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NGO today is a very common world used extensively especially by the people of the developing countries.

I am sure majority of those for whom NGOs work do not even know the meaning of the abbreviation because of the target areas where they work, which is often being in the rural areas of the developing world where literacy rates are far lower. Poverty is the greatest of all challenges that the globalized world is facing today. To overcome this challenge 191 members of the UN signed the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. Which aim at reducing the poverty and hunger as its priority and to reduce by half the number of people living on less than a half a dollar a day by 2015 (suharko:2007). Like the increase in number of the NGOs their sphere of activities and influence both have increased rapidly (Rugendyke:2007). Why NGOs? Why NGOs? To me it is because of the failure of governmental agencies in the developing countries in reducing poverty or providing people with the basic necessities of life providing an alternative to these where with the help of teams of expertise they identify the problems, involve the poorest into productive activities which leads to development and poverty alleviation. Rugendyke is of the the view that there are a number of factors that contribute in the increasing number of NGOs, where some of the factors are; flexibility and innovative response to problems, they are likely to work without discrimination in far flung areas which may not be politically popular areas, and better links with the neediest people. I agree with her point of view on the above mentioned reasons but some of her other reasons are not convincing enough e.g their apolitical nature, and easy implementation of their programs, because in a country like Pakistan the NGOs if not fully political must have some political affiliation so as to avoid the hurdles coming their ways also the all powerful bureaucracy in a country like Pakistan does not seem to allow NGOs implement their program so easily.

NGOs in Pakistan: Looking at the situation of NGOs in pakistan today one would see a number of NGOs working in different capacities. An exact number of NGOs in Pakistan is not known but a rough estimates are possible. In a publication of UNDP in 2001, number was suggested to be between 8,000 to 16,000. If non-registered NGOs are added to registered one, number of Pakistani NGOs could be anywhere between 25,000 to 35,000.1 Today one can easily find the changing roles and functions of NGOs in Pakistan, besides poverty reduction a number of NGOs are working today to impart educational and health awareness, empowerment of women has been one such area which has remained a focus of the NGOs in Pakistan because of the women in Pakistan mostly living inside the four walls of the houses, having no access to the outer world also the changing political scenario in Pakistan and the growth of

extremism has also led the NGOs focus on the conditions of women. The Pakistani parliament is also shaping its policies to the recommendations of the NGOs so as to provide maximum independence to the women. Recently a women harassment bill has been signed by the president ensuring maximum freedom and protection to women.2 But one wonders if it is because of some of the NGOs who work on such issues, the answer would be partly yes and partly No.

Women empowerment and NGOs: I will particularly be focusing on women rights and the role of NGOs in Pakistan because of the worse women conditions in the country. Women who are almost half the population of the country but they were until recently a section ignored and poorly presented in different spheres of life. Women in Pakistan are not only discriminated in financial terms but also are victims of the local traditional practices and customs one such example is the Jirga system which decides many issues about women without being involved in the process. Domestic violence is much common especially in the villages of Sindh and Punjab where women are subject to both physical and psychological torture. The main reason behind all this is womens unawareness of her legal rights. The legal rights literacy is must for them so as to defend themselves in a male dominated society like Pakistan. Since mid 1980s different NGOs actively started working for women in Pakistan (Farman:2004) which are busy informing, educating, analyzing and knocking the door of the government regarding different issues especially related to human rights, where it is considered as an appropriate forum to raise different sorts of issues with the government. But the question remains unanswered that are these NGOs so far successful in achieving their targets and aims? Governments often prepare proposals and plan on different issues but rarely without the involvement of NGOs and civil societies it has been successful. NGOs also shape the suitability of different laws in the context of human rights. NGOs bring forth the human rights violation in front of the government and other responsible institutions. A Case Study: One very prominent case is that of a lady named Mukhtara Mai who was gang raped in Pakistan on the order of a local tribal council in 2002 in retribution for her 12-year-old brother's supposed relationship with a girl from a higher caste.3 It was the assistance and pressure from the NGOs and other civil society organizations which led to the punishment of victims otherwise her case like many of her fellow Pakistani women would have gone unheard. 3

