Education work and women’s empowerment in a tribal society
Salam from Islamabad!
As manager of the FATA Development Programme in Pakistan, I’m responsible for a region that I last travelled through 25 years ago as a journalist – the tribal districts along the border with Afghanistan that used to be called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). It was only in 2018 that this territory, now referred to as “Merged Areas”, was integrated into neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and incorporated into regional development plans. We are supporting this process.
As the province is not a residential location, for security reasons, I use armoured vehicles to travel back and forth between Islamabad and Peshawar, where our team meets representatives of health authorities and education agencies. One of our programme’s priority areas is improving the services provided at health centres and in schools.
Dialogue forums are held between the state and civil society, where I meet tribal elders and employees of the “Gender Desks” that we have set up. Again, unfortunately for security reasons, I do this in Peshawar and not in the tribal areas. We focus specifically on promoting the participation of women, who traditionally have little say in Pashtun tribal society.
I’m very grateful to my Pakistani colleagues for their openness and warmth. Thanks to their great commitment and expertise, the cooperation between us is extremely effective. I specialised in Islamic studies and political science at university, and am fascinated by the culture of the Indus region. Besides relics from the Buddhist period and the Mughal era, there are also modern functional buildings from Pakistan’s founding years to admire.
On weekends I go walking in the nearby Islamabad National Forest. The wooded Margalla Hills rise up just behind my house – from up there you have a tremendous view over the city, and there is a range of wildlife to marvel at, too. As an enthusiastic ornithologist I’m attracted by the Himalayan Bulbul and the Laughing Dove, but also the troupes of monkeys and herds of wild boar. There are even said to be leopards here.