The Karakoram Area Development Organization is a local non-for profit NGO registered with the Registrar Joint Stock Companies Gilgit in 1998, under the Companies Ordinance 1984-85, as a company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital. The organization was established with the aim to improve the socio-economic base and living conditions of the rural population of the Hunza valley with special focus on women, small producers and other disadvantaged groups.
The history of KADO begins when some educated, enlightened and socially conscious members of Hunza established an organization with the name Karakoram Handicraft Promotion Society in 1994. The Society in collaboration with Aga Khan Cultural Services established Karakoram Handicraft Development Programme in 1996 to transform local skills and crafts into marketable products and income generating activities for women and disadvantaged groups of the society. KHDP received financial assistance from Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for these activities. With the passage of time the organization recognized the need of the time and initiated new projects. To dispose-off the solid waste of the main towns in central Hunza and create awareness about deteriorating environment issues, KADO established Hunza Environmental Committee (HEC). The project was implemented with the financial and technical supports of EU, NORAD, AKCSP, WWF-P, and IUCN.
The project also lobbied with Government Local Administration and it is expected that the central Hunza main towns will soon be declared as municipality. Soon after it was sensed that the traditional art and culture is badly effecting from external influences. To revive, promote and document the cultural activities and musical heritages KADO initiated a new project “Hunza Arts and Cultural Forum” with the technical and financial support of AKCSP, German Embassy and SRF. During 2004 KADO started the Information & Communication Technology (ICT4D) project in order to use ICT tools in poverty reduction in remote mountains.
People with disabilities are the most disadvantaged and isolated segment of our society. The situations of PWDs were very deplorable and there was no organization at the community and government level to work for their socio-economic up-liftment. KADO established its first rehabilitation center for men in 1996, with funding support from SDC, to provide health and hygiene education, vocational skills and income earning opportunities. Initially the project started providing rehabilitation services to 30 disabled people and currently 62 disabled persons are benefiting from this facility. They have been trained in goat hair rug (a traditional local handicraft) making and rug is being marketed locally as well as to tourist market. As the productivity of the disabled people is very low and cost of production of the rug is very high, the project cannot produce profit and therefore the wages of the disabled persons are being subsidized. The disabled persons are being paid Rs. 1,200/- to Rs. 1,350/- based on the level of their productivity. At the rehabilitation center KADO offers productive work, as a means of therapy and developing their self-esteem. The center is being run in a rented building in which 62 disabled men are engaged in various processes of traditional rug weaving (Sharma) and paper bags making. The project has also attempted to diversify the skills of the special people by providing them training in traditional music and forming their music band. Now the band is able to earn additional income by providing its services in various cultural shows. The products (goat hair rugs) produced by the disabled people are sold in the local market as well as to tourists.
KADO has established another rehabilitation center for disabled women in a rented building in December 2001. The center was finacialy supported by German and Finland embassies and Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal. The center provides health and hygiene education, basic health care and training in vocational and income generating skills such as embroidery, woolen thread making, carpet weaving. Currently the center provides rehabilitation services to 25 women. The current activities of KADO creates awareness about health and hygiene, provides training in vocational/income generating skills, provides income earning opportunities and thereby attempts to enable special people to become useful members of the society.
Due to lack of statistics about disabilities it was difficult to work on the rehabilitation of PWDs. To investigate the nature of disabilities in Hunza valley KADO with the financial assistance of World Bank conducted a door to door survey from September 21 to October 21, 2004. The main objectives of the survey was to collect base-line information about PWDs, human resource related to PWDs, state of PWDs, and Basic Minimum Needs (BMN) of the PWDs so that to provide situational analysis on disability in Hunza valley. This seminar was thus conducted as an effort to bring together the parents, common citizens, members of the civil society organization and leaders and intellectuals at a platform to share the results of the survey and discuss interventions about people with special needs.
Most of these special persons are located in old settlements of Hunza such as Karimabad Aliabad, Altit, Hyderabad, Ghanish and Naisrabad. Main disabilities include mentally retarded, deaf & dumb, slow growth, speech problem and physical disability. Major causes of disability are congenital, deficiency of iodine, marriages within families, lack of proper food intake during pregnancies, early marriages and ignorance about health and hygiene. People with special needs are the most neglected segment of the population. There is no mechanism either at the government or at the AKDN level to address the issues related to this highly disadvantaged segment of the society. There is no facility to provide basic education to the children with special needs all over Hunza and apart from KADO there is no rehabilitation facility for adult population all over the Northern Areas. There was no institution and individual working to improve the condition of special people in Hunza.
The main objectives of the rehabilitation centers for people with special needs run by KADO are as under:
- To provide basic rehabilitation services to integrate special people into the mainstream society;
- To impart trainings in vocational and income earning skills to special persons and develop market for their skills and products so that they can live an honorable life and become useful members of the society;
- To create awareness about the disabilities and the rights of the disabled in the area;
- To develop a replicable model for community-based rehabilitation services so that special people in other parts of the Northern Areas and Pakistan also benefit.
At present the Sharma Rehabilitation Centre has a total intake of 55 disabled men in a rented building in the village of Hyderabad. The Women’s Rehabilitation Centre is located in Karimabad and has 25 disabled members. The current rehabilitation services are focused in central Hunza and limited to SRC and WRC and do not benefit disabled persons in other parts of Hunza. KADO’S RCs do not have the capacity to provide work therapy to all the disabled persons due to the spread of disability over scattered villages, limited funding base and building capacity. Moreover, even existing members face problems in accessing the centres. While those who live near have easy access to the centres, but those who live far away including in other villages have to travel long distances, even use public transport in order to reach the centres.