, other areas nationwide are susceptible to contracting the virus due to travel and migration.

The Partnership Between Pakistan and Afghanistan

To eliminate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two nations plan on partnering to identify children who are vulnerable to the disease and provide vaccinations, while also administering health campaigns to promote advocacy about the prevention of polio. Environmental surveillance has discovered the presence of polio. This serves as evidence that children with weaker immune systems are present in these areas. Consequently, this enables the disease to grow and infect other children.

– Diana Dopheide
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Pakistan
At only 15 years of age, a Pakistani girl named Zunaira Muhammad was forced into slavery and this was the price she paid for her dreams of becoming a software engineer and having an education. This happened when a kindly neighbor promised to pay for Zunaira’s education if she would come live with her and do some household chores. Unwittingly, Zunaira’s mother agreed. Zunaira went to live with her neighbor, Ayesha Ashfaq. Instead of providing a little girl with an education, Ashfaq lured Zunaira to Dubai, forced her to work in a beauty parlor, sold her into sex slavery, and tortured her when she resisted. After she managed to escape she said that her whole life is destroyed as she cannot pursue studies due to the stigma attached to her.

Zunaira is only one story among millions of young people, especially young girls, who are kidnapped, trafficked and sold into slavery around the world. There are about 46 million people living in slavery today, and over 3 million of them are enslaved in Pakistan, making it rank eight in the Global Slavery Index. In the text below, the top five facts to know about human trafficking in Pakistan are presented.

Five Facts About Human Trafficking in Pakistan

  1. In 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, Pakistan was upgraded in Tier 2 by the U.S. Department of State. This means that the government of Pakistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is still making significant efforts to do so. For example, the government increased the number of victims it identified and intensified its investigations into sex trafficking and prosecutions of human trafficking workers. At the same time, the government efforts are inadequate compared to the scale of the problem. The biggest issue is corrupt officials. However, the government does not hold officials accountable or investigate into allegations of trafficking by officials. These problems, along with the extent of human trafficking in Pakistan, keep Pakistan at Tier 2.
  2. Pakistan’s largest human trafficking problem is bonded labor. During bonded labor, a worker assumes an initial debt, but as they work, the debt gets bigger and bigger so they can never pay it off. In this way, it entraps other family members, sometimes lasting for generations. Other human trafficking problems in Pakistan include prostitution slavery, forced marriages, child soldiers, manual labor and forced begging. Forced begging is a situation in which traffickers make children beg on the streets to earn money, sometimes even maiming them to gain sympathy money. Trafficking rings have a structured system in place for each of these crimes, including selling victims in a physical market.
  3. In 2012, 823 victims of human trafficking in Pakistan sought help in shelters. Three-quarters of these victims were female and 60 of them were minors. According to Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, 30 to 35 traffickers operate in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province. In 2012, 40 officials were under investigation, one was dismissed, and 33 were punished for complicity in human trafficking. Currently, the estimated number of Pakistani people living in slavery is 3,186,000. This means that almost 17 out of every 1,000 people in Pakistan live in slavery, while 74 people out of every 100 are vulnerable to slavery.
  4. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) joined the European Union (EU) to launch The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants Act (GLO.ACT) in 2017. Pakistan joined this program in July 2017. This project will include six responses: strategy and policy development, legislative assistance, capacity building, regional and trans-regional cooperation, protection and assistance to victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants and assistance and support to children among victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants. The GLO.ACT also includes a public awareness campaign. To raise awareness, whether as a warning or as a call to action, UNODC distributed 300,000 flyers and 80,000 posters throughout the four districts of Punjab and Balochistan, where most trafficking takes place.
  5. The U.S. Department of State also recommended actions for Pakistan, led by the plea to pass an anti-trafficking law that criminalizes all forms of human trafficking. If Pakistan takes these actions, such as implementing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral to rehabilitation services, they can start to move to Tier 1, which means that a country does meet minimum standards for human trafficking.

Though many trafficking victims live without hope, there can be light at the end of the tunnel. With help from organizations and governments such as UNODC and the U.S. Department of State, human trafficking in Pakistan will continue to decrease. As for a young girl from the beginning of the article, she, despite her fear of traffickers, still plans to defy the odds and apply for college, and her father promised to help her purchase books in the market on his meager salary. Her story is one of redemption, and hope for the future of Pakistan.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr

Polio Eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria - The Final Three
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. It is a devastating disease that primarily impacts children and it can survive in the wild, but not for long without a human host. There is no cure, therefore, immunization is the foundation for eradication efforts. Today, polio is almost entirely eradicated from the planet.

