What We Do
Empowerment and strengthening of communities has been at the heart of Alight’s activities, particularly focusing females, girls, and children who are regarded as more vulnerable segments in the society. Serving the target communities with utmost respect and dignity, Alight always follows a holistic approach to ensure an integrated and sustainable development model.
Since inception of its operations in Pakistan in 2002, Alight has been a staunch proponent of social transformation through focused interventions in multiple areas including humanitarian assistance to Afghan refugees & host communities, rehabilitation of devastating 2005 earthquake affectees in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Alight also joined ranks in international for the rehabilitation of 2011 floods affectees.
Alight works with partners to tackle critical problems in program areas of healthcare, education, skill development, nutrition, teachers’ training, social innovation, protection, eradication of gender-based violence, livelihoods, shelter and camp management for the empowerment of disadvantaged communities across Pakistan.
In order to supplement government efforts in achieving Sustainable Development Goals 1, 3, 5, and 10, Alight is implementing the “Gaamzan” project to fast-tracking secondary education for girls. Likewise, for the achievement of SDGs 1, 4, 5, and 8, Alight is implementing youth skill development programme captioned “Khud Kafeel”. Focusing on the empowerment of girls and closing the genders gap at the workplace, Alight is also implementing a project captioned “Mustaqbil” to impact digital skills to girls to achieve SDGs 1, 6, 8, and 10.
Currently, Alight Pakistan and Government of Pakistan through Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training are implementing the largest-ever countrywide program in collaboration with Educate A Child (EAC) programme, a global initiative of Education Above All Foundation (EAA), Qatar, to enroll one million Out-Of-School Children (OOSC) in Pakistan.
Through its strategic partners including provincial education departments, National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and other civil society organizations, Alight Pakistan is implementing this three years program in 56 districts of Pakistan where 816,329 out-of-school children aged 6-16 have been enrolled as of December 2019.
Right to education is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention of Children’s Rights, it is guaranteed by the constitutions of most states, including Pakistan, yet still millions of children worldwide have no access to education at primary level. There are many reasons why children are out of school. Most common misconceptions are blaming the parents or gender-based discrimination that prevents girls from attending schools. But that is only a small fragment of a complex picture. Most often children don’t go to school because they simply cannot afford to, or there is no school available where they live, or there is not enough space in existing schools to accommodate all the children. Sometimes there aren’t any teachers available. Sometimes school building lacks basic facilities such as bathrooms or boundary walls.
At Alight we look at the whole story, and we examine each detail to comprehend the nature of the problem and to find best remedy. We talk to the local communities and work in partnership with the government, and together we co-design solutions best suited to the local context. We build the schools, we provide basic supplies and expand the capacity of the existing ones, we train the teachers and provide accelerated curriculum especially designed for the out of school children. We understand there is no miracle cure, but rather there are myriads of ways in which we can improve the existing system. So we do the doable and we do the better. We make small – and not so small – changes, that make a big difference. Our impact can be measured in number of children we put in school – that is about 1 million, but the effect of education on life of each of these children is immeasurable.
We see education as the great equalizer and learning as an empowering experience. And we believe that education is key for social and economic development of the nation, as well as basic right that we have a duty to provide access to.
In 2018-2021 we run the largest ever OOSC intervention in cooperation with the Pakistani government and other partner NGOs. And together we achieved remarkable results. We worked out innovative solutions: our academic calendar and accelerated curriculum made it possible for children who missed several years of school to make up for the loss quickly and to join mainstream education. Our subject workbooks that we distributed in non-formal schools proved to be so successful that the Literacy & Non-Formal Basic Education (L&NFBE) department Punjab requested to provide these supplementary materials in all 13,000 Literacy Centers in the province.
In collaboration with Oxademy UK and Allama Iqbal Open University we trained the non-formal school teachers and provided them with the course certificates. We made the training accessible online – when the pandemic prevented face-to-face interaction, and we prepared offline version – for those teachers living in remote areas without internet access.
Children in the mountainous region of Gilgit Baltistan who could not study online during the pandemic, simply because there is no internet access where they live, also had to be catered for. We reached to them through radio – with our dedicated Muallim Radio Programme specially designed for primary school students. Again, the project proved so successful that the Federal Ministry of Education & Training and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting have formally agreed (through MoU) to spread it throughout the country as “Nationwide School Initiative.”
