As the world struggles to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that there is no going back to the way things were. Faced with economic, societal and healthcare crises at the same time, governments all over the world are finding it challenging to protect the well-being of their people. In this context, the social sector, backed by funding from businesses and private individuals, has become even more critical for the provision of vital social services.
In Pakistan, the crisis has seen prominent businessmen and philanthropists, such as Hussain Dawood – Chairman of Dawood Hercules Corporation and Engro Corporation, rise to the occasion with PKR 1 billion Hussain Dawood Pledge to support the government and communities in COVID-19 relief efforts. Even before the COVID-19 situation, The Dawood Foundation and Engro Foundation have a remarkable history of collaborating with credible partners to make community investments that have transformed lives.
Every year, the Engro Foundation recognizes local change agents and highlights projects that aim to improve lives across different spheres, through its flagship initiative of I Am The Change (IATC) awards. Launched in 2012, this initiative seeks to bridge the gap between the corporate and philanthropic sector of Pakistan. IATC strongly believes that social change can only be achieved if empowered individuals focus their energies for the greater good.
Therefore, IATC celebrates and empowers individuals and entities dedicated towards projects to alleviate hunger, poverty, health, sanitation, education, gender inequality, enhanced livelihoods and many other social issues in Pakistan. Guided by its philosophy, IATC brings to light two categories of social change: social development by not-for-profit organizations and social enterprises that work under a sustainable business model.
With IATC support, these change agents scale-up across Pakistan and multiply their impact on an increasing number of lives. Amidst the global pandemic, this year the IATC awards are recognizing the efforts of unsung heroes working on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19 in Pakistan. At a time when the traditional social and economic structures are constantly being redefined, this theme follows the global trend of appreciating the efforts of frontline “heroes” who have worked tirelessly to serve others, while putting their well-being and lives at great risk.
For instance, in the UAE, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has established the Frontline Heroes Office to recognize and support frontline workers in the long term. In view of the theme, IATC 2020 invited frontline workers, who could be self-nominated or nominated by supervisors/ head of organizations, to share their inspiring impact stories and how they have been able to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19.
The contenders include public sector health professionals, doctors, healthcare workers, personnel as well as blue-collar staff involved in NGOs or industries tackling COVID-19 relief efforts. Applications in five categories were encouraged from these “heroes” across Pakistan for a chance to receive support and recognition for their projects.
A total of PKR 4 million will be distributed amongst eight winners, who will be chosen after an extensive review of applications by the external jury and IATC team at Engro Foundation. Over the last few years, the award has attracted varied social enterprises across multiple fields. In 2019, Azcorp Entertainment and Karwan-e-Hayat were among the award recipients, representing two very diverse agendas.
Azcorp Entertainment is a for-profit social enterprise to create and provide meaningful and entertaining storytelling, which focuses on civic duties, social justice, and gender equality, through evoking social consciousness and prompt respectful dialogue. To achieve this goal, Azcorp has been directly engaging with the children through school activities, theatre shows and releasing comic series, such as Team Muhafiz and Basila & the Street Crew, catering to social plights.
Karwan-e-Hayat aims at providing the best possible psychiatric and rehabilitation services to mentally disturbed individuals, especially the marginalized and poor strata of the society. The organization trains health professionals as well as produce scholarships on mental health issues to connect people suffering from mental disorders with the help they need with dignity, fairness, and respect.
Karwan e Hayat offers comprehensive treatment plans, daycare services, community outreach programmes, and training and workshops through several clinics. Another winner DeafTawk by Traic Pvt. Ltd. provides a platform for the deaf community to match with interpreters for sign language interpretation services, audio-video translation and sign language training. Further, the Association for Rehabilitation of the Physically Disabled (ARPD) is working towards improving the lives of the underdeveloped and vulnerable communities, including the specially-abled persons.
IATC has recognized Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) for strengthening protection of human rights defenders on digital spaces while raising awareness regarding digital-online safety, while Daachi Foundation won the award for ensuring sustainable art development through the support of local craftsmen and artists. As a Pakistani organization, Engro strongly believes in investing in social development by supporting other individuals and institutions who are solving some of today’s most pressing issues.
The Company’s business strategies are also aligned with its vision of creating a sustainable future for the country by contributing social investments in diverse areas, including agriculture, livelihood enhancement, water advocacy and women empowerment. Therefore, through the IATC awards, Engro also showcases how corporate support can help these change agents to develop their capacity to create a much larger impact in the communities.
Such private donor support and public-private partnerships will prove to be critical to assist developing economies, like Pakistan, to emerge past the COVID-19 crisis by complementing the efforts of the government.