Global immunization campaigns have made terrific progress in decreasing wild poliovirus (WPV) cases by over 99 percent in the past 30 years, down from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to 29 reported cases in 2018. While more work needs to be done, the world is closing in on the virus and all eyes are on polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria- the three final endemic countries. In the text below, the status of polio in these three countries is presented.

Polio Eradication in Afghanistan

Between the three countries listed above, in 2018 the most global polio cases were reported in Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan is the only endemic country not currently battling vaccine-derived polio, a form that can paralyze, in addition to WPV, which is a victory. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), in conjunction with Afghanistan’s Emergency Operation Centres, has dedicated continuing high-priority surveillance and instituted an aggressive immunization campaign to eradicate WPV in order to protect those most affected.

In November 2018, the country concluded an immunization campaign that targeted over five million children in the highest-risk provinces. These accomplishments are impressive, but at the same time fragile, because every single child must be vaccinated in this rapidly growing country. The Emergency Operation Centres are continuing to work under a National Emergency Action Plan and with local communities to ensure that all children are consistently reached now and in the future.

Polio Eradication in Pakistan

Polio could be eliminated from Pakistan this year, with continued strategic implementation. A vaccination campaign in December reached nearly 40 million children and the number of reported cases in the country is the lowest it has ever been. The race to the finish line requires continued focus on immunity gaps in high-risk and mobile communities, especially those that are close to the places where the virus is still indigenous, as well as continued accountability and high childhood vaccination rates.

Additionally, several of the endemic polio regions remain on the border with Afghanistan, which will require the two countries to continue addressing these WPV strongholds together. This region highlights the continued global threat of a virus that transcends geopolitical boundaries.

Polio Eradication in Nigeria

While WPV has never stopped circulating in Nigeria, there have not been any WPV cases since 2016. This is a terrific start towards wild polio eradication, but Nigeria has seen years without a WPV outbreak in the past only to see it return. The country is also managing continued vaccine-derived outbreaks. While immunization is paramount to eradication, some forms of the vaccine can infect patients and cause an outbreak. Though this adds a complex level to eradication strategies, immunization remains the most viable solution.

Currently, a variety of innovative solutions are underway to reach children in high-risk areas, including international immunization campaigns in the Lake Chad Basin whenever security permits, market vaccinations and seeking out nomadic communities. Similar to Afghanistan and Pakistan, continued efforts remain focused on closing immunity gaps, vaccinating all children and working with the country’s neighbors, but additional support for political and financial commitment is needed in Nigeria.

Going Forward

Wild polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria is almost complete, but there are several challenges facing major vaccination efforts. In order to achieve elimination, every single child needs to be immunized. Even one unvaccinated child leaves the entire world at risk of infection.

There are, however, real challenges to this seemingly straightforward goal. Barriers like reaching children in mobile populations or in active conflict zones require international political coordination and more resources for mobile and stationary vaccination teams. Another major barrier is vaccine-derived polio cases, which threaten populations that don’t currently see polio in the wild. Research into the implications of adjusting the vaccine are underway and seek to address eliminating the spread of vaccine-derived infection.

It will not be possible to eradicate every disease with vaccination. Polio is one of the ones that can be. As global health efforts target polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, the world will likely be able to list polio next to smallpox and rinderpest on the coveted list of globally eradicated diseases.

– Sarah Fodero

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Pakistan
Pakistan may have South Asia’s second-largest economy but it fares considerably worse than its neighbors when it comes to tackling hunger. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Pakistan.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Pakistan

