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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

When help hurts

by Marium Ibrahim

Sculpture by David Shrigley, contrasting the two reactions to help.
Photo credit: Pinterest

Help is a notion that many of us take for granted. You ask for help when you cannot do something yourself. But is help always a good thing? What is its relationship to identity, agency and power?

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The hurdle of hesitance

by Azmat Budhani

People's fear of health related interventions is not new. Spoof by British satirist James Gillroy depicting people's fear of small pox vaccines, 1802
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

As a researcher, I have often dealt with non-responses or respondent hesitancy in fieldwork. Earlier, I used to think that this hesitancy can only be minimized by building personal rapport through multiple visits. Over the years though, I have come to appreciate the role survey design plays in participant engagement. Our LANSA study, for example, seeks to investigate the impacts of women’s agricultural work on their own and their children’s nutrition levels. For this survey, we took the mother of an infant as the key respondent. Placing her instead of the head of household (who in most cases are male breadwinners for the family) on the top of the household roster had important implications for our fieldwork, as discussed in an earlier blog. Despite the process of anthropometric measurement being fairly clinical, or even intrusive, we found a majority of mothers eager to cooperate. They were keen to provide any information that could potentially benefit the health and future well-being of their children. Women tried to navigate constraints put by male community leaders and heads of households. One mother, for example said, ‘’My husband works in the Pakistan Army. He does not like NGOs. However, I am willing to participate.”

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Flying low: Everyone seems to have a solution for PIA

by Asad Sayeed

PIA's first international flight, London Heathrow Airport, 1955
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) are two subjects that Pakistan’s chattering classes love to loathe when they get together. However, unlike the helplessness they feel about Zardari’s continued role in politics, everyone seems to have a solution for PIA. The problem is deemed to be overstaffing due to nepotism and corruption by political governments; and the logical conclusion is that the airline should be privatised. As with most issues in Pakistan, it is useful to introduce some complexity to the equation.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Understanding agri-food value chains for nutrition

by Nigel Poole, Haris Gazdar and Mar Maestre

Photo credit: Flickr/ADB

Undernutrition is a central and persistent challenge for global development, above all in South Asia. Mobilising agri-food businesses to support efforts to reduce undernutrition is challenging. The LANSA (Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia) team has been researching for the past two years how the markets for food can be improved so that substantive and sustained consumption of nutrient-dense foods by the poor in households that are post-farm-gate is achieved. Here, nutrient rich foods are those that, if consumed in adequate quantities (WASH and health conditions not considered) are likely to improve the nutritional status of individuals who are undernourished in terms of micronutrients. We understand agri-food value chains as the initiatives, either donor, government or business driven that we will be analysing.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Ending poverty – drama or whimper?

by Haris Gazdar

Incidence of multidimensional poverty in Pakistan, 2014-2015
Photo Credit: UNDP, Pakistan

The first sustainable development goal (SDG1) is dramatic: “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” by 2030. Is it even a logical possibility? Have learned economic philosophers not pondered over the relative nature of poverty – which means that no matter how well off everyone is, some will be poorer, and poverty is about those who are poorer. Perhaps because the “ending poverty” wish is so fantastic it has been helpfully broken down into more tractable targets: ensure that no one lives on less than $1.25 a day. This idea owes its origins to a debate about global poverty lines – or levels of income below which a person is considered to be poor. And if the $1.25 a day target seems too rigid then there is the more achievable goal to “reduce by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.” This gives quite a lot of leeway to national governments to come up with their own definitions of poverty reduction and then to try and achieve them.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Today's Lyari

by Natasha Ansari and Ebad Pasha

Photo credit: Dr. Nida Kirmani

Often in mainstream discourses on Karachi, the alleged “most dangerous city in the world,” Lyari continues to be routinely framed as the most dangerous address within Karachi.[1] Though it is undisputed that the “gang-war era” certainly wreaked havoc on the lives of Lyari’s residents in overt and covert ways, and the post-conflict trauma thereafter is an active remnant of those times. Nevertheless, through our recent fieldwork for the UNDP-Youth Employment Project, it is evident that persisting perceptions of it being a notoriously volatile place due to gang violence are not helpful. Not only is this oversimplification arguably no longer a lived reality for most of Lyari’s residents post-operation—it moreover reductively masks and betrays a more complex relationship with the structural nature of violence, and can therefore be a harmful generalization, if not a misguided one. We attempt to tackle some tropes and misconceptions regarding violence in Lyari’s current context in terms of unemployment, Rangers’ “security” framework and gender based on some initial findings from our research.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Violence and tolerance

by Haris Gazdar

Non-violence, sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reutersward
Photo credit: Flickr/Georgio Galeotti

Targeted violence against Shia Muslims came home to me recently. I was catching up with a close relative (let’s call him Zain) who has himself been a victim of such violence a few years ago. He was shot and injured, but thankfully recovered. We were at a family gathering and I urged him to take another helping of food when he said that he needed to watch his diet because he had “restricted his mobility” and was not getting enough exercise. It turned out that there had been a spate of shootings culminating in the attack on a majlis at a home in the North Nazimabad locality of Karachi, and many of those incidents directly affected his social circles. Zain felt that he needed to be cautious. The almost normal way in which we spoke about these threats was, on reflection, shocking. Perhaps, being a survivor, had made him stoical and stronger.