Alumni contributions aid Pakistan’s COVID-19 response
Posted: 11 June 2020
Pakistan, like many other countries, has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the country is going through trying times, Australia Awards alumni and other Pakistani graduates from Australian institutions are stepping up as volunteers and social entrepreneurs to help deal with the crisis.
Sadaffe Abid is a social entrepreneur and advocate for women’s empowerment in Pakistan. She is an Australia Awards alumna, having participated in the Women in Executive Leadership Development Short Course in 2019 through the University of Queensland. Sadaffe is the founder of CIRCLE, a leading social enterprise that aims to build and develop the entrepreneurial and leadership capacity of women in Pakistan. She was a founding team member, COO and CEO of Kashf Foundation, a Forbes 50 global microfinance organisation that disbursed AUD280 million in loans to women in Pakistan.
Her recent initiative through CIRCLE, Tech Karo, runs technological training for students from underserved communities, with a focus on young girls and women. The program aims to enable students to increase their livelihoods and generate positive impacts for their families and communities. Tech Karo provides an end-to-end approach that ensures students are trained, mentored and placed in internships. The initiative offers classes on coding, digital marketing and graphic design, combined with community building and life skills.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Tech Karo has expanded its reach to offer virtual training in web development, digital marketing and graphic design to students all over Pakistan. After receiving more than 3000 applications, Tech Karo has selected 250 students (65% of them women) for the current academic cohort. These students, representing 15 districts of Pakistan, will go on to join Tech Karo’s existing roster of more than 160 graduates.
Ehsam Ullah Baig
Ehsam Ullah Baig is a young social entrepreneur and activist from the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. In 2012, he founded Pakistan Innovation Summit for Education (PISE), a youth-led non-profit organisation. PISE has been advocating for and actively working towards youth engagement and development in remote regions of northern Pakistan through various projects. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, PISE initiated a ration drive for affected families in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Nagar Valley, which is the epicentre of the crisis in the region. This resulted in more than 250 affected families receiving rations. In addition, PISE arranged Personal Protective Equipment for around 600 medical staff, paramedics and rescue teams in Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad/Rawalpindi. The team is also volunteering with the city police in the capital of Pakistan to raise public awareness of COVID-19 protocols.
Last month, PISE launched its current flagship activity: a telehealth helpline named ‘SehatCall’. This free helpline provides a forum both for COVID-19 updates and advice, and for telephone consultations with a team of 40+ expert doctors. More than 10 psychologists are also available to help people facing mental health issues during these difficult times. The team is determined to contribute to the cause of development and welfare with the best of its expertise and abilities.
Ehsam participated in an Australia Awards Endeavour Fellowship on Human Centered Design: Local Innovation for Development at Unbound (formerly Laika Academy) in Melbourne in 2017.
In the province of Balochistan, a major food drive is helping the local community to cope with hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown. This initiative is the brainchild of Sikander Bizenjo, who completed a Bachelor of Business and Commerce from Monash University in 2014. He recently co-founded Balochistan Youth Against Corona (BYAC), an organisation that is providing support by delivering food and other vital supplies in the province.
Balochistan is known for its mountainous and inhospitable terrain, making it hard for development and aid organisations to reach remote villages and settlements. However, Sikander and his entire team are natives of the province and familiar with the reality of the local environment. Thanks to the donations of supporters, Sikander’s organisation has raised more than AUD13,000. These funds have been used to supply monthly food rations to more than 1200 families in remote and rural areas of Balochistan, with the help of local volunteers. His team has also been able to provide Personal Protective Equipment to more than 200 doctors in the province.
“In a crisis of this magnitude, everyone needs to play their part,” Sikander says. “This pandemic can go down in history as one that brought out the very best of humanity in difficult times of need.”
Saadia Adnan, an Australia Awards alumna from Pakistan, is leading one of her country’s most innovative responses to the COVID-19 crisis: TeleSchool. This nationally broadcast TV channel is designed to help Pakistan’s primary and secondary school students continue their education during the pandemic.
Learn more in our dedicated story on Saadia, here