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Working for change

VISITOR FROM PAKISTAN Nilofer Bhaktiar: `Female literacy is as high as 47 per cent in Pakistan and is steadily rising'

VISITOR FROM PAKISTAN Nilofer Bhaktiar: `Female literacy is as high as 47 per cent in Pakistan and is steadily rising'  

Pakistani activist Nilofer Bhaktiar is striving for change for women in a country where certain communities seem to be slipping back in time

Being an activist in Pakistan is difficult enough. But imagine being one fighting for the rights of women in a country that doesn't exactly have a rosy record when it comes to women. That is Nilofer Bhaktiar for you. This lady is made of sterner stuff and means business when she talks about women's welfare.

An adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister, she is the International Director of Lions International. Tall with striking features she is anything but a traditional Pakistani woman. She was in Mangalore recently to attend the installation ceremony of the first Lady Lions District Governor of India, Kripa Amar Alva.

The charming Nilofer goes out of her way to put people at ease. With her oratory skills and command over statistics on women's affairs in Pakistan and rest of Asia, she strives to quash misconceptions about women's rights in Pakistan. "Female literacy is as high as 47 per cent in Pakistan and is steadily rising. Women are 17 per cent of the Pakistan Parliament and in civic bodies the number is as high as 33 per cent," she says.

She is however sad that India has not able to pass the bill on 33 per cent reservation for women. She hopes that it is done as early as possible. It is not exaggeration to say that Nilofer knows India better than an average Indian. She has travelled extensively and her love for this country and its heritage has brought her close to many Indian women including Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Tourism Minister Renuka Chaudhury, former Union Minister Sushma Swaraj. She admires women leaders from all walks of life including Medha Patkar, Brinda Karat, Vandana Shiva and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. She says Indian women have come of age and they can be forerunners on many social issues not just in India but the entire world.

At a time when the winds of the new economic order is sweeping the world, especially the South and South-East Asia, Nilofer hopes governments in these countries gives the women special status they deserve, not by default but by design and with policy backing. "Countries should close ranks when it comes to women's affairs and there should be no political boundaries when it comes to implementing social welfare schemes for women."

M. RAGHURAM

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