Pakistan: Yasmin Karim

Braving poor roads, harsh weather, and repressive social customs, Yasmin Karim has traveled from village to village in the orthodox Northern Areas and Chitral to help women transform their lives.

— Yasmin Karim

Yasmin Karim-born 1962 in Hunza Karimabad, Northern Areas of Pakistan-is an energetic pioneer in women's development in the remote Northern Areas and Chitral. She is an inspiration to the women of this rugged, mountainous, and desperately poor region. Yasmin has traveled from village to village to motivate women to set up their own organizations, and acquire vocational and professional skills that have transformed their lives. She formed 600 such organizations, covering about 80 per cent of the households in the area under her charge.

Yasmin Karim's personal journey has been an extraordinary one. After a makeshift schooling that ended in grade three, Yasmin, daughter of a widow, managed to secure a scholarship to study at a boarding school for girls, hundreds of miles away in the port city of Karachi. She went on to obtain a bachelors degree, and then a masters in gender and development from the University of Sussex in the UK. While transforming her own life, Yasmin has helped other women in her region transform theirs. She has spent two decades with the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) formulating and implementing community development programs that emphasize women's social and economic empowerment. Her work has contributed to the formation of nearly 1500 women's organizations-600 of them largely due to her efforts-and the involvement of about 50,000 women in these programs. Yasmin has been an outstanding coordinator of grassroots networks, making a significant contribution to the setting up of cottage industries like weaving fabrics and carpets, and has been an effective member of the AKRSP's core and regional policymaking groups. She has also developed modules on entrepreneurship development for women. Like other women working among fiercely patriarchal tribal communities, Yasmin has had to battle prejudice and hostility. Once, a gun was placed on her back by the men of a village on the orders of a cleric who wished no discussion on discrimination against women. But the threats did not work. Perhaps she was inspired by her own parents: her father was the first law graduate in Hunza in the late 1960s; her mother defied tradition to work as a nurse in order to provide for her family after the death of her husband.

Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP)