Good things, they take time and sustained effort. That is the underlying philosophy behind social mobilization (SM) - the process of inspiring collective action, by making people aware of what they can achieve and how. While engaging local communities and making them aware of their stakes in the process of development, it also aims to establish a credible presence for development organizations hoping to be more than temporary visitors.
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"All the world’s a stage" for the transgender community of Pakistan. The role is assigned by a cursory glance at a traffic light: “jester”, “oddball”, possibly “a morally degenerate sex worker”. The general public looks no further and the flat character seen meandering through the traffic, vending prayers, accepts the shapelessness of the umbrella term, “hijra”.
When colleagues talked of ICT for development in a country where the electric supply is erratic at best, there were always those who were scathingly sceptical. Perhaps it was because they have long resented the slow digitization of everything, from books to conversations to relationships. Perhaps it was because they genuinely felt the developing world has considerable catching up to do in terms of basic, tangible development indicators, before worrying about the greater implications of cell-phones and Facebook.
A few weeks ago I had the chance to meet Ethan Casey, an American journalist with a special interest in most things Pakistan. A seasoned writer who has travelled within the country more than most natives both urban and rural, his books reveal a nuanced understanding of the South Asian people and culture. To help guide his travels through the post-flood situation, a common friend had organized a casual chat with a selection of people working in the media and development sector.
It seems there are no women in Peshawar, even if it is the urban centre of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. The streets are lined with men pushing carts, men scratching ears, men holding hands. Young men, old men, men with beards and one twirling a moustache.
As I settle onto the carpet of a gem-polishing outlet in the Namak Mandi market, I am received with the utmost courtesy. The qehwa tea is delicious and the young Pushtun entrepreneur insists on speaking impeccable English, while shaking his head with the most polite form of firmness.