SDI Mourns Colleague & Mentor Parween Rehman

by James Tayler

Mourning the Loss of Parween Rehman

SDI was deeply shocked to learn of the murder of colleague and mentor Parween Rehman, director of the Orangi PIlot Project in Karachi Pakistan, in what appeared to be a targeted attack on Wednesday.

The murder has been covered by various news sources. National Public Radio reporter Steve Inskeep, who spent quite a bit of time with Parween in Karachi while writing his book Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi shared the following remembrance of Parweeen on Thursday. 

Upon learning of this tragedy, our partners at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) shared the following: 

“Perween was director of the Orangi Pilot Project Research and Training Institute, a Karachi-based NGO that works with the city’s poorest communities to improve their neighbourhoods. She was an architect-turned activist who devoted her life to improving the lives of people in Karachi’s poorest neighbourhoods. Since the 1980s, the Orangi Pilot Project has provided thousands of people with improved water, sanitation and housing. The project is famous worldwide for both its success and its distinctive approach.

Perween was murdered by masked men who shot at her car as she travelled home from work on the afternoon of 13 March. Recently she had had been documenting land-use around Karachi, and this may have antagonised the city’s powerful land-grabbing criminals.

IIED researchers who have long worked with Perween have described her today as: “A very, very remarkable person and a wonderful friend, colleague and teacher.” (Dr David Satterthwaite), and: “A brilliant, beautiful and principled person” (Dr Gordon McGranahan). IIED’s thoughts are with Perween’s family and friends and with everyone at the Orangi Pilot Project at this most difficult of times.” 

In reflecting on Parween’s life and work, Dr. Diana Mitlin shared the following: 

“…I last saw her just two weeks ago at a meeting of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights in Bangkok. She had brought a team of six or seven community leaders from Pakistan to share their work on planning and mapping the land around Karachi, and the contribution of young people to Pakistan’s future. 

She spoke with such excitement about the savings groups they had recently formed and the ways in which they were making women see new opportunities and have a new energy and creativity. She also talked about the power of the network they had established across Pakistan – many community organizations now able to manage their own sanitation programmes – and the network coming together each quarter to share experiences, problems, success.

We also discussed a forthcoming visit she was willing to make to Uganda and Malawi to support improved sanitation strategies there. Because despite all I have written here about knowledge and power and land, Perween was a sanitation expert with an incredible skill to think through options and opportunities. 

She believed both in the essential contribution of expert professionals to improve infrastructure systems (designs, operational realities) – and the equally essential importance of recognising the modest nature of that contribution. She would be the first to say that while professional contribution is significant and important – it needs to be integrated within a broader programme driven by the energy and knowledge of those living in informal settlements.”

We at SDI will honor Parween’s great contribution and dedication by replicating her work throughout the slums in our global network. 

Perween Rahman – Interview from Balazs Gardi on Vimeo.

To read the full post from IIED, please click here