By Divya Joseph
When nearly a third of Pakistan was submerged due to floods this year, 19-year-old Hafsa Qadir, a Girl Rising program alumna, took action. She immediately volunteered with the Welfare Association for New Generation (WANG,) a Girl Rising partner organization. WANG’s only woman-volunteer, Hafsa traveled to some of the worst impacted communities, where women and girls were disproportionately affected, distributing dignity kits containing menstrual hygiene supplies, and conducting health and hygiene awareness sessions.
The floods in Pakistan killed 1,739 people, caused Rs. 3.2 trillion ($15.2 billion) in losses, and forced 20 million people from their homes. Women and girls in relief camps experience threats to personal safety, lack of access to quality menstrual management spaces and supplies, and exposure to illnesses.
“I saw that the flood had displaced women from their homes,” says Hafsa, “Lack of privacy and washrooms were affecting their mental and physical health. Pregnant women were gravely impacted by the lack of access to hospitals as the bridges had been washed away. It was important for all of us to step up, especially women.”
Hafsa felt a great sense of appreciation from the women and girls she supported through her work because they could share personal stories with her that they didn’t feel comfortable sharing with her male counterparts.
Hafsa was inspired to be an active participant in social justice causes when she saw the original Girl Rising film in Grade 7. Her interests were further cultivated by mentors as she participated in the Girl Rising program, built new leadership skills, and better understood her ability to be a changemaker. She says that Girl Rising helped her understand that girls and women have the power to solve the world’s most pressing issues.
When Hafsa graduated from the Girl Rising sessions, she wanted to pass her learnings on to younger girls and continues to volunteer with WANG, to help the curriculum reach more adolescents in her district, Lasbella.
Hafsa is now studying sociology at Lasbela University of Agriculture Water and Marine Science, where she hosts a college podcast giving rural girls the opportunity to advocate for their community’s needs. Hafsa is determined to change the world - in fact, she already has.