Alumni News Grants

Legislative Fellow Leads Workshop Series Promoting Gender-Sensitive Governance

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By Rimsha Ali Shah

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they have none”

As a woman from a country that put a female head of state on the map back in the 1990’s, Hina Fatima knew the same political fire resided in the women around her, and through her extensive professional career experience with multiple women’s campaigns her conviction that women indeed play a vital role in national development was proven time and time again.  During her Legislative Fellowship in the U.S. under World Learning, Fatima discovered a political arena whose tangents solidified her understanding of the paralysis that often stunted the political progress of women: inadequate training on gender-sensitive governance.

Upon her return to Pakistan, Fatima set to work designing a workshop focused solely on training men and women on the theme of “Gender Sensitive Governance for Local Governments,” which developed five comprehensive workshops.  This was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant.  All alumni of various U.S. government sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to $5,000 USD from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) to enable them to give back to their communities.

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Alumni News Grants

Acteavism: LFP Alumna Trains Youth on Social Entrepreneurship in a New Light

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By Rimsha Ali Shah

What is a real conversation-starter in Pakistan?  Some might say food, but to really narrow it down, cricket and tea or chaye, as it is locally called, is another.  Communicating ideas, debating opinions and shaping friendships with the backdrop of a cup of tea at a restaurant or a pop-up roadside tea cart is a sight so common in Pakistan that its impact often goes unnoticed.

But one Legislative Fellowship Program (LFP) alumna, Dr. Rakshinda Perveen, took notice and subsequently she created a one-day training she titled “Acteavism” to mobilize discussion and action towards ending violence against women in Pakistan.  This was made possible with the help of the alumni small grant of up to $5,000 USD from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network.  All alumni of various U.S. government sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant to enable them to give back to their communities.

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First Person The Alumni Corner

Shattering Myths about Partition

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By Safeerullah Khan, IVLP alumnus.

Many myths about ‘Independence’ or partition were shattered. I had the honor of being part of a wonderful projectVoices of Partition’ (VoP) – a project of Theatre Wallay (TW) funded and supported by many institutions and individuals including US Embassy in Islamabad, USEFP, Fulbright Commission, State Department (USA), and many individuals who contributed in cash or kind. The details of the project can be seen on TW website. Here I will give you a brief overview.

VoP team went out to cities and villages in search of people who had migrated from India to Pakistan at the time of Partition of India (1947), and recorded their interviews. We interviewed nearly 100 persons – men and women from various backgrounds now in their 70s and 80s. Quite a few of them passed away since we interviewed them. (We had no means to record stories of people who had migrated from Pakistan to India.)

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Alumni News

PUAN NEC 2016: Elected Representatives Set the Course for the Year Ahead

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By Rimsha Ali Shah

The stage was all set for the sixth annual strategic meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  Placeholders marked the seating arrangements for leadership from across the twelve chapters, who, over the course of the eight-hour meeting, would share the highlights from 2015 and set the roadmap for 2016.

For the current cohort of 50 elected leaders, this was their last planning meeting as office bearers in their respective chapters and marked the end of their four-year tenure.  Thus, their resolve to make 2016 a year to remember for PUAN was at the forefront of their minds; or as the KP-FATA Chapter put it, “In 2016 PUAN KP-FATA Chapter will talk to aliens!”

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Alumni News Reunions

Connect and Reconnect: KP-FATA Chapter Celebrates 1300 Exchange Alumni

By Rimsha Ali Shah

Twinkling eyes, hearty hugs, and insatiable enthusiasm aptly characterize the tenor of the annual reunion of the KP – FATA chapter.  Sounds of ‘So glad to see you!’ resonated throughout the hall, but the clicks of the cameras and amused laughter rang loudest in one corner: the photo-booth that was stacked with top of the line props in vibrant colors and a young man with a selfie stick.  Move ahead, and a group of actors dressed as the stereotypical image of a Pushton family rehearsed for their skit that was going to be performed later.  Amid all this hustle and bustle sat the newbies – eager, but shy to mingle with the exchange alumni from across the province.  They sat twisting the registration cards they had received at the reception.  At that time, the newest cohort of the exchange alumni were unaware of the significance of the red, blue and green color on the cards that were part of the ice-breaker that was designed to break the silence and push alumni as old as those who joined PUAN in 2006 to the fresh additions from 2015 to connect and exchange.

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Alumni News Alumni Success Story

Roundtable Discussion: Translating Exchange Experiences to Help Communities

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By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Fourteen alumni from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) participated in a roundtable discussion with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy, Elizabeth Fitzsimmons yesterday in Islamabad.  President of the PUAN Islamabad Chapter, Haseeb Kiyani opened the dialogue with an overview of the 12 chapters of PUAN nationwide and the concentrated efforts of the alumni for capacity development and community service projects across Pakistan.

