A lawyer by training and an artist at heart, Shanal Kazi returned to Pakistan to connect with her roots and her people after living abroad for many years. “Development in Pakistan happens through industrialisation and different organisations are coming in to make that happen but the communities who are the rightful recipients don’t prosper from that,” she says and to make sure that happens, she is currently working as Assistant Manager CSR at Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company. Her primary job is to ensure that the communities of Thar are prosperous and their lives are enriched by the development that is taking place in their part of the world.
On moving back to Pakistan and pursuing her dreams to create a better future for the people of this country, Shanal saw many of her idealistic views about working in Pakistan shatter, but she still went on trying to do what she could. The first challenge she had to face was overcoming the cultural gap between the East and West and to adjust to the social and cultural norms of this country. “While I felt very connected to my soil, I saw a lot of ethnic and racial disparity which made me realise we are not as united as we should be. That was certainly an awakening for me,” explains Shanal. In addition to that, she also saw the society in Pakistan deeply plagued by gender inequality. “It was very hard for me to start working in a very remote location in Sindh where I’d be the only woman working alongside a team of men. It is very difficult for a man to accept the fact that a woman is reaching a position where she’s successful and she’s making a difference.” Since her job is to be the bridge between the company and the community, she often found herself at crossroads where she have certain commercial interests to take care of and community interests too.
However, the strong and brave Shanal is ready to face these challenges and not let them come in the way of her aspirations. “The most cherished part of all this is that my background also dates back to Tharparkar and it has been touching to go back to the soil and the very people that my grandfather helped,” she says. To date, Shanal’s organization has been able to help 3000 plus women. With a certified gynaecologist and a paediatrician on-board they have opened up a 3-room clinic in the area. She hopes that with her and her team’s determination she can help fight the high infant and maternal mortality rates in Thar. In addition to taking care of the health indicators, Shanal is personally looking after the technical skills training for the project. “About 2000 people are required for this project and we’ve made sure all of these people will be employed from Tharparkar by providing them with special training skills,” proclaims Shanal. Through her passionate work, Shanal hasn’t only founded a health facility for an entire community but has also provided employement.
Just like any other person, there often come moments when Shanal feels weak. She feels that the decision to travel all the way to Tharparkar for days and weeks on end and finding herself to be the only working woman there in a group of men who make her feel weak just because of her gender is what is really disappointing. However, she finds her comfort in her community and interacting with the women there. She also tries to express herself through writing, painting and reading when work gets too stressful. Sometimes, she meditates which brings her a sense of peace.
Whatever she is, Shanal owes it all to her mother who taught her children to think of someone else first irrespective of their social status. Respect comes by giving respect to others. When speaking about her Miracle Moment she relates that “there was this time I was working to do a health camp in Tharparkar and it was late in the evening. We had lost our way with the driver and we were trying to find a road to get on. We found 2-3 houses in the middle of nowhere and I decided to stop there because I needed some water and rest. And in those homes I met these girls who were poorly educated but literate. While chatting with them I felt so happy and inspired because in the main village there were hardly any educated girls and here they were, in the wilderness, speaking English. When we hired one of those girls at Engro as a social mobiliser for women; that was my Miracle Moment.” Indeed, it is the education of women which will help them weave into society as an equal to their male counterparts and with girls like Shanal Kazi leading the way, the day is not far when the underprivileged of this country will rise up and not just be the generators but the recipients of the growth of Pakistan as well.