Perween Rahman was one of Pakistan’s brightest lights. A renowned social worker, urban planner, and architect, Perween spent decades working on poverty alleviation projects with the guiding philosophy of ‘apni madad aap’ (help yourself). On 13th March 2013, Perween was murdered by armed assailants while returning home from work. Her death has been mourned across Pakistan and the social development world.
Perween Rahman was an internationally renowned architect, planner and social scientist. She studied architecture at the Department of Architecture and Planning at the Dawood College of Engineering and Technology (DCET). In 1982, Perween joined the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) as an intern. Over the years, she worked on furthering OPP’s mission of upgrading informal settlements by supporting their communities in building sanitation and water supply infrastructure, schools, and improving housing.
When Akhtar Hameed Khan passed away in 1999, Perween took on the direction of the institute and ably led it to the fame and prestige that it enjoys today. Under her able guidance, OPP received international recognition from organizations like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Bilateral Development Agencies, and international NGOs began to replicate and adapt the OPP-RTI model of development in their projects in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Central Asia. In Pakistan, the project expanded out of Orangi to 562 locations in both urban and rural areas of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. To date it has benefitted more than 3 million people in Pakistan and continues to expand through a process of training, research and extension. Perween’s academic and community involvement has produced a large number of planning professionals, NGO leaders and community activists who have been at the forefront for a pro-poor policy change nationally and internationally. Her most important role, however, has been of sharing her knowledge and that of her organization with academia, NGOs, communities, and government institutions. Perween Rahman leaves behind a nationally and internationally acclaimed Pakistani Community Development NGO – one that has been cited as the most successful Poverty Alleviation Program in the world.
Enriched by the Power She Gave
She breathed the sorrows of the world
That sang like fumes on the urban swamp
And swept in columns from the cut hills
Until a hundred lifetimes pierced her throat
What is it about their silent misery?
She saw it in their fallen gait
Their stilted speech and broken mien
The deathly shuffling of their feet
To raise the poor from their grief
And light the lanterns that they keep
She found the language that they speak
And gave them arms to lift the weak
She dreamed the hope of every hut
That rises reaching to the skies
For times of plenty on this earth
When daylight promises a day of peace
Her labor was truly for their souls
To show their values in their work
Embodied by her smile they live
Enriched by all the power she gave.
Pakistani Advocate For The Poor Slain By Gunmen
Perween Rahman: Pyar
Perween Rahman, a dear friend, colleague and valued mentor remembered
Nausheen H. Anwar
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