by Sehba Sarwar with Jibran Javaid and Aslam Khwaja
This interview is an excerpt from an hour-long interview with Iqbal Hyder Sheedi, who lives and works in Badin, a village in rural Sindh. Iqbal Hyder has created a non-profit, Laar Humanitarian and Development Program (LHDP), that serves the Sheedi community as well as the larger population of Badin. Prior to running LHDP – more than 20 years ago - Iqbal Hyder Sheedi started the Young Sheedi Association.
Iqbal Hyder hails from a Pakistani community referred to “Sheedi” (also known as Baloch or Makrani), a marginalized group that has roots in East Africa and is linked to ancient slave trade between the two continents. Badin, a small town in rural Sindh, has a large number of Sheedi residents. Thanks to Aslam Khwaja, who knew Iqbal Hyder personally, we were able to stop by Badin on our return to Karachi from our trip to Tando Bago to visit with Iqbal Hyder, who welcomed us into the resthouse his organization now owns. In this interview, Iqbal Hyder talks about how he chose social work as a career, and shares his journey of finding a path away from the poverty that shadows most people from his community.
Below is an excerpt of the interview – the full transcript will be published in VBB’s upcoming publication about Homes and Histories:
“We saw a problem in our education system. Two things were revealed to us: Poverty and also the students who wanted to study could not survive in the system. And we wondered how those who were in school could remain students. There would be a day when they would drop out. At that time in Badin there weren’t more than 100 Sheedi students. So we talked to their parents and said we’d pay their education expenses. For that, we would collect donations and we would work part-time and in the summer and we would not allow students to drop out. We developed a mechanism to achieve these goals but we knew the government was not giving books – we had to buy them. That year, we began a “book bank” a system through which a Class V student would give us his textbooks and then collect textbooks for Class VI, and so the books revolved. And students could check out books as from a library. We’d then pass the textbooks to other students.
We did a survey on how many people on how many people had jobs and we came up with 20-27 names so these were the people who came forward and they had jobs. We went and met with them. We asked them to donate Rupees 2 each month – no more. And with the money, we would help our students. Out of the 20-27 people, there were 15 who paid Rs. 2 monthly and from that money we did our work. We made an office in which we had our “book bank” and we began giving scholarships to children. As time went on, we were happy that children were getting support from their parents to study, but what could we do about the child laborers? We knew that if we said “send your child to school”, their parents would not agree. After all, the children were earning for the family. So we told the parents: please send your children to us for just one hour every evening. Other than that hour, they can do as you wish. We selected parts of the street that were lit by streetlights. There, we laid out rugs and began ‘street classes’”
For more information about Laar Humanitarian and Development Program, please visit: http://lhdpmedia.blogspot.com/
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Aslam Khawaja is a researcher who has worked extensively on issues related to the Sheedi/Baloch communities. He is contributing an essay to VBB’s art catalog the complements this website.
Jibran Jawaid has been working as a film director/producer for the past 10 years. He has created many videos for documentaries, features, and television shows.
Karachi-born writer and multidisciplinary artist Sehba Sarwar serves as VBB’s Artistic Director/ Founder.