Pakistan: Dilshad Murtaza

Denied the chance to complete her own education, Dilshad Murtaza has made it her mission to provide educational opportunities to poor children in Pakistan's northern areas.

— Dilshad Murtaza

Denied the chance to complete her own education, Dilshad Murtaza has made it her mission to ensure that poor children in the northern areas of Pakistan are able to access educational opportunities. Dilshad, who has been involved in voluntary work for over two decades, set up the K2 Development Organization five years ago. Its aim is to help poor children and women, especially widows: 22 women have so far been provided with vocational training, and 108 poor children have become literate.

Married early, Dilshad Murtaza, a native of Hunza in Pakistan's northern areas, only managed to study until class seven. But the break in her schooling left her with a yearning for a proper education. Some years later, she managed to complete class eight, stopped from going further by the incessant challenges of family life. But Dilshad redirected her energies to the cause of education in a different way: she decided to run a vocational and literacy center in Gilgit–the administrative center of Pakistan's mountainous and poverty-stricken northern areas–for very poor children. Apart from free schooling, she also provides books and other materials. So far, she has educated 108 children up to class five. Her five-year-old organization, the K2 Development Organization, is named after the famous peak that towers over this arid expanse. Dilshad has been involved in voluntary work in this region, one of the poorest in Pakistan, for over two decades. She launched K2 after the death of her husband, and after all her children had grown up, when she could give the organization enough time. She is, however, far from financially secure, struggling with impending penury both in her personal life and in her efforts to keep her organization going. Furthermore, her family have not been supportive of her voluntary work. Dilshad also focuses on the plight of poor widows, most of whom cannot support their families after the death of their husbands, lacking simple education or vocational training. Dilshad's free training has so far helped 22 such women. Inspired by her pioneering role, other women have taken the initiative, setting up small local-level organizations such as the Sahara Development Organization, and the Mountage Development and Welfare Organization in other parts of Gilgit.

K2 Development Organization