By: Hidayat Khan
PESHAWAR: Dilshad Begum is no stranger to philanthropy. Social activist and a councillor on a reserved seat for women from Pabbi tehsil, Nowshera, the 65-year-old has devoted years to help those in need.
She has struggled to ensure children in the region have access to quality education.
“My mission is to see pens and not guns in the hands of young people,” she tells The Express Tribune. “If there is something that can bring change in our society, it is education.”
Unlike most children she has helped, Dilshad Begum has only completed her primary education. However, she wants children in Pabbi to go to school and gain the potential to excel.
Every year, Dilshad Begum oversees a checklist of arrangements to assist children who want to get an education. She has helped over 200 children obtain books, bags and uniforms. At least 15 children have been able to gain admission at various schools in Pabbi through her endeavours.
She is currently collecting funds for a student who has passed his entrance test for a medical college but cannot afford to study at the institute. Her efforts have not gone in vain as she has garnered the trust of her community through her generosity and goodwill. So far, many people have donated large sums of money to help the student get an education. Dilshad Begum has also encouraged girls who are unable to go to school to learn a skill.
The 65-year-old’s willingness to give back to the community does not end there. She has also installed 70 water pumps to provide clean water to various parts of the province. Dilshad Begum is a glaring testament to the belief that you do not need to run an NGO or rely on funds from other organisations to help people. On the contrary, the community can play a pivotal role to bring a positive change.
“There are some customs that have had a negative impact on society,” she says. “Many families cannot afford to pay dowry and therefore many young women cannot get married. I have made it a point to help women from underprivileged families get married.”
Dilshad Begum has helped 15 women in Pabbi pay for their wedding expenses and deal with the ever-increasing demands of dowry.
“Only education can change people’s perceptions,” he said.
Into the fray
Before she was elected on the women’s seat, the 65-year-old dabbled in politics as she believed it was a suitable avenue to help people. She was inspired by two of her relatives, Ghaniur Rahman and Fazli Raheem, who were actively involved in the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement.
Dilshad Begum took part in the 2008 general elections as an independent candidate and won by a landslide even though she was pitted against stalwarts such as Awami National Party leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain. She was voted in once again during the local bodies’ polls in 2015. “It was the love and confidence of the people that helped me win both elections,” she explains. “If the people want to earn their rights, they have to actively engage in political activities.”
She adds, “I am grateful people have appreciated my work and I will continue to work for them.”
A woman’s world
According to Dilshad Begum, women must raise their voice to secure their rights.
“No one will come forward and give them what they deserve,” she says. “Women in most villages of the province have not only been deprived of their rights but also lack awareness about them.” Dilshad Begum added, “Women who have been elected on reserved seats should instil the seeds of change at the village level. Women in villages have the ability to push for change. All they need is the courage to pursue this objective.”