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An Architect Of Change: Mehboob Ul Haq

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By Waleed Tariq:

Development economics is a branch of economics which deals with the economic aspects of the development process in low-income or third world countries. Since it birth as a discipline, it has produced a number of people who have set an example for others through their policies and research work. Dr. Mehboob Ul Haq is one of them whose works in the field have had a global impact.

Mehboob Ul Haq, one of Pakistan’s best known economists was born in pre-partition Punjab in 1934. “As a young teenager he saw the turmoil and massacres associated with the partition of 1947: his own family narrowly escaped being butchered. The nature of sectarian violence left a lasting impression on the mind of this young boy. His total rejection of sectarianism, bigotry and social hatred played a major part in the development of his Universalist outlook, including his passionate belief in the importance of “equality of life chances” for all, as the guiding principle behind his global reports” writes Amartya Sen, his long-life friend.
After completing his early education, he attended Government College, Lahore and King’s College, London for his secondary education. He later enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge after which he went to Yale for a degree and a doctorate in Economics. In Cambridge he befriended Amartya Sen and Man Mohan Singh.

Subsequent to some post doctoral work at Harvard, Haq returned to Pakistan and became the chief economist of Pakistan’s Planning Commission at a remarkably young age. Amartya Sen in his article ‘Obituary’ writes “Despite being, inevitably, a pillar of establishment, Haq retained his healthy skepticism of the process of planning of which he was in charge”.
In early 1960’s, he wrote his first book with a far reaching and wide ranging analysis ‘The strategy of economic planning’. This was one of his major contributions to development studies which also contained, among many other things, one of the first systematic accounts of the widening economic gulf between the East and the West Pakistan — an issue that should have been given importance.

In October 1968, Haq became critically ill and the medical system in Pakistan at that time could not cope with his illness. President Ayub Khan, whose government he had criticized earlier for crony capitalism, took the extraordinary steps to send him to London for treatment.

From 1970 to 1982, Haq worked in World Bank as a director of Policy Planning department. He also served as a Chief Economic Advisor to Robert McNamara, the then President of the Bank, with whom he established a remarkable alliance in working out strategies for poverty removal with respect to education, health, water, sanitation and environment.

During his World Bank tenure, he also addressed issues of New Interactive Economic Order (NIEO) and collective self reliance of developing countries. Those were the days of great intellectual ferment among the political and social leaders of the world. Through Third World Forum, North South Roundtable, and NIEO debate at the UN, many world leaders from both developed and developing countries were involved on issues to make this a better world for everybody and every nation. He played a leading role in producing ideas, preparing papers and advocating those ideas in various forums.

Following his international tenure, from 1982 to 1988, Haq remained in Pakistan serving as a cabinet minister for Finance, Planning and Commerce. For him, this was the period of many innovative ideas that he introduced to promote human welfare. This resulted in rising economic growth, reduction in poverty, resource mobilization for education, many villages in Pakistan got electricity and family planning was also introduced. Moreover, the Sixth Five-Year Plan was formulated during this time to cover the period 1983 — 1988.

During his tenure, the Planning Commission played a vital role in effectively formulating and implementing the economic scheduling. This five year plan not only benefited Pakistan but also went overseas to the Koreans. Pakistan Observer on 31st March 2010 reports ‘Korean Consul General praised the competency of Pakistan’s former minister for Planning and Developing Dr Mehboob-Ul-Haq who gave the best 5-year plan to Pakistan and his country also benefited from this important document’.

In the year 1990, Haq again came to the international stage as UNDP advisor. All the seeds of human development that had been growing in Haq’s mind over the previous thirty years blossomed as the UNDP Human Development Report with the collaboration of the greatest generation of socially and ethically conscious economists who were dear friends and colleagues of Mehboob over the years.

Amartya Sen writes “It was in this capacity that he launched the now famous Human Development Reports which have been published annually since 1990. He gathered around him a dedicated team of social scientists, including a group of like-minded economists who served as consultants, such as Paul Streeten, Gustav Ranis, Keith Griffin, Frances Stewart, Lord (Meghnad) Desai, Sudhir Anand, among others”.

HDR and HDI gave him the world stage to propagate his ideas for human development, human security and women’s empowerment. And the best thing that happened was that this time these ideas got institutionalized in the UNDP HQ and national offices, and in many forums and institutions around the world.

Human Development——the process of enlarging people’s choices in all fields of human endeavor——is at the forefront of today’s development debate, with national human development strategies being produced in over 100 countries. Mehboob Ul Haq’s pioneering work has greatly influenced the global search for new development paradigms and has helped launch many new policy proposals, such as the 20:20 global compact and the setting up of a UN Economic Security Council.

Towards his end days, Haq started talking about the taboo subjects — the rising costs of military expenditure, the futility of nuclear race, the lack of development cooperation within the region etc. Before his death, he passionately talked about what seven independent political entities of South Asia could gain as one economic unit along the lines of the European Union. Today looking at the realities of South Asia that vision seems to be only a dream, probably never to be realized.

He died on July 16, 1998 in New York, leaving behind his wife Khadija Haq, son Farhan, and daughter Toneema.

Following his death, the Human Development Centre, Islamabad was renamed, in his honor, as the Mehboob Ul Haq Human Development Centre. In addition, the United Nations Development Project set up The Mehboob Ul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Development to recognize one individual each year whose work exemplifies the level of commitment and expertise in the field of human development.

His work will forever be remembered, as a stepping stone to make way for social change.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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