By Rimsha Ali Shah
Tanzeela Bashir, an alumna of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, vividly recalls the poor condition of sanitation and hygiene in the school where she studied till Class 9th. “The restrooms were always in a dismal condition, the water filtration plant hardly worked, and there was no sensitization on the importance of hygiene,” she says.
With time, the unsanitary conditions became a distant memory until a few months back when she visited a schools as part of her project “Ek Qadam”. “The visit was a deja-vu moment for me, and that is when I decided to focus all my energies on public schools. The statistics on the death of children due to lack of sanitation and clean water are horrifying and I knew I had to play my part to raise awareness.”
Ek Qadam, or One Step, is a project centered on raising awareness on safety and security measures, sanitation, hygiene, health, self-help and first-aid. This project ties in these five components with the threats posed by climate change. “We started with an ambitious target of 3000 students, but ultimately ended up empowering 5000 students in 18 public schools across Sargodha,” shares Bashir.
This project was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U. S. Alumni Network (PUAN). 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 to enable them to give back to their communities.
Students Learn About Climate Change and Protective Measures
12-year old Abubakr was attending his English class when a group of women knocked and entered the classroom. They placed sketches on the board and masks, gauze, markers and goodie bags on the table. “Good Morning, students. Today, we will talk about climate change. Do you know what that is?”
Abubakr had learned about climate change in his science class. He immediately shot his hand up to answer. The group of female volunteers, representing Ek Qadam, then proceeded with their two-hour session on safety, security, and hygiene in today’s changing climate.
The Ek Qadam team traveled across 18 schools in Sargodha and gave interactive information sessions to students of class 1 – 8. From teaching students, the correct way to brush their teeth, to self-protection and basic first-aid training during a natural calamity, the sessions covered all essential tips and techniques, broken down into simple steps. One of the participants, Hassan, said, “Because of the practical approach of the trainers, we have learned how to protect ourselves in the face of a disaster or emergency.”
The training sessions encouraged students to brainstorm and practically apply their ideas in the classroom. Aiza, a female student from Sargodha, was deeply touched by the Ek Qadam sessions. “The confidence boost I have received through Ms. Tanzeela’s session has motivated me and given me the courage to stand up for myself.”
The project also engaged the volunteers in public speaking to bolster their confidence and encourage them to take the lead. The Volunteer-Talk (V-Talk) Kinza Khaliq spoke on the power of dreams while Munazza Sana talked gave a moving speech on societal standards. Each volunteer underwent a three training sessions to prepare them for the workshops with students. Zunaira Zafar said, “I have learned so much myself during the past 18 weeks! From working together in a team to time-management and session planning.”
Bashir now plans to initiate a special training for female students in Sargodha. “Through this project, I have come to realize that young girls lack confidence. Our next step, as Ek Qadam, is to design confidence-building workshops for young girls in Sargodha.”
We wish Bashir, and the team behind Ek Qadam, all the best for her future plans!
To learn more about Ek Qadam, click here.