Sherry Rehman prods Pakistani-Americans to help realize better future for children
WASHINGTON, Nov 10 (APP): Pakistan has launched a series of programs to realize empowerment, education and healthcare for its children and diasporaâ€™s participation in this endeavor would bolster the countryâ€™s progress towards that end, Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman said. The ambassador told a gather
In this respect, she referred to programs like Benazir Income Support Fund that seek to pull the people out of poverty trap but said the country would have to strive for a long time to ensure welfare of the entire younger generation and vulnerable segments like women and minorities.
Ms Rehman, who has been a longtime advocate for rights of women, children and minorities, appreciated the spirit the Pakistani-Americans have shown in assisting the work of SOS Childrenâ€™s Villages and other education and healthcare programs.
â€œAround 60 percent of Pakistanâ€™s population is aged under 30 — by giving them access to education and health, you are helping Pakistan to turn the demographic challenge into an opportunity — your support is valuable and you are helping give Pakistani kids a bright future.â€
Ambassador Rehman apprised the gathering of Pakistanâ€™s democratic progress and upcoming peaceful democratic transition upon completion of the elected governmentâ€™s five-year term, media freedom, the resilience of the people, the strength of the civil society and independence of judiciary, saying the country is going through a historic transition.
â€œIn Pakistan, we have finally achieved after much sacrifice and suffering a political democracy. We are about to witness the first elected government make a peaceful transition following elections. This is a monumental achievement but we are certainly not resting on our laurels. If you ask me, our work is just begunâ€.
She noted that empowerment is not defined by political values alone but also equally defined by economic and social values.
â€œUntil every man, woman and child has equal access to opportunity, our work cannot be finishedâ€.
For its part, the government has taken several initiatives to empower families and women, especially rural women, to invest in self-employment projects and small businesses.
Ambassador Rehman cited the inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, the teenaged schoolgirl from Swat, who is now recovering from a militant attack on her for advocating girlsâ€™ right to an education. Malala personifies hope, the envoy said.
â€œThis can-do spirit and determination is pervasive in our youth, and gives me hope for the future of our countryâ€.
The ambassador said her mentor, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, was committed to providing a level-playing field for all Pakistanis. â€œAnd though wehave come far, we have much to do to fulfill her vision for Pakistanâ€.
Sherry Rehman particularly praised efforts by women activists including Rukhsana Rahman, Shaista Mahmood, Tahira Chaudhry, Tazeen Hashmi, Safia Naz and Shela Qamar in organizing the event for the cause of SOS Childrenâ€™s Village.
COMPLETE TEXT OF REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR SHERRY REHMAN AT SOS FUNDRAISER, WASHINGTON DC ON NOV’9, 2012:-
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you all on an issue very dear to my heart — how we can best secure the future for our children.
I would especially like to express my thanks to Rukhsana Rahman, Shaista Mahmood, Tahira Chaudhry, Tazeen Hashmi, Safia Naz and Shela Qamar for putting together this wonderful event.
As Ambassador, I have met many of the Pakistani diaspora across the United States and their commitment to the motherland never ceases to amaze me. So let me say thank you for all that you do, and assure you your tireless efforts are appreciated and they do make a great difference.Â
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are gathered here today at a challenging time for Pakistan. Global conflict and the shifting of international strategic templates have impacted Pakistani society in immeasurable ways, and continue to do so.
In Pakistan, we have finally achieved â€“ after much sacrifice and suffering â€“ a political democracy. We are about to witness the first elected government make a peaceful transition following elections. This is a monumental achievement but we are certainly not resting on our laurels. If you ask me, our work is just begun.
Democracy alone can never be enough and it can never be successful without the empowerment and participation of all its citizens.
Empowerment is not just defined by political values but equally defined by economic and social values.
Until every man, woman and child has equal access to opportunity, our work cannot be finished. It is our children who are the most vulnerable members of our society, and the silent sufferers in difficult times.
I am proud to say our government has worked diligently to bring about social and economic opportunities for vast segments of society too long ignored and too long disregarded.
We have launched the very successful Benazir Income Support Program, Pakistanâ€™s first social safety net program, which works through women as the stateâ€™s largest income transfer to people at the bottom of the social pyramid.
A related program empowers families and women, especially rural women, to invest in self-employment projects and small businesses. 2012 saw many such programs, exclusively designed to grant access to credit and opportunities to the too-long deprived masses.
We believe progress comes from the bottom up, and strengthening the most vulnerable in society will result in an overall prosperous and economically viable Pakistan.
For the first time, we have a national campaign in place to once and for all eradicate polio from within our borders. This crippling disease ruins the lives of young children, forever robbing them of a bright future and the chance to pursue their dreams.
We have recently faced setbacks to our vaccination efforts but we are determined to succeed. We do not have an option here; Pakistan must and will be polio-free.Â
Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, daughter of President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistanâ€™s Ambassador to Polio Eradication said, â€œI am determined to make Pakistan a polio free country and carry my motherâ€™s vision forward.â€ This can-do spirit and determination is pervasive in our youth, and gives me hope for the future of our country.
My friend and mentor, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, was committed to providing a level playing field for all Pakistanis. And though we have come far, we have much to do to fulfill her vision for Pakistan.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me be clear.
A child who is starving has no human rights.
A girl who is illiterate or dislocated in a camp has no future.
A paralyzed boy can never attain his full potential.
Empowerment is the right to be economically and socially independent.
Empowerment is the right to seek healthcare, education and make personal choices.
Empowerment is the right to have the opportunity to select a productive career.
Empowerment is the right to own property, to start a business, to flourish in the marketplace.
I do not need to tell you how bright, talented and capable our children are. The story of a brave Malala Yousafzai has made headlines around the world and now the global community too bears witness to how our children brave hostility and terrorism on a daily basis.
As she recovers from a near-f
atal gunshot wound, let these shots too be heard: as long as our children need protecting, as long as there is a single boy or girl being shut out from basic healthcare, education, opportunity, our work is not done and we will never back down.
That is why the work of SOS Childrenâ€™s Villages is so exceedingly important. SOS is on the ground, serving as real-time community organizers and indeed, guardian angels to scores of orphaned or abandoned children.
They are the key to Pakistanâ€™s future, and SOS grants so many of them the security and education they so desperately need to prosper in life and contribute to Pakistan. What magnanimous work!
The government of the people must have such partners to bring about lasting change, and I am proud to be here to support and further your efforts.
I urge you all to come together and work across the depth and breadth of Pakistani society; to take care of our children who most need our help, and in this way forge the path to empowerment for all in Pakistan. We need your help to make that Pakistan a reality.