2021: A Year of Challenges and Opportunities

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Frank F Islam

The digital model is definitely enhancing the emergence of female entrepreneurs

While waves of inflation and Covid-19 economic and health aftereffects kept pushing masses to the wall in 2021, Pakistan and Pakistanis continued to persevere.
By doing this, they were able to convert many of the challenges confronting the nation to opportunities. It is important to recognize and acknowledge these steps forward as 2021 draws to a close.
Most notable from the global perspective was the hosting of 2021’s World Environment Day. Pakistan is listed as one of the ten most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. Despite this, because of its flagship Green Initiatives, it was deemed to be a worthy host for this global discussion of what to do to combat climate change, restore the ecosystem, and reverse the decline in biodiversity.
The most notable accomplishments within Pakistan included: Governmental initiatives to combat Covid-19; alleviate poverty, and improve health care. Individuals seizing the initiative with the emergence of female entrepreneurs; and, citizens speaking out against hate crime. Let me comment briefly on each of these in turn.
Due to its vaccination drive, it is reported that Pakistan has done quite well in combatting covid-19. While neighbouring countries experienced a high number of infections and tragic losses of life, near the end of the year Pakistan’s numbers stood at 1,293,715 cases and 28,909 people dead due to Coronavirus.
These numbers were kept so low because a total of 65,149,948 people had been fully vaccinated and 92,086,806 had been administered their first doses of the vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “The groundwork WHO and Pakistan have laid on combating other diseases has been a decisive factor in limiting the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak so far.”
This year, Pakistan launched the Ehsaas (Feeling) Program, which is a platform for Implementing various measures of poverty alleviation (income support, food safety, education and health). This program aligned with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s New Year resolutions for 2021 which included a Zero hunger initiative and universal health coverage for all citizens.
On the health care front, under the Sehat Sahulat Program (health cards coverage), a total of 7,919,338 families have been enrolled and 2,462,021 hospital visits have been facilitated. Each family is eligible for Rs.60,000 annual health coverage for secondary care services and Rs.3,00,000 annual coverage for primary care services.
Shifting from the governmental to the individual arena, in 2021, female entrepreneurship started to move to the forefront in Pakistan because of online entrepreneurship. A report said that 4,000+ home chefs (the majority of them women using their own kitchens) are working with a leading food delivery service to cater thousands of orders daily. Utilizing their ‘Traditional and Delicious Cuisines’, these women appear to be making a good living from their homes.
The report indicates that in addition to those women there are literally dozens of groups, with hundreds of thousands of members, on big social media platforms where women are engaged in doing business. Among other things, these women sell stitched and unstitched clothes, accessories, jewelry, decorations, and bakery goods such as themed cakes, pastries and pickles etc.
According to the report, “There is a good response, as they make clients both domestic and international. This is also beneficial for the overseas Pakistanis, needing to order Pakistani goods, like eastern dresses and accessories etc.” This digital model is definitely enhancing the emergence of female entrepreneurs who have limited access to capital and showcase their talent both within Pakistan and in other countries.
Turning from the positive to the negative, there was a brutal mob killing in Sialkot of a Sri Lankan accused of blasphemy. The Sri Lankan was a manager of a textile factory. This tragic incident resulted in many across Pakistan speaking out against those who would give a bad name to their country and religion. A group of heads of religious schools met with the Sri Lankan ambassador to express solidarity with the grieved family and to denounce such acts.
Finally, on an uplifting note, there was the performance of the Pakistani cricket team in the T20 world cup. This performance was kicked off by their win against the Indian cricket team. The win was important and special for all Pakistanis. More important for me was to see, the “real victory moment” for both nations, which was heart-melting hugs between skipper Virat Kohli of India and match hero Muhammad Rizwan of Pakistan.
In 2021, Pakistan and Pakistanis converted many challenges to opportunities. Those opportunities provide the platforms for greater progress in all of these areas.
The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah said:
“With Faith, Discipline and Selfless Devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.”
In 2021, Pakistan and Pakistanis have begun a very worthwhile journey of achievement. In 2022 and going forward, they should heed the words of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and continue to use their faith, discipline and selfless devotion to continue that journey to improve the climate, alleviate poverty, enhance health care, develop new entrepreneurs, promote peace and harmony within the country and the region, and to compete with honour, dignity and respect with other countries on the playing fields.
Those are my words and wishes as 2021 draws to a close. Happy new year!