Creating Opportunities and Inspiration in Punjab

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Small Grants and Ambassador’s Fund Program (SGAFP) organized a showcase event titled “Creating Opportunities and Inspiration” to celebrate USAID’s support to NGO’s and private organizations for carrying out self-help community based initiatives. Held on August 18, 2016 in Lahore, the event was attended by over 120 people, including representatives from grantee organizations, international humanitarian and funding agencies, the provincial government and, print and electronic media.


Provincial Minister for Population Welfare Begum Zakia Shahnawaz Khan graced the event as chief guest, with Acting U.S. Consul General in Lahore Ms. Deborah Robinson participating as the guest of honor. Other representatives from USAID included Mr. Waseem Ashraf, Adviser, Stabilization & Governance, Ms. Arshia Bano, Development Outreach and Communications Specialist, and Ms. Rida Information Assistant.


The event was divided into two parts: the first part highlighted the overall achievements of SGAFP, with a particular focus on Punjab, and ended with the grant-signing ceremony of three new projects in Punjab. In the second half, Ms. Deborah Robinson, Acting Consul General Lahore, had an informal interactive session with the representatives of selected grantee organizations. This session provided an opportunity to the grantees to share their experiences of grant implementation and challenges faced during the process.


Mr. Saeed Ashraf Siddiqi, Chief of Party (CoP) SGAFP presented an overview of the Program, its accomplishments and the diversity of sectors it has covered in the six years of its implementation. He highlighted that the Program had created impacts at various levels and achieved many milestones since its inception. He shared glimpses of few grant projects across Punjab to exude the nature and diversity of SGAFP’s work. He informed the participants that SGAFP had covered 18 sectors or thematic areas since its inception. This in built flexibility in the Program design was a huge advantage, which allowed SGAFP to respond to the emerging needs of the communities under any sector. He also highlighted some conspicuous and overarching impacts of SGAFP’s grant projects which included SGAFP’s unique capability to channel USAID funds to the grassroots level and promoting the USG’s soft image among the beneficiary communities, highly visible Program profile in terms of its vast number of beneficiaries – 1.7 million across Pakistan and 370,000 across Punjab, enhanced capacity of the SGAFP’s grantee organization through constant and effective engagement, involvement of communities at all stages of development process and fostering the culture of transparency and accountability through highly evolved monitoring mechanisms. The CoP also informed the participants that the Program had awarded 257 countrywide grants in 112 districts, of which 56 grants had been awarded in Punajb covering 27 districts.


The CoP’s presentation was followed by a documentary titled, ‘Where the n Pinches’. The documentary poignantly depicted the plight of a large number of children working in the most unhygienic and filthy conditions in the leather tanneries in Kasur district and how a grant project supported by SGAFP transformed the lives of 500 of these children by providing them primary level education through accelerated learning in a clean and dignified environment, and mainstreaming them in regular schools. This inspiring story profoundly touched every participant of the event. Following the documentary, Ms. Manahil Wazir, a project beneficiary of a grant awarded to Sanjh Preet Organization (SPO) shared her story. Sanjh Preet is a Lahore based organization, which through SGAFP’s support was able to enhance employability of females in the Information Technology (IT) Sector. The organization played a critical role in creating gender friendly environment in 10 IT Companies in Lahore; and placed 120 female graduates as internees in the same companies, with more than half of them gaining regular employment after the internship. Teeming with confidence and self-esteem, Ms. Manahil candidly shared how the grant project built her capacity to seek employment in a hitherto male-dominated profession and how the grant activities helped the female beneficiaries like her to change the work culture in the sector and create acceptance for female IT graduates. She received tremendous applause from the participants.


After this, the guest of honor, Acting Consul General Lahore Ms. Deborah Robinson shared her views. Appreciating the work of NRSP-SGAFP she noted that “although grants under this program are called “Small” Grants, their impact is enormous. They create ripples in the fabric of society, making communities more resilient.” Citing instances of various grant projects, she said that these were just a few of the many ways in which USAID’s Small Grants and Ambassador’s Fund Program was helping Pakistanis. She pointed out that the support provided through the Program bore testimony to the fact that the U.S. government remained committed to continuing and strengthening its enduring relationship with Pakistan and its people.


Then Provincial Minister for Population Welfare Begum Zakia Shah Nawaz Khan shared her reflections on the SGAFP’s work and contribution to the development process in Punjab. She maintained the NGOs have played a critical part in the development of the region and while they appear to be working on a small-scale, it cannot be argued that the impact of their contributions is on a much larger scale and has long-term benefits. She profoundly acknowledged and appreciated the support provided by the United States Government to Pakistan. She thanked the Acting Consul General and the NRSP team for their wonderful work to complement the development priorities of the Government of Punjab. She pledged the Government of Punjab’s continuous support to USAID’s development projects in Punjab.


The event also included a grant-signing ceremony for launching three new projects in Punjab under the SGAFP. These grant projects focused on the thematic areas of Civic Participation and Let Girls Learn.


The first grant signed on the occasion was awarded to Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE). Established in 2011, WISE is a women-led organization, determined to help bring about social change in how women and girls are valued in their communities. Under the present grant, the organization has planned to promote the process of women political empowerment in Districts Lahore and Nankana Sahib, by building capacity of around 900 women counselors. A grant of US $ 152,000 has been awarded to the organization for the purpose. On behalf of WISE, Ms. Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director signed the agreement while SGAFP was represented by its Chief of Party Mr. Saeed Ashraf Siddiq.


The second grant signed on the occasion was awarded to National Initiative for Marginalized Segments (NIMS) Foundation. Established in 1995, NIMS aims to empower destitute individuals and underprivileged communities of society, through collective and focused efforts. Under the awarded initiative, the Foundation has aimed to make learning environment conducive in 06 Government Middle Schools and 04 Government High Schools in Multan. A grant of US $ 113,000 has been awarded to the organization for its execution. Ms. Amna Javed Hashmi, CEO of NIMS Foundation signed the grant agreement.


The third grant signed on the occasion was awarded to Bali Memorial Trust (BMT). Established in 1997 as a public charity BMT follows a multipronged and comprehensive approach to help the disadvantaged in Pakistan. Through the awarded grant, the organization will be strengthening the capacity of its Technical & Secondary School located in Union Council Pandoki, Lahore for its 400-member student body. A grant of US $ 112,000 has been awarded to the organization for the same. Ms. Laila Nusrat, Chairperson of BM signed the grant agreement on behalf of the organization. The grant signing marked the end of the first part of the event.


The Master of Ceremony thanked all the guests for their participation and the speakers for their kind words of encouragement and appreciation.


To view the glimpses of the event, please follow this link: Creating Opportunities and Inspiration


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