  1. Out of the total of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index of 2016, Pakistan ranked 78th. The country scored 47.8, lagging behind longtime rival India and several other African countries.
  2. According to the World Food Programme, 43 percent of Pakistan’s population faces food insecurity. Of this number, 18 percent of people in Pakistan severely lack access to food. This is linked to the fact that most of these people are heavily dependent on agriculture for a living.
  3. Pakistan has one of the most malnourished and poorest regions in the world. which is Tharparkar region in the Sindh province. Most of the region is desert land, with the majority of inhabitants depending on seasonal rainfall.
  4. In the province of Sindh, 50 percent of children below 5 years old are stunted and 19 percent are severely malnourished. The region’s intense food insecurity stems from lack of investment in the infrastructure and population coupled with the flood that hit Sindh especially hard.
  5. Pakistan ranked 106 out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) with a score of 32.6, second only to Afghanistan in the region. The GHI is calculated according to four primary indicators: the proportion of the malnourished population, the frequency of child mortality, stuntedness of children and height to weight ratios of children.
  6. Agriculture in Pakistan is riddled with corruption. In September 2009, the government announced the “Benazir Tractor Scheme”. It was presented to the masses as a random computerized lottery that would award tractors to randomly selected small-scale farmers across the country. However, it turned out that the winners had suspiciously already had large acres of land and some were even related to the parliamentarians.
  7. Most of the budget is spent on issues of national security, rather than fighting hunger. Islamabad devoted $2 billion to security expenditures at a time when many poor Pakistanis were suffering the effects of sky-high inflation.
  8. The number of malnourished Pakistanis has increased since the early 1990s from 24 million to 45 million in 2008. Most of the population is suspected to be extremely lacking both Vitamin A and Vitamin D consumption due to fish, egg yolk and cod liver being in short supply.
  9.  Pakistan has also been heavily dependent on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, that have demanded from the country to cut back on public spending in the 1980s, which affected food subsidies.
  10. There is an organization called Action Against Hunger that is working to fight food insecurity in Pakistan by addressing malnutrition and mitigating the effects and causes of hunger. They ran the Woman and Infant/Child Improved Nutrition in Sindh in 2017 as well as operating outpatient therapeutic programs in Daud, Khairpir, Matiari and Ghotki districts.

Pakistan does have a long way to go before fully addressing the extent of the problem but it certainly has the impetus and ability to change the way it prioritizes food insecurity and hunger.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Mashal Model SchoolPakistan’s education system has remained underdeveloped despite the country’s supposed commitment to education. As of 2016, over 10 million children and adolescents were not enrolled in school, and over 10 million people aged 15-24 remained illiterate.

In Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, there is a wide disparity in the education of youth. The city has a population of approximately 1.4 million with 88 percent of the population being literate. However, because it is a major city, there are still many areas with little to no opportunities to pursue a basic education.

The Mashal Model School

In the area of Bari Imam, Islamabad, many children must work in order to help support their families who are facing abject poverty. In order to provide for their families, in-need these youth typically must sell things on the streets of the city. Oftentimes, they are also subject to or involved in gang violence due to the poor conditions of life.

One school in Islamabad, the Mashal Model School, is working to change the fate of these youths by offering them a chance at education. The Mashal Model School is a non-profit organization that currently has four campuses across Islamabad, educating over 860 children ranging in age from nursery school to grade 10.

The school was established in December of 2008 and is located in the G-5 sector of Islamabad, better known as Bari Imam. The school is open to all students and has a more equitable ratio of male to female students than most other schools in the area.

The Curriculum at The Mashal Model School

Although the school follows the curriculum of both the Oxford University Press and The National Scheme of Studies of Pakistan, they take an unorthodox approach to educating their students. Because most of their students come to the school from difficult home lives and seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the way of their success, The Mashal Model School begins by educating their students about hygiene, health and protection from abuse.

The school works to create a safe learning environment for its students and teachers, and abuse of any kind is not tolerated. Once the students are accustomed to the school and the safety it provides, The Mashal School continues their quest to provide an individualized education.

In addition to a standard education, the school provides books, bags, uniforms, shoes, food items, library and medical insurance facilities as well as computer and science laboratories to its students. The school also offers its students life-enhancing courses such as art, sports, food preparation, painting and clay work in an effort to give the children a healthy outlet to work through the problems they face.

The school acts as an ally to its students and their families by ensuring that attending school does not become an additional burden on their lives. Tuition to attend the school is 50 to 100 rupees (50 cents to $1); however, over 40 percent of its students attend the school free of charge. To further its allyship, The Mashal Model School offers sewing and woodworking classes to the parents of the school’s students.

The school is currently a non-profit, registered trust that began with the funding of its founders and is funded today by donations from people all across the world as well as by educational grants from different embassies. By continuing to provide the best education possible while still managing not to create a financial burden to the students, The Mashal Model School is improving the lives of its students and the community in which it is located.

