‘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
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