ISLAMABAD – As a one of the leading proponents of women’s economic and political empowerment, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) is particularly focusing on capacities and skills of women and their mainstreaming so that they could fully avail of the development opportunities with a focus on their quality of lives.

Actualising this year’s theme of International Women’s Day i.e. “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” and to commemorate the event, PPAF organised a simple but impressive ceremony on its premises to present Amtul Raqeeb Award, the first of its kind, to seven women of outstanding resilience and achievement. Representing the cultural and geographic diversity of Pakistan and hailing from PPAF-supported communities/partner organisations across the country, the seven women nominated for the award have played a sterling role in not only self-advancement but also socio-economic development of area they inhibit. PPAF has honoured these exceptional women and also launched a chronicle captioned “Women of Substance” encompassing their success stories in dealing with testing circumstances to carve out their destiny.

PPAF has provided awareness to over 300,000 women on freedoms and constitutional rights enshrined in religion. PPAF also engenders women-only as well as mixed men and women groups’ institutions of the poor at village/community level. Women are 62 per cent of the mixed community organizations formed by PPAF across the country.

As many as 51 per cent are the women among the total beneficiaries of PPAF’s credit & enterprise development component, 49 per cent of water, energy & infrastructure, 62 per cent of social & community mobilization, 56 per cent of basic health & primary education, 41 per cent of institutional development & skill trainings and 47 per cent of livelihood enhancement & social protection. PPAF has dedicated this award to Amtul Raqeeb, who was a mother of three and Programme Officer at Balochistan Rural Support Programme (BRSP) - a PPAF partner organization. She was assigned the task of conducting trainings of the para-medic staff in Mastung & Pishin districts of the province. Amtul Raqeeb, along with two other colleagues, was shot dead by unidentified assailants on way back to Quetta after performing duties in Mastung on January 24, 2011.

Through hard work and diligence, Amtul Raqeeb made immense contribution to reducing mother-child mortality rate in the inaccessible regions of Balochistan.

The winners of the PPAF’s pioneering Amtul Raqeeb Award are Ms. Mehr Nigar (Balochistan), Ms. Zeba (Northern Areas of Pakistan), Ms. Zakia Ikram (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Ms. Sughra Solangi (Sindh), Ms. Rehana Bibi (Islamabad), Ms. Najma Shakoor (Azad Jammu & Kashmir) and Ms. Nabila Qazi (Punjab).   Each year around the world, International Women’s Day coinciding with the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace is celebrated on March 8. Thousands of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organizations, governments, charities and women’s groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues.

PPAF is the lead apex institution for community-driven development in the country and the largest source of pro-poor spending outside Public Sector Development Programme and the Federal budget. Set up as a fully autonomous private sector institution, PPAF enjoys facilitation and support from the Government of Pakistan, the World Bank, IFAD, USDA, KfW and US Corporate Sector. Outreach of PPAF now extends throughout Pakistan (129 districts) and its microcredit, water and infrastructure, drought mitigation, education, health and emergency response interventions have been widely recognized. As the largest institution of its kind in the world, PPAF has received high performance ratings from donors.