Savannah Hawley
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in PakistanIn recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a surge in the number of tourists from around the world. This positive change is not only welcomed by the government agencies but also the private businesses and the local people. According to a CNN report in 2017, Pakistan saw in increase of around 200,000 more tourists this year than the year before, about 1.7 million foreigners. Moreover, the annual tourist arrival has tripled since 2013, as reported by The Pakistan Tourism Development Corp (PTDC).

The restoration of tourism in Pakistan will not only benefit the country’s overall economy but will also enhance its image in the eyes of the people who enjoy activities such as hiking in snow-capped mountains, walking on beaches, trying a variety of food and appreciating the rich historical heritage and diverse cultures.

The Ultimate Back-Packing Destination

Pakistan’s perception as a tourist destination has been marred by the political instability for a very long time. But professional tourists like Will Hatton are helping to change the image of the country and its people by their first-hand experiences. Hatton describes Pakistan as the “ultimate adventure back-packing destination” and Pakistanis as “the most hospitable, kind and welcoming people” he had encountered. The people always insisted on feeding him and showed him around their local towns like royalty.

He also recounts that Pakistanis are fiercely anti-Taliban and most locals can speak some English. They are highly protective and caring about their guests. The portrayal of Pakistan in the mainstream western media augments the misperception about the country as a war-torn region. However, in reality, the Pakistani armed forces are combatting the extremist militants in the border regions to keep the country, its inhabitants and its visitors safe.

The increased security and the ease of obtaining visas will undoubtedly attract more tourists from around the world and also within the region. Moreover, tourism in Pakistan can benefit from better branding and media coverage. In a report in The British Backpacker Society, Pakistan was ranked as the number one adventure travel destination for 2018 among 20 other countries. A lot of this has to do with aspects ranging from the hospitality of the people to the wildness of the Himalayan mountains.

Despite their rough terrains and lofty peaks (five out of 14 world’s highest peaks present in Pakistan), the mountainous regions are quite accessible due to expertly engineered roads and one of the world’s highest paved highways, the Karokoram Highway. The Karakoram connects China with Pakistan and gains an elevation up to 4,693 meters (15,397 ft) above the sea level.

History and Culture

Pakistan is not only the cradle ground from Indus Valley Civilization but it also consists of several relics from the Gandhara Civilization to the Mughal era. Among the greatest cultural treasures of Pakistan are the Gurdwaras – the sacred shrines of the Sikh religion. Pakistan is also the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

Since Pakistanis welcome thousands of Sikh pilgrims from India and other countries around the world every year, improved geopolitical relations between India and Pakistan and better perception about tourism in Pakistan can be immensely beneficial in supporting both the Pakistani locals and the Sikh communities from around the world.

Apart from its cultural allure, Pakistan also is a great destination for an economical trip. The transportation, food and accommodation are relatively inexpensive. According to Hatton, a weekly budget of $100 would suffice. The rich ancient sites, the mesmerizing natural landscapes and the remarkably amiable dwellers make Pakistan a great destination for many tourists around the globe.

Regaining Its Reputation as a Tourist Destination

In the 1970s, Pakistan was a tourist hotspot and until the mid-90s, hotels were booked a year in advance. All this had suffered due to instability in the region. The government and the local people, realizing the negative impact that the political volatility has had on tourism, are working hard to revive tourism in Pakistan.

The Pakistani tourism industry, partnered with security agencies and private companies, has improved greatly. According to Jovago, the top hotel booking and e-commerce site in Pakistan, hotel bookings have increased by 80-90 percent in 2017, compared to the bookings in the previous years. This not only means greater revenue for the hotels and other local businesses but also a significant contribution in the GDP of the country.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimated that the total contribution of tourism toward Pakistan’s economy was about $19.4 billion or 6.9 percent of the GDP, in 2017. Within a decade, this is projected to rise to $36.1 billion.

Improving tourism in Pakistan is perhaps one of the most viable ways to bring about a more realistic perception of the country’s landscape and population. Pakistan has a lot to offer. It is a county of cultural riches ranging from Gandharan relics to tombs from the Mughal era. It is a country of raging rivers and vast lengths of serene deserts. But, probably most importantly, Pakistan is a country of generous and warm people, who would invite their guests into their homes and serve them with the best food and comfort they can provide.

