Pakistani Hindu Women Ride High on Thar Development Wave
By Riaz Haq
As the world celebrated the International Day of the Girl, the Thar development boom was empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving, according to multiple media reports. These pioneering women will hopefully be a source of inspiration for young girls.
Thar, one of the least developed regions of Pakistan, is seeing unprecedented development activity in energy and infrastructure projects. New roads, airports and buildings are being built along with coal mines and power plants as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There are construction workers and machinery visible everywhere in the desert. Among the key beneficiaries of this boom are Thari Hindu women who are being employed by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) as part of a plan to employ locals. Highlighted in recent news reports are two Hindu women in particular: Kiran Sadhwani, an engineer and Gulaban, a truck driver.
The region has a population of 1.6 million. Most of the residents are cattle herders. Majority of them are Hindus. The area is home to 7 million cows, goats, sheep and camel. It meets more than half of the milk, meat and leather needs of the province. Many residents live in poverty. They are vulnerable to recurring droughts. About a quarter of them live where the coal mines are being developed, according to a report in The Wire.
Some of them are now being employed in development projects. Makki saw an underground coal gasification pilot project near the town of Islamkot where "workers sourced from local communities rested their heads after long-hour shifts".
In the first phase, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) is relocating five villages that are located in block II. SECMC is paying villagers for their homes and agricultural land.
SECMC’s chief executive officer, Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, says his company "will construct model towns with all basic facilities including schools, healthcare, drinking water and filter plants and also allocate land for livestock grazing,” according to thethirdpole.net. He says that the company is paying villagers above market prices for their land – Rs. 185,000 ($ 1,900) per acre.
Hindu Women Employment
Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), the largest contractor working in Thar desert coal project, has committed itself to hiring locals wherever possible.
When SECMC launched its Female Dump Truck Driver Program near the town of Islamkot in Thar, Kiran Sadhwani, a female engineer, visited several villages to motivate women to apply for the job and empower themselves, according to the Express Tribune. “Not all women who are working as dumper drivers are poor or in dire need of money. It is just that they want to work and earn a living for themselves and improve the lives of their families,” she told the paper.
SEMC is hiring 30 women truck drivers for its Thar projects, according to Dawn.
As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl, it's good to see the Thar development boom empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving. These pioneering women will inspire and empower young girls to pursue their dreams in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world.