Thus ABKT was set up. Initially, it worked on health, education and micro-finance facilities for women. Over the years it extended its operations to reconstruction, relief and rehabilitation.
The organisation currently operates in about 12 districts in the province, but, according to Jan, Upper and Lower Dir, Shangla and Swat constitute its core areas.
Jan said that ABKT’s basic aim was to work on women and family issues, as they could not be addressed through other organisations given the area’s cultural sensitivities. In 2008, the organisation came to Peshawar due to the insurgency in Malakand, and its name was also changed to Association for Behaviour & Knowledge Transformation.
Shad Begum had the full support of her family throughout this period. “Her father motivated her, brothers supported her and I also support her work, and she never had problems with her family,” Jan said.
However, Jan acknowledged that there had been some issues. This perhaps led to his wife contesting the district councillor’s election for the area on a Jamaat-e-Islami seat. “It means her work was acceptable to religious elements of the area,” Jan said.
Fayyaz Mohammad, programme manager at ABKT, did admit that the organisation faced difficulties in the area from time to time.
Not surprisingly, few politicians have ever heard of Shad. A PPP politician from Malakand claimed that he knew Shad Bibi. “She was a councilor in the region. Zeb, however, called upon women to follow in Shad Bibi’s footsteps while “observing the Islamic dress code”.
About the award, Jan said the family were delighted, but would have been happier if she had been recognised in her own country.
Shad Mohammad, her brother, was of the view that the honour was an acknowledgment for her work and role among the people of Malakand. He added that the work his sister embarked upon was previously unheard of in the area, as most women become teachers.
Shad Begum is a brave, talented and visionary woman who has done a lot for the welfare of women in the area.