– Fariha Khalid
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty contributes to poor health and prevents people from access to treatment, which traps the world’s poor in a vicious cycle. The inverse is true as well. Poor health often forces people to purchase expensive care and medications, which over time reduces spending money on anything other than healthcare. Additionally, poor health can limit a person’s ability to work and earn an income, which, combined with the cost of healthcare, can lead to poverty. This has been the case with healthcare in Pakistan.

A study by the World Bank reported that 100 million people worldwide are forced to survive on merely $1.90 a day because of healthcare expenses for themselves or a family member. This problem is exacerbated in developing countries where healthcare services are underfunded and understaffed. Millions of families are being pushed into poverty for less than ideal care. Poverty is both a cause and consequence of poor health, especially in developing countries, which makes finding a solution crucial to ending the cycle of poverty caused by poor health. Affordable and accessible healthcare in Pakistan can help end this cycle.

Healthcare in Pakistan

Pakistan is one of the developing countries searching for a way to alleviate poverty for its citizens. Healthcare in Pakistan needs a great deal of improvement. In June 2016, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform found that 39 percent of the country lived in poverty. While poverty rates in the country are declining, there are still over 70 million Pakistanis living on less than $2 a day.  The majority of families living on $2 a day do not have the resources to afford expensive life-saving treatment.

The problem is compounded by the lack of adequate care for the families that can afford health expenses. Less than 3 percent of Pakistan’s domestic budget is targeted towards healthcare, which has impeded medical research and infrastructure from flourishing. The public Pakistani healthcare system has a current backlog of more than 2 million people who are waiting to get surgery due to this lack of infrastructure and funding. Affordable and accessible healthcare is almost nonexistent for poor Pakistanis. This has motivated several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within Pakistan to work to improve health care and make it more affordable.

Transparent Hands

One of the NGOs in Pakistan is Transparent Hands.  Transparent Hands seeks to make life-saving surgery more affordable and accessible for poor Pakistanis by crowdfunding expensive surgeries and building medical camps where patients can receive these surgeries. Currently, the organization has performed 342 surgeries, spent over $350,000 and developed 25 medical camps that have served 8133 patients. Each of these surgeries has had a life-changing impact on different poor Pakistani families.

A representative for Transparent Hands told The Borgen Project that “most of the patients who reach us suffer from serious health conditions due to which they are unable to even perform their household chores. After they undergo surgical treatment, not only do they become active again, they also start working and earning for their family.”

As an example, they shared the story of a patient who actualized this incredible recovery process. “There was a patient who was unable to sit and walk due to Ankylosing Spondylitis. He was dependent on his family for every little need. After the surgery, he is not only able to walk and sit, but he has also started working and is now an independent person.” This alone shows how proper access to healthcare could have a positive impact on the economy.

Affordable and accessible surgery can change someone’s life for the better. It is crucial to bolster the efforts of organizations like Transparent Hands in order to expand their impact throughout the country. Transparent Hands plans to eventually expand their operations from the province of Punjab to all provinces of Pakistan. Affordable and accessible healthcare in Pakistan will help 70 million Pakistanis escape the devastating cycle of poverty and poor health.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Human Rights in Pakistan
Pakistan, cushioned between India and Afghanistan, is home to more than 212 million people and is the sixth most populous country in the world. Each one of these people living in Pakistan should be given basic human rights no matter their ethnic origin, color, gender, religion or any other reason.

Even if human rights should be granted to everyone, not everyone is given the same rights as the other in some countries around the world. There is much to know how each human is treated or could be treated in the country of Pakistan. Here are 10 facts on human rights in Pakistan.

