Granaz Baluch – Transforming hearts and minds
“I want to be remembered as a philanthropist and an educationist because I believe in humanity and education as elements of change in our society. I believe without education the world is a dark place for everyone.”
Granaz Baloch belongs to a village in Baluchistan, adjacent to the Pakistan – Iran border. Traditionally, people at Granaz’s village were dependent on farming or income that came from men in the family who had moved to the middle east as blue-collar workers. However, things have started to change and more and more people are getting an education. There are two paths that woman of the area generally take, either they study and get a government job or they continue their education to MPhill or PhD levels. Granaz, on the other hand ended up going in a completely different direction.
She started of like anyone else, studying in a school in Turbat, Baluchistan, but once she finished her matriculation she moved to Quetta for her Bachelors. After her studies she came back to Turbat to work, it was during her first job there she got the opportunity to go the US for an exchange program. That was when things began to change, her exposure and experiences changed the way she looked and thought about herself and what she could achieve as an individual especially in the context of her community.
“This exchange program transformed my life and taught me to be brave, persistent, a positive thinker, change maker and an energetic woman ready to work for the community despite the hurdles.”
In addition to the US, she also got the chance to spend time in China because of another exchange program she was selected for by the Government of Baluchistan and the Government of China. There was a significant language barrier but her determination to make the most of this opportunity was greater, and she ended up learning quite a lot about Chinese culture as a solo-traveller.
Granaz has always been passionate about education and health awareness for girls especially since she saw how dire the situation was in her classrooms when she taught in a primary school at the start of her career. This passion gave birth to ‘UDaan’, an organization that works in Turbat and Gwadar and carries out initiatives for women as well as the youth of Baluchistan. A project Granaz has pioneered in these areas is conducting Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) workshops for girls in schools and colleges. She sees a major shift in the attitudes of the girls who participate in these workshops.
“After the Menstrual Hygiene Workshops in different schools, students said that they never thought about how much personal care and hygiene is important for a healthy life and they always ignored it. But now they want to be part of this campaign as volunteers to create awareness about MHM in their community.”
Along with projects around female hygiene, Granaz’s organizations conducts various project in collaboration with other institutes and organizations. As a result, she has done many projects with the University of Turbat, projects that include the first Youth Leadership Conference in the area, a summer school with their Faculty of Science and Engineering and a Magical Science Show for underprivileged students in the area.
Granaz is proud of all of her achievements but one accomplishment she’s particularly proud of is being selected for the Acumen Fellowship this year which she says changed her career goals and life perspective and helped her work as a social change maker and entrepreneur.
“Being an Acumen Fellow is one of my best achievements because it changed my personal and professional ways of learning as a leader and enhanced my critical thinking towards different innovative ideas through working on projects which I never thought I could implement in my community.”
Currently she is working on a Balochi embroidery start-up in collaboration with Islampur Cottage Industries Association which is also run by an Acumen and Ashoka fellow Hazer Gul. Granaz can now see the impact of her initiatives and is excited to see the change they can create as mindsets and thought process’ transform among the young.
It can be quite challenging to be a trailblazer in a traditional community such as hers but having a support system of equally determined people keeps her going.
“Being single and believing in what you do in this society is a very challenging situation especially when I am working on a process to change a traditional old system. However, I always get support from likeminded people in society whenever I initiate any projects.”
Thank you Granaz for sharing your story with us and more power to you as you continue initiating inspiring projects and empowering the youth and women in your community in Baluchistan.
Interview by Hammad Anwar | Written by Sameen Mohsin