Alumni News & Events
Alisher Khan (GPISH Class of 2003), Founding member and President of SHAHADA, A Child Empowerment Society set up in 2008 in the mountainous region of Chitral, North Pakistan, has initiated an innovative pilot project entitled ‘The Bees and the Children’. Alisher describes the project as ‘a friendship that pays in quality education and health for children’. It is a self- initiative of Chitrali villagers who are currently led by young educated people under the umbrella of SHAHADA. The project has three components, Early Childhood Development Centres, Education Financing Project, and Maternal and Child Health Centre.
Under the Education Financing Project, children are provided with a free honeybee box at the time of admission. The boxes are jointly taken care of by young mothers and a project management team. The parents receive assistance with selling the honey in the market, and the income covers school fees and educational expenses for the children. During 2008-2009, twenty-one children were included in education financing project and educational expenses of six students were covered for more than two years. Further, twelve students earned an educational expense cover for more than a year and the education of the rest of the children was financed for less than a year. In 2009-2010, a total of forty students were covered but, due to a wet season throughout the summer, the impact was very limited. An extra fifteen students were provided with honeybee boxes in 2010-2011 and in total twenty students financed their education through the project for a year.
Under the health component of SHAHADA, a Maternal and Child Health Centre has been established with the help of the Canadian arm of SHAHADA. Run by a Head Nurse, a lady Health Visitor and a part-time Doctor the centre deals with delivery cases as well as children and women’s health issues. The centre also organises health education programs for mothers and children. Providing shelter for victims of gender-based violence and abandoned babies is planned for the future plan. The health component is also accompanied by a health financing project, which is still in early stages. Like the education financing project, young mothers are provided with a free honeybee box and income from the sale of the honey is expected to cover their health expenses, in particular, reproductive health expenses.
Two Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD Centres) have also been established under the education component run by trained teachers. The centres, unlike the traditional schooling system, involve parents, especially young mothers, in the educational activities of their children. Children are encouraged to get involved in different activities including swimming, music and language clubs. The plan is to prepare students from low income families, both in terms of education and financially, for the newly established Aga Khan Higher Secondary Schools in Chitral.
In 2012, SHAHADA has decided to move into even more avenues of education and health financing through projects focusing on agricultural products. The plan is to engage mothers in the production of tomatoes and potatoes by facilitating provision of seeds and fertiliser and by developing a whole value chain, linking mothers with other services and markets. The income thus earned will be used for the health and education of children and their mothers.
SHAHADA is also planning to introduce a microcredit scheme with the aim of providing improved access to services and markets for the local economic activities carried out by women at a household level. The interventions are expected to result in the establishment of a sustainable value chain system of micro enterprise activities in Chitral, enhancing the livelihood and quality of life of Chitrali people.
The main aim of SHAHADA is to develop a model of education and health services, where individuals from low income families, especially the young mothers and their children, have access to quality education and health facilities. The ethos of SHAHADA lies in Nobel-Prize winner Amartya Sen’s Global Doubts as Global Solutions, “The ability of the poor to participate in economic growth depends on a variety of enabling social conditions. It is hard to participate in the expansionary process of the market mechanism, (especially in a world of globalised trade) if one is illiterate and unschooled” (Sen, 1998).
Alisher Khan is also professionally engaged as the founding member and president of a private power company, Green Alternative Power (Pvt.) Limited, that is engaged in a variety of services related to the implementation, production and distribution of renewable energy, particularly hydropower. The company’s vision is to provide energy by harnessing natural sources of energy in a sustainable, profitable and innovative way on a commercial basis. As part of its corporate social responsibility, the company is planning to work with low income families in providing affordable and environment- friendly electric appliances at household level.