10 Facts On Human Rights in Pakistan

  1. Attacks on civil society. A civil society is a community of citizens linked by common interests, and in Pakistan some aspects of civil society are under attack. For instance, an attack on a school killing 140 people, mostly children, made those among the positive civil society in Pakistan protest against the government for supporting the “good” Taliban. When these protests arose, so did the safety concerns of Pakistan’s civil society. These people were attacked with laws and organizations put against them.
  2. Freedom of religion. In 2017, there were at least 19 people on death row under blasphemy charges, many of whom were members of religious minorities in Pakistan. This situation, combined with many others, has put Pakistan at a severe level of ‘violations of religious freedom’ — religious minorities and atheists are at a higher risk than ever before.
  3. Children’s rights. Child marriage is a major concern in Pakistan, with 21 percent of girls under the age of 18 already married. Along with child marriages, lack of education also heavily impacts children in Pakistan. There have been many attacks on the school, and children are frequently used in suicide bombings. Unfortunately, roughly five million children are not able to attend school in Pakistan.
  4. Women’s rights. Many women in Pakistan face rape, acid attacks, domestic violence and “honor” killings. It is estimated that there are about 1,000 “honor” killings a year on Pakistani women. If a woman is accused of adultery, fornication or an immoral behavior that violates societal and religious norms, she is then subjected to an “honor” killing.
  5. Refugees. Pakistan is host to the largest refugee population in the world. According to UNHCR, there are more than 1.45 million refugees in Pakistan, many of whom are from Afghanistan. In many areas, the Pakistani police have extorted money from registered and undocumented refugees from Afghanistan. Between January to August in 2017, up to 82,019 Afghan refugees returned or were deported back to Afghanistan.
  6. Terrorism. Many security forces in Pakistan are linked to terrorist intentions. Many times when suspects were to be charged, there were serious violations regarding torture and secret detention centers. Many of those who are detained were activists and human rights defenders.
  7. Forced Disappearances. Many minority groups are under attack in Pakistan, and forced disappearances can occur. In 2017, the government received 868 new cases of forced disappearances, a figure which is more than the previous two years. The government was able to locate 555 of those who had disappeared, but there are still 313 people missing.
  8. Freedom of expression. Many journalists, bloggers and social media users have been attacked in relation with Pakistan. For instance, there were five bloggers whose comments online led to forced disappearances. Four of the five bloggers were later released, but two of them said that they were tortured while in custody. The fifth blogger has still not been unfound.
  9. Human rights defenders. Whether lawyers, bloggers, journalists or activists, voices of truth are often subjected to harassment, threats and forms of violence. In 2016, the Pakistani government argued that human rights defenders did not warrant special legal status and the protection of human rights defenders was a conspiracy by western countries to interfere in domestic affairs in developing countries.
  10. A glimpse at progress. It may seem that human rights in Pakistan is lacking, but there have been some instances of progress over the years. In Punjab, Pakistani authorities are now accepting marriage licenses in the Sikh community, giving union protections under the law. Another progression in human rights for Pakistan is restoring section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act. In this section, Christians who wish to divorce can do so civilly without the threat of false accusations of adultery. Despite the many downfalls on human rights for women, there was an increase of 3.8 million women able to vote in the most recent election compared to 2013.

Postive Push

While there may be progress budding in regard to human rights in Pakistan, the road to completely improved human rights will be long and difficult. If those pushing for their rights are heard and supported, the return of basic human rights and safety can return to Pakistan.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality in Pakistan
Throughout the years, U.S. organizations and agencies have worked in cooperation with the government of Pakistan and other development partners to establish gender equality in Pakistan. These efforts work to ensure Pakistani women feel empowered to pursue opportunities just as brazenly as their male counterparts.

History: Relations Between Pakistan and the United States

Since Pakistan gained independence in 1947, the United States has provided considerable support in the overall development of the country. The U.S. was one of the first nations to recognize Pakistan as an independent nation.

For more than 60 years, Pakistan and the U.S. have forged a strong, cooperative relationship that has proven to benefit the people of both countries.

Achieving Gender Equality in Pakistan

In recent years, there have been important advancements in gender equality in Pakistan. Today, Pakistani women are more likely to participate in the labor force and access health and educational services than their mothers and grandmothers would have. Pakistan also has a relatively strong women’s political representation —  about a fifth of parliamentary seats held by women.

However, there is still significant progress to be made if Pakistani women are to be full partners in the development of Pakistan. Women comprise more than half of Pakistan’s population and yet only 22.7 percent are part of the labor force. Even those who are part of the labor force belong largely to the informal sector, receiving little pay and few legal protections.

Also, while Pakistan enjoys a high gross enrollment rate of 89 percent of girls in primary schools, that rate drops to about 41 percent of girls who are enrolled in secondary schools.

Female Empowerment

The empowerment of women and girls is a critical aspect of any prosperous, democratic society. Female empowerment in Pakistan will not only safeguard human rights but also further international peace and security while establishing a growing, vibrant market economy.

Through the efforts of a combination of many organizations such as the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan is even closer to achieving gender equality.

