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Two Pakistani women’s innovative approaches rewarded

KARACHI: Two Pakistani women have been awarded for their innovative approaches to empowering women and helping them attain full economic equality, strengthen families and communities, and benefit equitably from economic growth.

The announcement was made by General Electric Pakistan Chief Executive Officer Sarim Sheikh during a press conference at a hotel.

The GE and Ashoka Changemakers’ competition, titled ‘Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality’, had received entries from 23 countries. Sheikh said the competition was part of the celebration of International Women’s Day.

The winners are: Seher Hafeez for the Busanti project, which she founded; and Dr Zahra Shah for the DoctHERS-in-the-House project, which she co-founded. They were awarded $25,000 each. The reward is to be spent on projects in Pakistan.

Hafeez said her project was based on the premise that among the myriads of factors hampering women’s full participation in national and social development was lack of mobility, which in turn stemmed from a host of factors, including sky-high transport fares, and obstacles to women moving about on their own in a conservative, male-dominated society.

So they conceived of a scheme whereby women’s movement could be facilitated by revamping the transport sector and running a bus exclusively for women. To begin with, it is envisaged that the bus would run from Surjani Town to Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s mausoleum via Merewether Tower.

The bus would not only transport underprivileged women to their workplaces and back, but would also create awareness among them about the causes and remedies of maternal and infant mortality.

It would also have clauses to qualify them for health insurance on the basis of their monthly passes or tickets. Special recorded messages on various health issues would be played aboard the buses.

Hafeez said they were in negotiations with the South Korean Daewoo bus company, which are successfully running buses in Pakistan. She said Daewoo held out the assurance that were they to be granted the contract, they would run the bus on a no-profit-no-loss basis.

However, she added, given the convulsive civic upheavals Karachi is prone to, the Daewoo people were apprehensive in the beginning, but, she said, they could be sorted out.

As for DoctHERS-in-the-House, Dr Shah said that it was a scheme that would motivate women doctors to continue with their profession and their professional development even after they became housewives. This, she said, would be accomplished by providing online access to the women doctors. This would be achieved by connecting home-based doctors with patients through telemedicine. Revolutionary modern electronic and computer-based devices would be the key. Even the use of the stethoscope would be through online techniques.

The seed funding for the projects would be through GE and Ashoka. Ashoka Pakistan Director Sabeen Haque also addressed the press conference and acquainted the media with various aspects of its working.

The News