Determination personified: 17-year-old Meerzadi can ride a rickshaw, make smokeless stoves

Heritage Foundation helped the girl enrol in a programme to learn English as well.

Yasmeen Lari August 18, 2013
Meerzadi, a 17-year-old resident of Tando Allahyar, has learned how to ride a rickshaw. She now travels to other villages to teach women how to make smokeless stoves that she learned with the help of Heritage Foundation. PHOTO CREDIT: HERITAGE FOUNDATION


Meerzadi is a 17-year-old young woman in the village of Moak Sharif, Tando Allahyar, which had been all but destroyed by the floods in 2011. Devastated by the flood and lack of resources, heightened trauma, and suffering from a cycle of dependency, illiteracy and poverty, there seems little hope for several thousands of 17-year-olds among 800,000 shelter-less households in Sindh.

But one of its residents decided to take things in her own hands. Meerzadi, the Rickshaw Adhi, is transporting women from one village to another, arguably the only one of her kind in rural Pakistan. Undoubtedly, Meerzadi, who has never been to school, has the initiative and drive to counteract negative forces that are stacked against her.

In late 2011, on an invitation from landlord Mehmood Nawaz Shah, over 200 zero-carbon footprint Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) compliant shelters were constructed by the Heritage Foundation. Subsequent to the completion of mud-lime-bamboo shelter units and other community structures, in early 2013 Heritage Foundation began its smokeless choolah (stove) programme.

These smokeless stoves, which include a chimney, are made with unfired clay that is DRR-compliant, flood resistant, and energy efficient using waste twigs and branches. It is hygienic as well since it is elevated from the ground and prevents eye diseases caused by smoke.

Taking her own initiative and obvious desire to learn, Meerzadi was mentored by the Heritage Foundation as a social franchisee in the art of DRR-compliant smokeless stove-making and dubbed the Choolah Adhi. This happened back in April this year.

Within a month, she received 14 orders from the women in her village to provide her expertise in choolah-making at the rate of Rs200 each. With Rs2,800 in her pocket earned solely through her newly acquired expertise, she opened a small grocery store in her DRR-compliant shelter. Three weeks later, she purchased a mobile phone, and a few weeks later she started trading in wheat, as it provided a greater profit margin.

Today, her grocery shop is doing well and she has enrolled in Heritage Foundation’s ParhoPakistan (ReadPakistan) programme devised in collaboration with Safeeyah Moosa of Spiritual Chords of South Africa. The African organisation has already started its programme in several Madiba villages, in sponsorship by the Muslims of South Africa. Here, Meerzadi is learning to read English - the programme being a fast track literacy course for word recognition.

In June 2013, Heritage Foundation, the Islamic Development Bank Prize Laureate 2013, provided her a rickshaw on loan from the generous prize money that had been received.

Meerzadi, the Choolah Adhi, utilising her newly acquired skill of rickshaw driving, has begun to venture to other villages where she is providing training in choolah-making.

It is hoped that soon, not only will women take courage from Meerzadi’s example but the art of smokeless choolah-making would be spread across villages in Sindh through the enterprise of countless Chulah Adhis trained under Heritage Foundation’s Barefoot Women Entrepreneurship programme.

The writer is the CEO of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, a cultural and social entrepreneur organisation established in 1980.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2013.


LuvPak | 10 years ago | Reply

A very good article and definitely a good news for the poor & the destitute. I believe the Chohla takes useless & waste twigs like it says and due to its efficiency provide same heat that dry woods gives off. It being smokeless is a great environmental achievement for the cooks and the people's health of that village or it's surrounding. I wish there are more women who participate in such activities for their village & family.

expaki | 10 years ago | Reply

@Yasmeen Lari ! one of the best news from my birth place. A VERY BIG THANK YOU and ALL GIRLS AND BOYS @ET. Yasmeen Bibi, Wish I was in Pakistan, I would have bought best flowers my pocket could have permitted and offered to my this little daughter, MEERZADI. While I bow my head to all those who helped her to achieve her this dream.

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