USAID: The Gender Equality Program (GEP)

The Gender Equality Program (GEP) actively works to diminish the gender gap in Pakistan by supporting women’s economic, political, and social advancement. The program helps women become full and active members of their own society by providing access to information, resources and public services.

The GEP also works to change the derogatory societal attitudes towards women in Pakistan. This program educates women about their fundamental rights at home, at work and in society.

A staggering 32 percent of all Pakistani women have experienced physical violence; 40 percent of married Pakistani women have experienced spousal abuse. Even more concerning, one in two Pakistani women who have experienced physical abuse never sought help.

Through the support of the GEP, local activities are conducted to expand women’s knowledge of and ability to exercise their rights and obtain justice. The GEP helps women’s shelters provide legal aid, counseling and vocational skills that connect women to potential employers.

Empowering Girls Through Education

USAID also has programs such as the Sindh Basic Education Program and the Improving Education Quality Project to ensure more girls have the opportunity to pursue an education. These programs mobilize communities to increase girls’ school enrollment rates and train more female teachers, which encourages Pakistani families to send their girls to school.

USAID also provides scholarships to women pursuing higher education through the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship program (MNSBP) and the Fulbright Program. MNSBP gifts university scholarships to academically talented, economically disadvantaged Pakistani students.

Major Accomplishments in Gender Equality in Pakistan

Pakistani women have experienced major improvements in regards to gender equality. The USAID has provided shelter, legal, health and economic support to nearly 40,000 victims of gender-based violence while also committing $70 million to help educate and empower over 200,000 adolescent Pakistani girls.

Although, societal beliefs of traditional gender roles may be difficult to break, raising awareness about women’s rights and supporting pro-women laws is a significant step towards achieving gender equality in Pakistan.

– Lolontika Hoque
Photo: Flickr

education in Pakistan
Pakistan has struggled for many years with the gender inequality of women achieving an education within their country. Pakistan is the sixth most populated country in the world, but with more than 40 percent of women never receiving an education, the nation has one of the lowest literacy rates on the continent.

While women do have the right to access education in Pakistan, there are several barriers that prevent them from doing so. In a patriarchal society, women find it difficult to access education and other opportunities because of the role a male-dominated culture plays in all of their lives.

Lack of Accessibility

One barrier that many women face in Pakistan is lack of accessibility. Many women living in the rural areas of the country are unable to attend school because they cannot afford the cost of transportation — for themselves or their children.

Although women and girls struggle to access the education in Pakistan that they so desperately need, there are many organizations working tirelessly to change these unfortunate circumstances.

The Citizen’s Foundation

One non-profit, The Citizens Foundation (TCF), has fought since 1995 to bring about positive changes in empowering women and making education more accessible to this population. The Citizens Foundation is now one of the most influential organizations in Pakistan when it comes to providing opportunities to the less fortunate.

The organization works to remove barriers that would otherwise prevent women from accessing education. TCF provides schools in rural environments which eliminates the need for transportation to more urban areas where more schools are located.

The Kashf Foundation

Working alongside The Citizens Foundation, The Kashf Foundation’s goal is the same. Established in 1999, the Kashf Foundation was created to help women from low-income areas build their entrepreneurship skills and complete their education.

The goal of this foundation is to help eliminate poverty by empowering women, which in turn provides better opportunities for their families.

The Central Asia Institute

The Central Asia Institute (CAI) is yet another non-profit working with the underprivileged women and children of Pakistan. Over the past twenty years, this organization has changed hundreds of lives by supporting women’s literacy.

With a wide variety of services — such as vocational centers, scholarships and even health centers — CAI is changing the educational system in the most impoverished areas of the country. The group provides services to both boys and girls but recognizes where the biggest change needs to happen — women’s education.

Progress for Education in Pakistan

In the past, achieving an education in Pakistan has been extremely difficult for women. But, like many countries, Pakistan wants to be able to provide its women with the same educational opportunities as its men. Unfortunately, that goal isn’t how situations always work out.

Pakistan has shown admirable effort in support of the education movement — many organizations have come together to redefine the way women receive schooling. Many people are starting to recognize that when women are educated, everyone benefits.

Women become empowered, and in turn, are able to lead happy and more successful lives. Pakistan has made many crucial changes in regard to gender equality and education, and is better as a nation because of it.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr