‘IRC’s mis­sion is to main­stream the marginal­ized’

Sadiqa Salahud­din is the Founder and Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the In­dus Re­source Cen­tre (IRC), a sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion in Sindh ded­i­cated to the em­pow­er­ment and main­stream­ing of ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. Rec­og­nized as a lead­ing de­vel­op­ment pro­fes­sional, Sadiqa Sala

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IRC claims to be a key player in pro­vid­ing repli­ca­ble mod­els for in­te­grated so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. What is your ap­proach to­wards this goal?

In­dus Re­source Cen­tre (IRC) fol­lows a holis­tic ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment that com­bines ed­u­ca­tion, par­tic­u­larly for ru­ral girls and sus­tain­able liveli­hoods. Health aware­ness forms a part of ed­u­ca­tion and im­prove­ment of ru­ral in­fra­struc­ture is in­te­gral with sus­tain­able liveli­hoods. IRC’s en­try point gen­er­ally is girls’ ed­u­ca­tion and it re­mains the fo­cus of at­ten­tion whereas the rest of the in­ter­ven­tions are built around ed­u­ca­tion. We call it repli­ca­ble be­cause it is ef­fec­tive, sim­ple, efficient and rel­e­vant to the needs of the com­mu­nity. true de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion is not pos­si­ble un­less these build­ing blocks are not strength­ened.

En­trepreneur­ship in Pak­istan is ob­serv­ing emerg­ing new trends and prac­tices. How does IRC look at it and would you like to pro­vide your sug­ges­tions for suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur­ial prac­tices?

IRC’s busi­ness is sim­ple. Based on tra­di­tional skills and crafts, we are try­ing to de­velop a va­ri­ety of new prod­ucts with mod­ern colour schemes and with best qual­ity ma­te­ri­als. It is built on the creativ­ity of gen­er­a­tions that un­for­tu­nately has lost its value over time. We are try­ing to re­vive it. It is hard work and such busi­nesses grow slowly. There are no mir­a­cles or wind­fall games but at the same time risks are also not very high. We are sure that

We see your in­volve­ment in ca­pac­ity build­ing of the lo­cal com­mu­nity through chan­nel­iz­ing NGO-Gov­ern­ment col­lab­o­ra­tion. How would you de­scribe the over­all process of re­sul­tant de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion in Pak­istan?

Be­lief in hu­man in­ge­nu­ity and tremen­dous un­ex­plored hu­man po­ten­tial, and a de­sire to fa­cil­i­tate a process that can pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties to the marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties to re­al­ize their po­ten­tial is one ma­jor rea­son for cre­ation of In­dus Re­source Cen­tre. From the out­set, IRC is in­volved in de­vel­op­ing lo­cal lead­er­ship among men and women through strength­en­ing their grass­roots in­sti­tu­tions. These in­sti­tu­tions we be­lieve are the ba­sic build­ing blocks of civil so­ci­ety and hand­i­craft lovers are loyal and will not switch to glit­ter­ing Chinese prod­ucts.

I do not think we have reached at a stage where we can ad­vise other en­trepreneurs. It is a long jour­ney and we have just started.

‘Khaz­ana’ is a new pro­ject of IRC. What ar­eas are you fo­cus­ing through that pro­ject?

I al­ways find it dif­fi­cult to de­scribe ‘khaz­ana’. It is ap­par­ently a brand and the name of In­dus Re­source Cen­tre’s mar­ket­ing out­let cen­tres in Khair­pur and De­fence Sun­day Bazaar Karachi. But ‘khaz­ana’ to me is a much wider con­cept. It em­bod­ies or sig­ni­fies creativ­ity, women en­ter­prise, con­ser­va­tion

of her­itage, so­cial space for women and fam­i­lies, pro­mo­tion of lib­eral think­ing and pro­mo­tion of tra­di­tional art and cul­ture. Our ‘khaz­ana’ out­let cen­tre in Khair­pur is housed in a 200 year old build­ing that was con­served for this pur­pose. It has read­ing rooms for adults and chil­dren, a women friendly bazaar, a hand­i­craft cen­tre, an open air stage, a food cen­tre that pro­vides so­cial space to women and fam­i­lies, a bio-gas plant, a drip ir­ri­ga­tion forestry model, rain wa­ter har­vest­ing and re­cy­cling of waste wa­ter. The idea is to pro­vide var­i­ous types of learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to chil­dren and youth, give them space to so­cial­ize and at the same time make it self-fi­nanc­ing through sell­ing of prod­ucts and food.

We wit­nessed the suc­cess of ‘Khaz­ana’ ex­hi­bi­tion in Karachi. Sim­i­larly, which el­e­ments of strength do you re­gard most im­por­tant for women em­pow­er­ment?

