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“I decided to step up”: The Pakistan woman who volunteered to help Covid victims

Hazar Khan Baloch
·3-min read
A man wears a face mask as he rides a motorcycle amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan (EPA)
A man wears a face mask as he rides a motorcycle amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan (EPA)

This article first appeared on our partner site, Independent Urdu

Like it was for the rest of the world, February 2020 was a nightmare for Pakistan and for the people of Quetta. The threat of a pandemic was looming throughout Baluchistan.

People stopped leaving their homes due to fear. In this time of calamity, very few people were willing to offer their services.

Among such people is a woman named Bilqis Shakoor, who volunteered to care for those who were not being visited by their reluctant relatives during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bilqis who was stationed at a quarantine centre said: “I was given the task of managing all the arrangements here."

“On one hand, we had to take care of the patients and on the other, we had to deal with the harsh reaction of their relatives, who refused to accept the disease.”

She told Independent Urdu that the job was more difficult because her family members did not want her to do it.

Bilqis, who has an MPhil in Economics, has been given an award by Engro Corporation for her services to the health sector during the coronavirus epidemic in Pakistan.

Fifty people were nominated for the award called “I am the Change” and Bilqis was selected from Baluchistan.

“I always wanted to do something unique. I believe everyone has to die one day, but if someone does something good before this, people will remember them.” she said.

“Twenty six people were selected along with me to volunteer during the pandemic, but only 16 turned up to work. Out of these only four women remained and the rest left.”

Bilqis stated when she was the last woman her fear soared. “I thought I’ll work to a point where people say that when everyone left, this woman stood her ground, but my spirits soared when the men started to give up but I stood firm and decided to carry on”.

Bilqis also contracted coronavirus in March last year and resumed volunteering after being in quarantine.

“It is normal to cough and have a cold after contracting the virus, but the real fear was that I might not be able to see the next day," she added.

Bilqis again faced family opposition post-quarantine. Her family insisted that she should not carry on with this work, but she continued with her volunteer work despite their opposition.

“Working along men is difficult especially in a province like Baluchistan, but while working, I never brought my gender into account. If you constantly feel aware of yourself as a woman, it’s difficult to work," she says

“Our community's mentality is such that we can't believe something unless we’ve seen it. A big example is of polio which people don't believe anymore.”

"If someone really wants to do something for the well-being of others, then they are not afraid of anything, even of coronavirus."

Edited and proofread by Taimur Rehman, Tooba Ali & Celine Assaf

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