Who shapes health policies?

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN a country where policies are formulated in an ad hoc fashion and are designed to promote the interests of a vested class rather than of the people as a whole, it is creditable that there are researchers trying to inject some rationality into the decision-making process.

That is how I see the move by the Research and Development Solutions, an organisation working on collecting information, analysing it and sharing it with concerned parties. ResDev’s focus is on health, specifically maternal and reproductive health and immunisation. Above all, the research is done professionally under the director Dr Adnan Khan.

And who would deny that our health policy making leaves a lot to be desired? With a measly 0.7pc of GDP being assigned for the health sector in the official budget, Pakistanis end up incurring the heaviest out-of-pocket expenditure on health in South Asia. It does leave one wondering as to how policies are made.

ResDev’s latest research promises to be an innovative one and might prove to be very revealing as well. Continue reading “Who shapes health policies?”

Manifestos and population

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN the ongoing violence-stricken election campaign there is a lot of talk about the economy and how that needs to be fixed to improve people’s lives. The political parties in the fray have apparently come to realise that public discontent focuses on the rising level of unemployment, spiralling inflation and growing poverty.

Hence the candidates have responded to popular concerns by making promises that offer the people a heaven on earth. The party manifestos are full of populist rhetoric meant to appease the voters. Those who understand the flaws in the official system and know that structural changes are needed to rectify the wrongs can see through the hollow pledges being made and the inadequacy of the approach adopted. It is therefore not strange that all parties shy away from specifics, and strategies in various sectors are not even defined. Continue reading “Manifestos and population”

Vote banks of the starving

By Zubeida Mustafa

ELECTIONS are round the corner and as the candidates head for the hustings it is time they focused on the issues which will make or break the country.

The least talked-about problem and yet the one which poses a grave threat to our existence is population explosion. Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world, is on its way to becoming the fifth most populous state.

Demographers say if we continue to neglect the family planning sector we will have 342 million mouths to feed in 2050. Continue reading “Vote banks of the starving”

“I have a problem, Baji”

By Zubeida Mustafa

Yasmin has five children and she is just 27 years of age and has been married for nine years. The youngest son was born in July last year and was unplanned. In fact Yasmin had been quite happy with the one boy and three girls she already had.

When she came to me to break the news, she just said, “Baji, I have a problem.” These words captured succinctly the failure of the population planning programme in Pakistan. How else would you put it when a woman is saddled with an unwanted pregnancy, besides poverty and lack of education? Continue reading ““I have a problem, Baji””

Zubeida Mustafa: Fighting for the Women and Children of Pakistan

In the 33-year history of the Global Media Awards program, the Population Institute has recognized dozens of professional journalists for their coverage of family planning and reproductive health care issues. Many of them have gone on to have highly successful careers, based in part upon their continued coverage of population-related issues. One of those journalists is Zubeida Mustafa, a Pakistani journalist who retired after more than 30 years of work in 2008 as the Assistant Editor at DAWN, one of Pakistan’s most respected publications and the country’s largest English-language newspaper. She won Global Media Awards for her individual reporting in 1986 and in 2004.
Continue reading “Zubeida Mustafa: Fighting for the Women and Children of Pakistan”

Our population time bomb

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN’S Population Census Organisation’s website has a population clock on the home page which gave the country’s population as 179,850,379 on Tuesday — an average increase of 9,700 every day.

According to the National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS), Islamabad, the country’s population was 133.3 million in 1998 when the last census was held. This comes to a whopping increase of 34.8 per cent in 13 years (2.6 per cent per annum) which surprisingly has gone unnoticed. In effect we have slipped down from the two per cent (NIPS) or 1.8 per cent (World Bank) figure we were given as the growth rate for 2010. Continue reading “Our population time bomb”

Empowering Pakistani Women through Education and Family Planning

Source: The WIP

A happy family: Zahoora with husband Rahib Ali and three children at their ‘Safe Space’. Photograph courtesy of the Indus Resource Centre.

Empowerment is opening up new spaces for personal development for women in Pakistan. As opportunities for education come within their reach women are learning how to upgrade their lives. This has brought the realization that a big family may not be a blessing, and can actually handicap women. This is a big leap from where women were a few years ago, when motherhood was widely regarded as a status symbol. The more male children women had the more respect they could command. Sons brought a sense of security as they consolidated a woman’s position in the household and ensured that a second wife would not displace her.
As women become empowered through education and work, some are opting for small families.
Continue reading “Empowering Pakistani Women through Education and Family Planning”

Who are the killers?

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN her poignant collection of poetry, Ojagiyal Akhiyun ja Sapna (‘Dreams of Waking Eyes’), Amar Sindhu, a professor of philosophy at the Sindh University, writes of the ‘Ideal Woman’ (aadarshi aurat) and warns her that to move with society she will have to toss away her dreams and idealism like “gand kichre ain faltoo saamaan” (garbage and waste goods).

It is a sad but true observation for International Women’s Day ( March 8 ) that after decades of struggle for emancipation and empowerment, we still have women in Pakistan who are denied their dreams — especially if they don’t conform to society’s mores. Age is no consideration. Even innocent baby girls if they are unwanted have their lives snuffed out at birth. Continue reading “Who are the killers?”

Won’t we be counted?

ACCORDING to Pakistan’s Population Census Organisation’s website, enumeration of the population should have been completed on Sept 27, 2011. This has not been done.

Even the house-listing operation that precedes the head count has run into road blocks. One can therefore only make wild guesses about the size of our population. According to the government, the population of Pakistan today stands at 177.1 million. The growth rate, as claimed by the Pakistan Economic Survey 2010-11, stands at 2.05 per cent per annum.

This is cause for serious concern as last year’s Survey had quoted the population growth rate to be 1.51 per cent. Continue reading “Won’t we be counted?”