After realizing the worse conditions of women rights in the country the Government of Pakistan in 2006 passed a Women protection bill which placed the rape laws under the Pakistan penal codeand shunned the last controversial hudood ordinance, the bill is widely considered as an outcome of the efforts of the NGOs.4 Even in the last few weeks the president of Pakistan signed yet another bill for women harassment in work places which is also considered as a milestone achievement for NGOs in a conservative society like Pakistan. NGOs in broader sphere: Today one could clearly see the positive change in the conditions of women before and after the active role role of NGOs. I would rather say that it is not only the women rights in Pakistan but other areas as well where NGOs have played aleading role especially in the fields of health, education, and disasters. The most prominent example is that of the 2005 massive earth quake in Pakistan that killed more than 75,000 people. It was the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of NGOs in Pakistan, a network of 85 major NGOs in the country, who mounted a combined relief effort for the affectees of earthquake. To provide food, shelter, medicine clothing and other essential items to millions of injured and homeless people, JAC urgently needs essential items to be transported to the remote regions, including Muzaffarabad, Kohala, Bagh, Rawlakot in AJK; and in Abottabad, Mansehra, Balakot, Battal, Garhi-Habibullah, Battagram and other areas in the Hazara region5. These areas are mostly rough and rigid mountainous areas and it would have been impossible for the government to do along with the situation alone. I myself worked with an INGO that played a leading role in dispensing relief goods including, food, shelter, in the first phase and later on psycho social education at a later stage. The NGOs have made such achievements in the fields of health as well especially in the far flung areas where people do not have access to even the basic health facilities. The failure of NGOs Though NGOs have placed their selves in a position equal and opposite to government institutions in development giving rise to new development paradigm. Zaidi (1999) mentions different failures and their reasons prominent of which are; dependence on donors funds which raises questions about legitimacy of different funds. He further mentions that a failure to follow donors criteria can lead to delay in funds which can alternately stop the already running projects. In some cases if the donors run out of money the NGO can stop functioning at all thereby creating problems for the target population. There are questions about the internal democratic nature of NGOs who try to democratize the society. Zaidi also mentions of the wrong claims that NGOs make of reaching the poorest of the poors as he mentions the cases of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe where the NGOs have failed even to deliver to 20% of this class of people. I from my own experience would also mention of the politicization of the NGOs because in Pakistan NGOs are mostly allied with the political forces in power which leads to favoritism in
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the organization. While working in NGO, I also noticed that a lot of money is wasted organizing conferences and seminars which is a waste of money of the poorer on such lavish activities. Different obstacles to NGOs: NGOs work in developing countries where security situation is not often good, a recent incident in Pakistan claimed five lives who were all working in the NGOs that was attacked by some miscreants6, which is not the first attack of its kind. NGOs also face certain obstacles from bureaucratic administration of states while implementing their projects. Local people sometimes also become major obstacles in way of implementation of projects i.e. in Pakistan clergy often resist expansion of NGOs projects. One more, very important obstacle is the minimal involvement of women in the social activities of NGOs which does not yield authentic data about females in the target population.

Conclusion: Looking at the discussion above one can observe that NGOs today have really penetrated into societies throughout the world, they have brought into worlds consideration issues that were quite away from sight. There role in disasters, and human development must not be underestimated.

References: Suharko 2007: The Roles of NGOs in Rural Poverty Reduction: The Case of Indonesia and India,
Graduate school of international development Nagoya university Japan. Rugendyke 2007: NGOs as Advocates for Development in a Globalising World, Routledge canada Farman.N, 2004: The role of NGOs in women rights in Pakistan, PhD thesis Karachi university Zaidi,A. 1999. NGO failure and the need to bring back the state. Journal of International Development, Vol 11, number 2, Karachi Pakistan.