Yes, we are very pleased with the ex­hi­bi­tion in Karachi. The re­sponse was over­whelm­ing al­though it was a small ini­tia­tive of ru­ral women in the midst of loud, fleshy and over ad­ver­tised lawn ex­hi­bi­tions. For this we are grate­ful to Karachi­ites.

As far as em­pow­er­ment of women is con­cerned, it is a tick­lish sub­ject that is widely re­searched and dis­cussed. Of course, there are no easy an­swers or pre­scrip­tions for this. Good ed­u­ca­tion is a nec­es­sary but not a suf­fi­cient con­di­tion. Eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence of women cer­tainly em­pow­ers them to some ex­tent but with all this the women need to have their own net­works and sol­i­dar­ity groups. I have no­ticed that these sol­i­dar­ity groups pro­vide a lot of sup­port it they are strong and well con­nected with other large or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing on pro­tec­tion of hu­man and women rights, they help in solv­ing in­di­vid­ual prob­lems too.

Could you elab­o­rate on the di­men­sions of ed­u­ca­tion and lit­er­acy which are needed for Pak­istan?

I be­lieve you are talk­ing about pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that is the only choice or op­tion for the marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties. To me this is hardly ed­u­ca­tion, it is just a lit­er­acy plus model. The qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in his­tory, ge­og­ra­phy, science, math­e­mat­ics is very poor. Apart from the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge, the chil­dren do not learn prob­lem solv­ing or crit­i­cal think­ing skills. The ed­u­ca­tion does not pre­pare them to be re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens, con­fi­dent and healthy in­di­vid­u­als who are aware of what is hap­pen­ing in­side them and around them. At the same time, this ed­u­ca­tion is not giv­ing them mar­ketable skills for get­ting re­spectable em­ploy­ment. In my opin­ion, rea­son­ably good ed­u­ca­tion should pre­pare chil­dren to face the chal­lenges of their times.

How would you de­fine the role of IRC in work­ing for main­stream­ing of marginal­ized ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in Sindh?

IRC’s mis­sion is to main­stream the marginal­ized through var­i­ous ap­proaches to hu­man and in­sti­tu­tional de­vel­op­ment. This is done around im­ple­men­ta­tion of four pro­grams, ed­u­ca­tion, sus­tain­able liveli­hoods, gov­er­nance and disas­ter risk man­age­ment. The mis­sion guides IRC to look at com­mu­ni­ties not as mere ben­e­fi­cia­ries of ser­vice de­liv­ery pro­grams but as ac­tive par­tic­i­pants and con­trib­u­tors. The per­for­mance is judged not at the qual­ity of ser­vice de­liv­ery but the qual­ity of in­di­vid­ual and in­sti­tu­tional de­vel­op­ment. IRC con­sciously pur­sues this agenda and in its eleven years’ of field work in ru­ral Sindh, it can proudly claim that it has de­vel­oped lo­cal lead­ers that are now en­gaged in main­stream de­vel­op­ment and are in­vited for pol­icy di­a­logues at the district and pro­vin­cial level. Meet­ing them in such fora, gives me im­mense plea­sure and the con­fi­dence in what we are do­ing.

You have been ac­tively in­volved in man­age­ment train­ing, are on the gov­ern­ing boards of sev­eral bod­ies and you run IRC. Still you man­aged two Mas­ters de­grees in eco­nom­ics and one in man­age­ment sci­ences. You must be a good man­ager to hav­ing done that all.

I do not think I am a good man­ager, I al­ways doubt my man­age­rial skills. But there is no doubt that I am one of the luck­i­est per­sons on earth for get­ting love in the child­hood, for be­ing brought-up by value based par­ents, got mar­ried to a lov­ing and sup­port­ing hus­band and then blessed with two lovely daugh­ters who al­ways took in­ter­est and pride in my small en­deav­ors and achieve­ments. With all this I was for­tu­nate in get­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties. My only con­tri­bu­tion was my hard work with sin­cer­ity to the cause. I do not have words or deeds to thank God for all these bless­ings. These bless­ings some­times scare me also.

Be­ing a wife and mother, how much dif­fi­cult it was to jug­gle be­tween the fam­ily life and pro­fes­sional life?

Hon­estly speak­ing it is all fun and a source of great plea­sure. Ful­fill­ing both the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to­gether was in­deed hard but not very stress­ful. I am one of those per­sons who thor­oughly en­joy my home and fam­ily along with my pro­fes­sion. I re­mem­ber, once an in­ter­viewer asked me “what do you do in your leisure time’? I thought about it for a while and then said “work”. Not be­cause I am worka­holic but be­cause this is the most en­joy­able time for me

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