Finding light in times of darkness
Responsible Citizens - Zimmedar Shehri
In these times of darkness, it is important to remember the good that goes on around the world. Times like these teach us to be grateful of the hundreds of thousands of wonderful, driven people on this Earth world who want to enact change for the better. A perfect example is Jalal Hussain, a founding member of the Responsible Citizens organisation in Pakistan.
Jalal completed his postgraduate studies at the University of Warwick, studying International Development Law and Human Rights. He says the course and Warwick gave him a holistic view of the world, opening many doors and leading him to internships with the UN Development Programme in Albania, working as a legal expert for a think tank, to now, where he is currently a Special Prosecutor at the National Accountability Bureau in Pakistan. Here he plays a key role in anti-corruption, dealing with high profile cases and helping Pakistan recover proceeds of corruption.
However, besides all this fascinating work, Jalal managed to establish Responsible Citizens (Zimmedar Shehri). The organisation is driven by a passion for social and environmental change in Pakistan. He wanted to act on his ambitions and move away from the common practice of ‘all talk but no action’.
At first, Jalal and his group wanted to focus on the issue of trash in Pakistan. They simply went to Ghalib market in Lahore and collectively cleared up all the trash. This simple act attracted at local media attention but escalated so quickly that it even made the New York Times, given Responsible Citizens the governmental and bureaucratic accountability to become more widespread. This accountability and awareness were fostered more so when Hillary Clinton lauded them in her address to the students of the University of Lahore. Soon there were 100s of volunteers, young and old, working together towards a common goal: to make Pakistan a better place.
Their work progressed by the impact of flooding in 2010, 2011, which the UN deemed the worst natural disaster in modern times and again in 2014. Over 80% of agriculture was lost and 22/24 districts were submerged. They raised funds, organised relief packages containing essential products then co-ordinated the delivery of them to areas all over Pakistan.
Particularly this was to the Swat Valley, where ½ of the goods went to Kalam. One way to raise funds was via the sale of wristbands which said ‘I am Pakistan’ encouraging the population to take ownership and responsibility, values which epitomise Responsible Citizens. Despite the unprecedented disruption and loss of homes, food and life, Jalal explains how the people of Sanghar still showed tremendous resilience and hospitality, which inspires Responsible Citizens to keep on going.
Responsible citizens then turned their attention to education following the destruction of schools. A 4-classroom school was built in collaboration with Resettling the Indus, an architectural NGO, in Basti Ryndh. Previously the nearest primary school from this town was 4.5km and the nearest secondary school was 8.7km away and hence education fell from the priority list for many girls and boys. The school was built with initiative and forward thinking, such that it can withstand the we
ight for a second story of classrooms and so is suitable for expansion.
Overall, the key driver for Jalal and Responsible Citizens is the ‘spirit of building a better Pakistan (which) trumps everything else and cuts across all class and political barriers’. They are forever turning social responsibility to a nationwide effort.
When asking Jalal about the impact of COVID-19 in Pakistan, his ever optimistic and positive personality was apparent. He mentioned the lockdown and exponential rise in cases but focused on the future and how he was ‘hoping to weather the storm and come out more resilient and (to) continue serving the nation through (their) projects’.
This motivational project highlights the success which can follow by a few simple actions. If you have an idea in your mind, don’t sit on it. Turn the ‘talk into action’ as Jalal would do. Use this time of self-isolation to launch and work on your ideas. This is more important than ever, as it wil
l give you a great new focus and act as a light at the end of this tunnel of darkness.
Jalal Hussain completed his masters in 2015, please feel free to reach out to either myself or him (LinkedIn) if you would like any more information. If you are in need of support during the COVID-19 pandemic, please use responsible sources such as NHS England and WHO and avoid taking advice from media platforms.
WWF article (see pages 15-17): https://issuu.com/naturamag/docs/final-natura-september-14
Cicely Day, Vice President