Pakistan: Quratulain Bakhteari

Quratulain Bakhteari has created a learning space in Balochistan province for training young people from poor and deprived areas to be constructive, creative, and reflective community workers.

— Quratulain Bakhteari

Quratulain Bakhteari (born 1949) presides over a unique learning space in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Her brainchild, the Institute for Development Studies and Practices (IDSP), channels the energies of scores of young people, mainly from this poor and deprived region, by training them to be social activists and catalysts for change in their communities. The IDSP is the outcome of Quratulain’s vast experience in development work, and her conviction that new ways must be found to integrate theory and practice in order to bring meaningful change.

After two decades of community-based development work, Quratulain Bakhteari was convinced that young people on short-term contracts in development projects were getting a raw deal–a different approach was needed to involve them in a meaningful and sustained way. Thus was her brainchild, the Institute for Development Studies and Practices, born in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Quratulain wrote the concept in 1997. It was tested in 1998 through a pilot involving five people working with her in women's education. The IDSP was established in 1999 to create a cadre of young people as grassroots development thinkers, planners, and practitioners. It now runs innovative certificate and diploma courses in community development, applies research, and initiates public projects. Today, 400 youth are engaged in grassroots development work. Any young person who can read, write, and has an idea to put to the test can enrol in IDSP courses. In the 1970s, Quratulain became involved with the Orangi pilot project in Karachi, and began helping the residents of this poor township tackle urgent sanitation and sewage problems. But her community enterprise precipitated a family conflict, forcing her to choose between her work and life as a married woman with children. She chose the former, leaving home in 1983 and plunging into community-based development work. In 1992 she was reunited with her family. Quratulain's work with pit latrines became the bedrock for government policy in developing low-cost sanitation in low-income areas. In 1988, she moved to Quetta to work on a water and sanitation project; later, as representative of an international agency, she helped the government of Balochistan set up about 1800 primary schools for girls in the province's backwaters.

Institute for Development Studies and Practices (IDSP)