Having visited Pakistan several times over the course of my career, my most recent trip with the British Asian Trust impressed on me the changing face of development in the country. It was an exhilarating experience, during which I was delighted to be part of lively conversations around sector innovations, and taking an overall more entrepreneurial approach to tackling Pakistan’s most pressing issues.
The British Asian Trust is very much driven by these values, recognising that the most significant impact can be made by forming strategic partnerships with businesses and Government, as well as civil society organisations. By demonstrating that we can work effectively with a values-driven private sector, as well as local partner organisations, we have developed a very strong and more outcomes focused programme in Pakistan.
After a hugely successful public appeal last year, through which the Trust raised more than £3.5 million for our work across South Asia, the UK Government matched donations made, so that a further £3.5 million could be earmarked for our women’s economic empowerment work in Pakistan. The project was launched six months ago and is already making strong progress. It was fantastic to visit the range of project partners we are working with, to support women and girls to learn the skills they need to secure jobs and grow successful businesses.
I met several highly impressive young entrepreneurs who have not only benefitted from our work, but are going on to transform their lives and their communities, by creating job opportunities and diversifying their enterprises. Some of them were as young as 20 and already running three different businesses!
On this visit, I also met several organisations and individuals who are passionate about supporting people affected by mental health related issues. Lack of vital healthcare and cultural stigma means that many people are left in the margins. Through a partnership with the CareTech Foundation and COSARAF, the British Asian Trust will expand our work in this area, to build on the success of our Mind, Body and Sew appeal, which raised more than £500,000 during Ramadan last year.