Susan (manager youth involvement) and Jacquelien (regional programme coordinator Asia) are currently in Islamabad to work with our NCO RutgersWPF Pakistan and other stakeholders on the start up of dance4life Pakistan. And to start with some good news – dance4life Pakistan is definitely going to happen this year, with support from Dutch government funding !
Read what Susan and Jacquelien have to say after their first 3 days in Pakistan…
“RutgersWPF Pakistan has been trying to get us to Pakistan ever since 2008 and we are happy to learn that dance4life fame has preceded us here. Staff at the office know the drill, they have taught students as part of National Youth Day activities and even Pakistan TV showed the dance4life moodclip on World AIDS Day! Talk about fertile grounds…
Today we are having a workshop with RutgersWPF and their implementing partners in the cities of Quetta (Balochistan, near the Afghan border) and Multan (South Punjab, one of the areas which is affected by the recent floods) on how to implement dance4life in Pakistan. Talking about our project in the overall culturally and religiously conservative context of Pakistan leads to interesting discussions:
- Talking about condoms is possible. But only in an HIV prevention context and not when talking about safe sex. Even more so, safe sex or abstinence in itself are not subjects that you’d discuss “because youth don’t have sex”. How to deal with this?
- Islam prohibits dancing but in Sufism, the inner, mystical dimension of Islam, dancing is widely accepted and you can even see women dancing in public at a Sufi shrine. So should we incorporate Sufism into dance4life?!
- Reversed education, i.e. where students teach their parents on life skills (never use the word sexuality education in Pakistan!) is a mechanism that proves to work really well. It could thus be that thanks to dance4life agents4change will be having “the sex talk” with their parents or even referring their mums to a health clinic!
- Finally, do we include religious (madaris) or not? This is where the really poor people go for education as the system is completely free of charge and the schools also provide food and shelter. However, to what extent can you achieve your goals and satisfy the Mullahs at the same time? On the other hand, private schools, where your impact in number of students will be much higher and easier achieved, might be considered to be elitist and already in a privileged position. How to balance this?
Of course it is not just work and we just want to share a few impressions of what we’ve seen so far. Our very first impression arriving in Islamabad can be summarized as: grey, sandy, few women in sight, fancy decorated mini-buses… Half an hour and a few (unmanned) road blocks later we were safely tucked away in a fancy residential area.
And inside the RutgersWPF office you don’t notice the conservatism at all – very open discussions on sexuality issues and strong, vocal women!”
Thanks Jacquelien and Susan for these insights – certainly lots of food for thought. It’s going to be an exciting year!