Safina Z. Siddiqi
When nearing the age of 60 - a time of retirement for most people - Safina Z. Siddiqi was just gearing up to lead the women in her neighbourhood in Karachi in a campaign to improve their environment and living conditions. Her living-room wall - plastered with "before" and "after" pictures - portrays the fruits of the women's efforts. Before, the streets were pitted with potholes, open sewers spilled over contaminating drinking water and uncollected garbage accumulated into stinking heaps on the road sides. Since 1989, when Siddiqi founded the Karachi Administration Women's Welfare Society (KAWWS), the sites have changed. The women - the majority of whom are housewives with no university education like Siddiqi - pressured civil servants to help them build and repair roads in neglected areas, fix sewers and install street lights. The women themselves established a garbage collection system, planted tree saplings, negotiated a caretaking system to ensure their survival, and established eight parks - one which replaced a sewage pond. In 1992, KAWWS made quality drinking water a national issue when it filed public interest litigation before the country's Supreme Court as a human rights case. Siddiqi and her neighbours' efforts have attracted more members and international recognition. Membership has swelled to more than 100 and Siddiqi's story was one of 200 community development successes reported during the 1991 Global Assembly of Women and Environment in Miami, USA.