Making economic space for women to share their brainpower and productivity
Pakistan’s city of Quetta, the birthplace of Hira Hafeez-Ur-Rehman, lies near the mountainous eastern border with Afghanistan in a region of light winter snows and orchards of fruit and nut trees. With a potential Eden as her homeland, Hira says, “I belong to a country where women have subordinate, subservient, and reproductive roles to play.” A strong division of labor educates males and gives them the productive roles. “Quetta women hide themselves at the slightest breach of privacy,” she says, and poverty holds sway like “a provost lord.”
Hira’s father had enjoyed a Harvard education and moved the family to Lahore when Hira was twelve. “The shift was massive,” Hira says. “Lahore women would confidently fight to make their space and let the nation hear their brains.” Yet urban development has also allowed conditions that have brought Pakistan’s world status close to categorization as a failed state. Hira cites the political turmoil after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and sectarian violence. Inequality, pollution, corruption, crime, illiteracy, and unplanned population growth further undermine development and progress. Hira also stresses that “the salaried middle class is being suppressed every day.” Her father offered her a critical analysis of the divergence in the working conditions of Pakistan and America, which led Hira to make her career goal the “pursuit of policy-making where it is done best.”
She entered the Lahore School of Economics, (LSE) majoring in economics and finance and has done well in her academic courses, sparking discussions and offering the most realistic ideas for case studies, according to her advisor. Hira distinguished herself by winning the “Best Project for Small and Medium Enterprise Management Award.” However, she experienced a greater breakthrough as a result of a summer internship at UNICEF in Pakistan, a highly international environment. Contact with “amazing intellectuals” gave her a practical link between academics and reality. “It fostered in me a much greater perspective of the world as I knew it and encouraged me to experience life outside Pakistan.”
Inspired, Hira joined several NGOs, especially the LSE Social Work Society and Bait-ul-Faleh Niswa, caring for handicapped children. She also volunteers at the Pakistan Society for Rehabilitation of the Disabled (PSRD), the CARE Foundation, the Center for Youth Development Activities, and the World Conservation Union. Recently, Hira was chosen for her positive spirit to lead a delegation to Chandigarh, India in an international peace dialog. The seven-day trip aimed to develop ties between students from India and Pakistan as they discussed “Making Poverty History.”
After HSI this summer, Hira is headed to New York to the UN as an intern at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), supporting the renewal of dialogs on strengthening international cooperation and partnership among developing and developed countries. ECOSOC also supports the General Assembly by helping revitalize the work of the Economic and Finance Committee.
Hira’s plans also include obtaining her MBA in finance back at LSE. Her nation and possibly the world will surely ‘hear Hira’s brain’ and be better off for her contribution.