As part of the Gaamzan project we launched a mobile learning facility (Mobile van) to our Non-Formal Schools in Gilgit Baltistan region.
We achieved the campaign target – we found a place in school for 1 million children, yet we realize that there are still millions of out of school children. We see our Educate A Child campaign then not as a finished project, but hopefully a prelude to something even bigger. We are ready to embark on the mission of giving every child a chance to learn – a chance for better future.
Poverty is a manmade problem, not a natural occurrence, therefore it is the responsibility of all men to find a solution to it. At Alight we believe that abundance is everywhere and everyone can succeed if they are given a chance to uncap their potential.
Our livelihood and skill development programs are designed to do just that – to give individuals and communities an opportunity to develop their skills and talents, to lift themselves out of poverty and become self-sustainable. We don’t come with ready-made solutions – we engage in a dialogue and we co-design the solutions based on local needs and resources. We respect indigenous knowledge and traditional skills and we seek the ways to turn those into valuable assets.
We support the livelihood of individuals, families and communities in many ways, based on the needs and circumstances: we deliver vocational training, we provide wheat and livestock, we teach basic skills needed for job seeking, we supply start-up kits and initial material support to help people help themselves. We believe in people’s right of self-determination and we recognize the importance of equity. We help build the organizational capacity of communities – we give people back their voice and their dignity. We know that strong communities offer the best network of support and are more resilient.
It is our mission to empower the people so that they would not have to rely on assistance of the organizations like ours. Even though the livelihood programs are often addressed to people who lost their means of support as a result of natural disasters, we always try to go beyond emergency aid. Our strategies are designed for the long-lasting positive impact, not just a temporary relief.
Having access to primary healthcare is often a matter of life and death. The distribution of health facilities in Pakistan is uneven and some communities have to travel for hours to see a doctor. At Alight we believe that every human deserves human-worthy service, and access to healthcare facilities is at the core of basic human capabilities. The lack of access to health facilities becomes even a bigger problem when disasters strike – one crisis aggravates another and we have to deal with many wicked problems that require multifaceted solution.
Our approach to healthcare provision is a combination of efforts to provide basic supplies and training, to educate and raise awareness of health issues, and to promote change in key hygienic behaviors. Working across Pakistan, we have reached out to nearly 50,000 patients, trained 3000 healthcare workers and established 39 health facilities in collaboration with UNHCR. Our partnerships are far-ranging – from village health committees to government agencies.
We are committed to providing reproductive healthcare facilities to vulnerable communities, and we strive to overcome obstacles such as cultural norms, social stigma, fear and conflicts that prevent women access to midwives, doctors and trained nurses.
Sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene in health centers and schools remains a challenge in Pakistan. At Alight Pakistan we understand that community involvement is imperative for sustainable positive changes. We also have a good grasp on the local challenges, including hygiene behaviors and we consider them carefully when co-designing interventions. Our integrated WASH campaign was effective in mobilizing communities to eliminate open defecation, improved safe drinking water availability, storage, usage and treatment, increased WASH amenities availability at health facilities and led to a significant change in key hygiene behaviors.
Nutrition has been the cross-cutting theme for Alight Pakistan since 2002. Malnutrition is a recognized health problem in Pakistan, and in local contexts, women and children are vulnerable to severe and acute malnutrition risks because of gender-based discriminatory norms and social inequalities. Our nutrition programs emphasize addressing all forms of malnutrition by reinforcing and strengthening multi-sectoral programs and policies that aim to improve the diet, nutritional status, and health of mothers, infants, and young children at critical stages of their lives.
Capacity building of healthcare providers is one of the major mandates of the Nutrition Program as it has extensively supported training of care providers in the management of severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Technical and financial support is being provided to respective departments of health in capacity building & treatment guidelines. It also includes training in food security, infant & young child feeding, dietary & livelihood interventions through cash-based transfers and structural and non-structural activities.
The climate change and its consequences, such as floods, draughts and catastrophic winds, affect world communities disproportionally. Those most vulnerable are often most exposed. Helping people in times of crisis requires knowhow and quick action, as well as familiarity with local natural, social and cultural environments.
