With all the negative imagery in the media nowadays, the Thar developmental projects are a refreshing break of positivity. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari posted a string of tweets in which he highlighted how energy-related projects and a host of other infrastructural facilities are transforming Thar economically and therefore its population as well.

The tweets that stood out the most, however, were these.

These developments are what are worth truly celebrating. The open coal mine in Islamkot is employing local female drivers. Reportedly, they are being given equal pay for the same jobs being done by males in their families as well.

Two points are worth reflection here.

First, women coming into the public sphere in Thar shows how progressiveness isn’t a thing of cities. It breaks the age-old narrative of how ‘traditional’ communities are backward and in need of saving. On the contrary, non-urban communities often have family units working together to sustain the household income. Female employment in Thar energy-related projects is case in point. A female dumper driver at the coal site said, “Women can do everything. If they can do household chores, they can also drive dumpers.” And, truly they are proving their point.

Secondly, local employment opportunities are absolutely necessary to keep economic progress in line with social uplift. It is easy to bring in people from urban centers to carry out daily operations. However, generating local employment is at the heart of any sustainable infrastructural project in rural areas. It also goes out to show that resources are first and foremost the right of the locals. Governmental or even private projects that siphon energy and resources out to other, politically advantageous regions, are exploitative of locals and the natural resources. This is refreshingly not the case with the Thar projects.

The progress is certainly applaudable and PPP’s efforts in the region must be recognized. But greater emphasis must be put on the individuals who are part of this change, such as the women who are breaking free from traditional roles. Thar’s example is worth learning from. Other marginalized regions such as Balochistan are also full of potential. It is only a matter of tapping into this potential, which the Sindh Government is doing for Thar. And the key takeaway to emulate is that the residents themselves are positively at the heart of social and economic change.

*Cover Image Source: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters* 


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