Pakistan: Akhtar Riazuddin

Akhtar Riazuddin reaches out to thousands of poor urban homes in Pakistan through the NGO she founded for women's development in 1968.

— Akhtar Riazuddin

Akhtar Riazuddin (born 1928) reaches out to thousands of poor homes in Pakistan through the Behbud Association of Pakistan (BAP), an NGO that she founded in 1968 for community development. A woman of many talents, Akhtar brought significant changes to the status of women in Pakistan when she served as a top-ranking bureaucrat in the federal government. She is also a gifted Urdu writer and has extensively researched the crafts of India and Pakistan.

When Akhtar Riazuddin served as federal secretary (1986 to 1989) in the ministry of women's development, academies were set up to train urban community workers, and women's studies were introduced at universities. Marginalized women were provided with mental homes, jails, shelters, microcredit schemes, libraries, and rural mobile dispensaries. NGOs were given unprecedented moral and financial support. Akhtar persuaded Pakistan's finance minister to expand the budgets for NGOs and community-based organizations. A maternity hospital was set up in Lahore and other provinces. Since 1967, Akhtar has worked with the Behbud Association of Pakistan, which she founded to help deprived women and children, especially those in urban slums, secure health services, education, and vocational training. BAP has brought basic health services and the message of family planning to millions of homes. Thousands of others have been provided access to functional literacy, and primary, home, and community-based schools. Women have been given piece-rate work for decent wages, eliminating middlemen, and have been trained as community leaders and elected as local counselors. Pressure groups formed in Rawalpindi and Islamabad have persuaded the administration to provide water, gas, children's parks, land for schools, and low-cost housing. The NGO has helped women negotiate marriage contracts that include giving them the right to initiate divorce. Akhtar, who started work as a college lecturer in Lahore, was drawn to social work by her mother's example, and was awarded the Sitara I Imtiaz, one of the country's highest civilian awards.

Behbud Association of Pakistan (BAP)