“I learned about inclusive education technologies in the U.S. and I have been working on replicating similar inclusive education technologies in Pakistan so that our schools can cater to the special needs of the disabled,”

said Ali Shabbar, an alumnus of the Disabilities Exchange Program.  Shabbar recently completed his small grant project through which he successfully trained teachers and installed disability-friendly technology labs.   Shabbar’s efforts have allowed 15 persons with disabilities to enroll in these schools. 

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First Person

First Person: My Story of Transformation

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By Pooja Kirplani.

My first interaction with snow and D.C.

My first interaction with snow and D.C.

My story of transformation started from the day I received the email confirming my participation in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD).  I, Pooja Kirplani, had never been too excited about the prospect of getting my nose out from my books.  Since I am a student of medicine, I strongly felt that the best use of time was being buried in books.  But the spring of 2015 was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.  Before I knew it, I was in Washington D.C. with snow all around me.  Travelling from Karachi, the temperature drop from 24 degree Celsius to -8 degree Celsius was the first big shock – and the dawn of realization – that the next four months were going to be different, but exciting.  After all, there is no time, age, or any sort of limit to creating new memories.

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Alumni News Grants

Promoting Rule of Law: Legislative Fellow Activates the Activism in Youth of Hyderabad

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By Rimsha Ali Shah

Sunil Kumar, a student of social work at University of Sindh, had never truly appreciated the power he wielded as a part of the youth demographic in Hyderabad, and particularly, the impact that social work could have on community development and support of marginalized populations.  So when he enrolled in the workshops under the project “Promotion of Rule of Law as Good Citizens through Youth Civic Engagement,” he did not anticipate how the interactive discussion would pique his interest in the relationship among youth activism, social work, and community development.

“The purpose of the workshop series and follow-up radio and television programs was to encourage an interactive dialogue on the role of youth, the principals of democracy, and the spirit of community service with the youth of Sindh,”

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First Person

First Person: I am a Seed of Peace

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By Syed Shahzaib Ali Sajid, Alumnus Seeds of Peace 2007, 2014 & 2015

“Do whatever you can, with whatever you have, wherever you are.”  Will Smith

This was the most important lesson I learned while I was miles away, in a country that was unknown to me, with people who were from different cultural and religious backgrounds.  Without realizing that it’s happening, our minds are ingrained with stereotypes and perceptions that shape our behaviors from a very young age.  I was 14 years old when I had this first interaction with people of a different nationality, culture, and religion.  From the color of our skin to our language, the type and taste of food to our love for sports and the connection with arts, music and history, we were different in many ways, but deep inside we were all the same.

Connections of a lifetime - Seeds of Peace 2007

Connections of a lifetime – Seeds of Peace 2007

The Seeds of Peace camp 2007 was where I found the common denominator that binds us, despite the multitude of differences: humanity.  I made connections with people from around the world.  We discussed everything from history to politics to music and movies.  The camp instilled in us not only the confidence to speak up but also the courage to listen and respect differing views.  It was an experience that cherished diversity and differences.  Now that I look back, I can see how far along I have come as a peace ambassador and as a person.  I realized that as humans, our connection with one another transcends all peripheral factors and this connection is what binds us together despite all cultural differences.  The team-building exercises and the camp environment where we learned the importance of sharing – not just the space, but sharing the highs and lows.  But most importantly, the camp equipped us with the most important tool to become a ‘Seed of Peace’ and that is, empathy.

It has been nearly nine years since I became a ‘Seed of Peace’, but my work as a peace ambassador has not ended with that camp.  I have continued to build on the friendships, the people to people ties that I had created while in the U.S.  Last year alone, I was a part of the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network Peace Week celebrations in which we promoted religious harmony and tolerance by exploring the power of art with different religious communities.  I have also recently started by own initiative called ‘Daes’.  This I have done with the vision to further my role as a seed of peace and promote harmony and tolerance for the creation of a society that supports diversity and versatility in every way possible.

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First Person

First Person: The Legislative Fellowship Experience in Atlanta, G.A.

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By: Laila Rubab Jaskani, International Exchange Alumna and Fellow under the Legislative Fellowship Program (LFP) Spring, 10 October to 13 November, 2015

I started my journey from Islamabad to Washington, DC on the 10th of October, 2015.  With 19 fellows, each from a different professional background and geographical identity, we set off to experience cultural, professional and social diversity in the United States that was offered to us as fellows of the Legislative Fellowship Program.  Each of us had worked passionately on an issue that was close to our heart.  I have been actively involved in the development and implementation of national legislation on national food fortification and nutrition in Pakistan.  I strongly believe that malnutrition and lack of fortified food is the biggest challenge in Pakistan, which also contributes to the high number of maternal and neonatal deaths.  Igniting the political and industrial will to address the problem at hand is my primary role.  Thus, my placement at the Mayor’s Office in Atlanta, G.A. was the perfect learning experience for me to draw parallels and understand advocacy and lobbying in the first-world.

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