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The right of one human being is the right the whole of mankind

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In January 2016 FORUM-ASIA elected a new Executive Committee. Over the last months, through interviews like the following one, we have introduced the different individual human rights defenders to you who will be part of the Committee for the coming three years. This time we talked to Sadia Hussain, from Pakistan, who is a first time member of the Executive Committee.

Sadia Hussain has been working in Pakistan in the field of education for the last 16 years. She holds a Bachelors degree in civil engineering and a Masters degree in Educational Leadership and Management from the University of New England, USA. She has attended several professional development courses from the University of Missouri, Kansa City and the Harvard School of Leadership. Currently, she is the Executive Director of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), a national non-governmental organisation in Pakistan. SPARC works on the rights of children and marginalised communities.

Through this interview we try to get to know Sadia a little better, by asking her how she became involved with the human rights movement, what motivates her, and much more.

How did you become involved in thehuman rights movement? And how did you become involved with FORUM-ASIA?

I have been working on educational rights of children for the past 16 years in Pakistan. After joining SPARC as its Executive Director, I am now supposed to work on all fronts, not just child rights, but also on women’s rights, inclusion and diversity, as all have a direct impact on the rights and wellbeing of children.

SPARC has been a member of FORUM-ASIA for several years, and in the beginning of the year [2016] I won a seat to become Executive Committee member. SPARC considers FORUM-ASIA one of the region’s strongest platforms for advocating for human rights. After the nomination and election, I am personally, as an Executive Committee member, now much more involved with FORUM-ASIA and therefore on human rights.

What motivated you to become involved? And has that motivation changed over the years?

The position of children and women in Pakistan has always been vulnerable. I am an educationist. I strongly believe that any nation’s progress is dependent on the welfare of its children. Therefore, I switched from my earlier field of civil engineering to working on educational reform, women’s economic empowerment and other human rights.

My motivation is ever increasing. The state of children and women in Pakistan at the moment needs ever more attention. Working with children and women, gives you immediate results and impact. This understanding has always been the driving force behind my efforts.

What excites you the most about your work and the contribution you make?

The result and change that can be seen in the shortest possible time. Children are the smartest creation. A little change made for them can produce big results and large impact on the whole society. Even small scale interventions with children can produce-long term effects, something which never seizes to amaze and surprise me.

Please tell us one of the most inspiring or challenging moments in your work in the past?

Last year I conducted research on barriers on girls’ education in the province of Punjab. It was quite a challenge to get access to girls who were not going to school, and to identify the obstacles for them to receive a basic education.

The eventual study presents a comprehensive view of the issues and hindrances that girls and their parents are facing. The study managed to provide a source of inspiration to several government bodies to create reforms and policies based on the findings of the research study.

What do you experience as the main challenges for someone working on human rights?

The challenges are multi-faceted. It is a combination of the prevalent culture and traditions, the religious perspectives, economic pressures, and obviously the extent of corruption in one’s society or community. A human rights activist has to work on all those fronts simultaneously.

How do you deal with obstacles in your work? How do you keep yourself motivated?

Although obstacles sometimes hinder your work, as a human rights person, I strongly believe that this element of challenges also enables you to come up with new and innovative ideas. This continuous creativity is a main source of motivation for dealing with the difficult moments.

If you could give a message to the new generation of peopleworking on human rights or development, what would it be?

I would like to recommend looking at things critically, even if they have become norms and have been part of our society for centuries and centuries. The existence of a peaceful world is dependent only on one single fact, which is that each and every human being is important. The right of one human being is the right the whole of mankind. Thus the significance of human rights should never be under rated.