In Pakistan natural disasters are becoming ever more common and support of humanitarian organizations is crucial. We were some of the first to respond to the emergency crisis following the 2005 earthquake in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the 2007 Cyclone Yemyin, and the 2010-2011 floods in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. When people suddenly lose everything, it is not enough to supply them with shelter and food, we need to give them hope for better future and help them see the way their lives can be rebuild.
That is why our emergency aid is not all about distribution of essential goods. We do provide emergency shelter, food rations and non-food items, as well as primary healthcare arrangements, but we go beyond that organizing school or other provisions for education for the displaced, enrolling youths in our skill development programs and helping families regain financial stability. We always seek ways in which we can make a real positive difference and we have learnt that it is best achieved when we diversify our efforts and work on multiple levels.
For a long time, it was helping the refugee communities that was the focus of our humanitarian work. Pakistan has hosted some of the largest refugee community over four decades now. The first group of Afghan refugees arrived in 1979, following the Soviet invasion. As the crisis in Afghanistan evolved and deepened more and more people sought the safety in the neighboring Pakistan. At its peak, Pakistan has hosted around 5 million Afghan refugees in different parts of the country and today it still accommodates nearly 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees. Pakistan has also traditionally been a destination for Afghan migrants to access services and better livelihood opportunities.
Our refugee programs are multidimensional and reflects the way we see the displaced people – not solely through the lens of the disaster that changed their lives, not through what they have lost, but for what they could do in the future. The change in our organization’s name also happened for this reason – we know that labels, such as ‘refugee’ are stigmatizing and we understand that nobody wants to have their life defined by a single dark moment.
Our refugee programs are meant to offer support at different levels – we supply primary healthcare and run nutrition campaigns, we work to prevent gender based violence and support the victims, we provide quality education and youth empowerment programs. We believe that just meeting a refugee’s basic needs is not enough. Meaning and purpose, pride and hope, a sense of connection and belonging; these are the needs we must meet. It’s deeply personal. And it’s deeply human.
At Alight Pakistan we are committed to helping those most vulnerable and often it is women and children who require that extra protection. Regarded as one of the most powerful tools of the patriarchy, violence against women in Pakistan is both a crime and a socially accepted norm. Despite there being laws that protect women from violence, their implementation is inadequate and the GBV remains unreported and undealt with. In some cases, GBV is symptomatic of the breakdown of community structures and trauma caused by displacement. The rise of GBV usually follows armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies, adding distress to those who are already suffering.
Alight’s approach to gender equity is grounded in a broader philosophy of social inclusion. It is based on Alight’s core values defining that all individuals have the right to achieve their fullest potential in social well-being and human development. We understand that women and girls are powerful agents of social transformation as well as pivotal contributors to the socio-economic well-being of the global community. Our protection program is based on the principles of prevention and response, offering the survivors access to support groups and legal assistance, educating them on their rights as well as coping practices, and engaging whole communities to systematically solve the problem of GBV.
On February 26, 2020, Pakistan confirmed its first case of coronavirus. As the pandemic spread around the globe it exposed vulnerabilities of states and communities and posed challenges exceeding the health matters. Pakistan’s already cash-strained economy was stretched to its limits as the consequence of necessary restrictions to prevent spread of the disease. And as usually, those most vulnerable, people who support their families by earning daily wages and doing lowest paid jobs, were most affected as the country went into partial lockdown.
In the wake of daunting challenge, we called upon our tried and tested partners to co-create the solutions that could mitigate the suffering of communities in the testing times. Alight Pakistan effectively mobilized partners and philanthropists to ensure urgent food security for communities in need.
We arranged necessary medical equipment through district administration for the safety of frontline medical and para-medical staff. We launched a massive awareness campaign to sensitize the communities about the threat and prevention from the deadly virus on radio and social media platforms, and reached out four million plus people. To cater to the educational needs of children, Alight produced and aired dedicated radio programme for the primary school children to ensure distance learning without disruption in Gilgit Baltistan region. Alight Pakistan helped National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in establishment of 1st dedicated healthcare facility for infectious treatment which was purposefully built to treat COVID-19 patients on the outskirts of Islamabad – with a capacity of 250 beds. Alight Pakistan is currently in the final stages of a comprehensive research campaign conducted to gauge impact of Covid-19 on children’s education.