Well-attended Annual General Body Meeting held at Mirpurkhas.
On Sunday, 21st February 2016, the pioneering volunteer-led peopleâ€™s development alliance of Tharparkar known as Baanhn Beli (a friend forever) convened its Annual General Body Meeting for the year 2015 at Mirpurkhas Gymkhana, Mirpurkhas, Sindh.
Over 100 women, men and children from different parts of Tharparkar and from other parts of Sindh participated. Dr. Shankar Lal, President (2015-16), Baanhn Beli and the founding President, Senator(r) Javed Jabbar jointly presided over the meeting.
By special invitation, Dominic Stephen, Executive Director of PVDP (Participatory Village Development Programme), a leading NGO also working in Tharparkar and his colleagues, as well as social activists of Mirpurkhas also attended the meeting.
To mark the coincidence with international Mother Language Day which is observed around the world on 21st February, prominent Sindhi language writers Mr. M. Naseer and Mr. Mohammad Ayaz Umrani were specially invited to address the meeting on the vital importance of giving mother languages the importance they deserve in education, and in public discourse. Poonam Paskar of the Institute of Applied Linguistics, Rattanabad, District Mirpurkhas, briefed the gathering on how Multi-Lingual Education can be imparted to primary school children to ensure the preservation and promotion of mother languages.
After each participant introduced herself/himself, Dr. Shankar Lal said that, ever since Baanhn Beli began its informal work in the Tharparkar arid region in February 1985 and ever since its formal registration with the Department of Social Welfare, Government of Sindh in 1987, such Annual General Body meetings have been held regularly every year for the past three decades. He said that these meetings provide a valuable opportunity for members and representatives of village-level units of the organization to share their experiences during the past year and to review work-plans for the next year. He said it was particularly important for this meeting to be held at a time when, due to several unfortunate reasons, the incidence of deaths of infants at the Mithi Civil Hospital had increased. He said that it is important to take a holistic view of the situation and consider all relevant aspects.
Faiz Mohammad Junejo, Chairman, Advisory Council, on behalf of Mushtaq Dal, General Secretary read out the Minutes of the previous AGM held in Mithi in January 2015. Members approved and adopted the Minutes.
Presenting a summary of the major activities conducted by Baanhn Beli during 2015, Younus Bandhani, Director, said that while the long-established sectors of work such as in primary education, mother and child health-care, water resources and training were sustained in 2015, entirely new initiatives were also undertaken and targets were successfully achieved. Whether in its already familiar sectors or in new subjects, the principal focus of Baanhn Beli remains the empowerment of women and the poorest of the poor.
Mrs. Munnazah Siddiqui, Project Manager, Mirpurkhas presented a summary of the new and pioneering programme under which Baanhn Beli facilitated the conclusion of 650 written agreements between owners of farms and women-peasants who work on these farms. With support from Baanhn Beli Members such as Gohram Baloch who also resides in Mirpurkhas, she informed the Meeting that owners of farms extended co-operation and made written commitments to respect the rights of the women and their men who are engaged as labourers at different points in a year. She said that, on the basis of several briefings and discussions, a large number of women from the Kohli, Bheel, Thakur castes signed the agreements. The project was support by the Islamabad office of UN Women and NCA Pakistan and only one other NGO in Sindh i.e. in Dadu District, was also invited to render similar work.
Mohammad Khan Marri, Project Manager, Nagarparkar presented broad details of Baanhn Beliâ€™s partnership with PPAF (Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund). He said that several dozens of poor men and women were given grants under the Livelihoods Enhancement Programme in the form of motorcycle rickshaws (to generate income as rented desert taxis), to open small shops and to purchase livestock. In addition to PPAF support for capacity-building, training workshops were also held with the support of the High Commission of New Zealand to train health workers and primary school teachers. He also outlined progress on the project being jointly implemented with IUCN in order to formulate a national vulture conservation strategy shaped by community-based participation to protect endangered vultures and discontinue the use of a drug administered to cattle which ultimately had lethal effects on the vulture population.
Mobaht Megwar of Goth Wandio, Nagarparkar Taluka called for the urgent posting of female teachers and the opening of girlsâ€™ middle schools and girlsâ€™ high schools in Tharparkar.
Jethmal, also from Nagarparkar, pointed out that even though there is a well-equipped Taluka Hospital in Nagarparkar, quacks continue to practice and sometimes cause the deaths of new-born infants due to the use of wrong medicines or unsafe practices.
Dr. Hussain Bukhsh Kolachi, co-founder, a past President of Baanhn Beli, and presently a Professor of Community Medicine at Isra University, Hyderabad emphasized the need to increase the availability of safe drinking water, extension of full immunization to cover all children and ready availability of medicines to deal with cases of snake-bite and other hazards.
Dominic Stephen said that the extension of the network of metalled roads in Tharparkar was bringing major changes in the lifestyles of people. He said that even though there is a current shortage of fodder due to lack of rainfall, the potential of livestock should be developed far more effectively than has been the case so far. He said the population of about seven million animals meant there were enormous opportunities for increase in economic activity and income. Lamenting the tendency of whole families to migrate to areas outside Tharparkar during droughts, he said that children were the worst sufferers because of the disruption in their education. If there were greater co-operation between PVDP and Baanhn Beli, more children could be retained in schools inside the region to ensure continuity of education while only one or two adults in their families migrated temporarily. He emphasized the need for inter-faith harmony and said that PVDP acknowledges all religions at their office in Rattanabad.
Javed Jabbar pointed out that the vision of Baanhn Beli represents ideas, ideals and values, not physical structures and monuments. He said that every citizen of Pakistan, rural or urban had responsibilities to fulfill and not just demand that the State should fulfill all his needs when the overwhelming majority of eligible, well-to-do citizens do not pay taxes. With reference to the voter registration, election monitoring work by Baanhn Beli as part of FAFEN, he urged all present to help increase awareness of the need for reforms in our democratic system to ensure that elections become truly representative of public opinion by making voting compulsory and by making it essential for a winning candidate to get at least 51 per cent of the vote. He said that Baanhn Beli is humbly proud of having persuaded dozens of farm owners and land lords to enter into written agreements with women peasants for the first time.
On behalf of Salim Sheikh, Treasurer who was overseas for Umrah, Javed Jabbar presented major details of the accounts and financial records for the financial year 2014-2015. These were duly noted and approved by Members. Messrs. Ghani & Company, Chartered Accountants were re-appointed Auditors for the next financial year 2015-2016.
Other speakers who addressed the meeting included Ms. Aisha Kolachi, Ms. Naseeba Khatoon, Mr. Roz Zaman, DGG member and Mr. Jan Mohammad from FM 88, Mirpurkhas.