Pakistan: Bilquis Edhi

Pakistan's marginalized women are legion, and the Bilquis Edhi Foundation Trust is doing so much for them that it now has more cachet among the public than the government.

— Bilquis Edhi

Bilquis Edhi (born 1947) is synonymous in Pakistan with patience, farsightedness, compassion, and integrity. Through the Bilquis Edhi Foundation Trust, which Bilquis set up with her husband, she has established 17 homes for children and women, where more than 4000 children and 250 women live. She provides the women with legal assistance and counseling, and the children with career options and training.

The family of Bilquis Edhi moved to Pakistan after the subcontinent's partition. Following matriculation, Bilquis trained as a nurse, and joined a nursing school set up by Abdul Sattar Edhi, who was deeply concerned about the state of reproductive health in Pakistan. Here, Bilquis and Abdul decided to marry. Since 1966, they have been working together in their humanitarian assistance projects. Bilquis works primarily with women and children, for whom she has established 17 homes so far, including homes for children and women, an adoption center, a shelter for victims of violence, a home for the elderly, a home for mentally challenged children, and maternity and nursing care homes. Bilquis, in fact, places empty cradles outside each Edhi center, so that people can leave their unwanted children there instead of stoning them to death or dumping them on rubbish heaps, as is the practice. Bilquis also personally oversees the adoption process to ensure the greatest care in placing babies, and a smooth transition. She reaches out with a compassion born of experience to women who have been abused. Bilquis gives them counseling and legal assistance. She also encourages the children in her charge to obtain training and adopt careers so that they can be independent. It was a given fact that her work would bring Bilquis powerful enemies, who have threatened to kill her and the women who seek shelter in the Trust's homes. The Pakistani people, however, repose enormous faith in the Edhi Trusts, and liberal donations pour in from ordinary people-money, food, clothing, and medicines. They know that the money will be honestly used to the best possible public benefit.

Bilquis Edhi Foundation Trust Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation International Relief Foundation