Advice for Development Careers – 7 Points for Mid-level Practitioners

A few days ago, I received a call from one of my Ex colleagues. We both had worked together in a national NGO. He was asking about my advice for his career growth in development sector. Unfortunately, career counselling is almost absent from our educational and professional systems. Although internet has somehow filled this gap and now students and entry to mid-level practitioners and professional can access some websites, blogs and articles to seek some career advice. Moving back to the subject of the call of my ex-colleague, I have following points to share with all entry and mid-level development sector practitioners for their career growth,
1- Degrees are not sufficient
I have been working in development sector since last 15 years and with seventh organisation during this period. None of the organisations have ever asked about the marks, divisions, grades or subjects of my educational degrees neither ever asked for a copy/photocopy of my educational certificates and degrees. I even never was asked to share the details of my national and international trainings. Having a bachelor or master degree only helps us making eligible for applying any particular position or meet the criteria of being applicant. In contrast to the public sector, where degrees and their grades/divisions etc are considered as core criteria for the selection, development sector is much more similar to a private/for-profit sector where degrees are not considered as key criteria of promotion or getting a job.
2- Acquire skills, learn skills and improve skills
Now what is important if degrees are not considered as imperative to grow in the development sector, if one asks me, I would say “skills”. My advice to entry and mid-level development sector practitioners is that they should learn new and build their present skills. Important skills needed to grow in the development sector include communication skills especially the speaking and writing skills, presentation skills and project management skills. Selection and type of skills further depends upon the position/responsibility holding an individual in organisation and the plan to move forward. Set of skills required for community mobiliser, monitoring officer and project officer are different with some overlapping. There is a very straightforward logic in why building skills is important. For example, if one has a set of skills for the responsibility of social mobiliser, now she is planning to move at the position of project officer. Set of skills required for project officer is different from that of social mobiliser. Unless she doesn’t acquire that particular set of skills, she won’t be able to perform that duty and no one would take risk to recruit her for the position of project officer. Improving existing skills is equally important as learning new skills. Skills are different from that of knowledge, information or facts. We will be unable to call to mind our skills unless we won’t practice these on regular basis. To remember our skills and to improve these, we need to practice these again and again and most importantly share with others. There is a lot of material available on internet especially on the websites of donor organisations and international NGOs about the particular set of skills for different mid to senior level positions. Our competency within any particular skill further counts during our career growth. For example, every one of us is a writer but there is always a difference between the quality of writing of one person from the other. Some of the international donor organisations has defined the five to seven competency levels of any particular skill that help to understand the skills paradigm. So, to acquiring one skill, we need to evaluate ourselves on our competency level in that particular skill. I will further write a separate and detailed blog on it to explain the science of skills.
3- Be social
Development sector is also known as social sector. Another important key for career growth in this sector is that you need to be as social as you can. Meet as many people from this sector as you can. Plan for meeting new people and maintaining existing relationships. There is very visible tendency observed in development sector in Pakistan that recruiters prefer to recruit a known person. Majority of the recruiters in Pakistan don’t want to take a risk with a person with whom they are not fully aware of the competency in skills. Recruiters need results and expect good quality outputs even on the second day of joining the job. Short term projects, donors’ pressure and competition within organisations has forced the employers to hire staff with high competency skills that can deliver good quality results. In a project with a duration of 12 months, employers won’t take risk to recruit a person with whom they would spend two months to teach skills. If you think, you are skilled, start networking, explore opportunities to demonstrate your skills, and stay in touch. Being social will help you to be on the list of recruiters whenever they plan to recruit new staff.
4- Share ideas
If you are a new joiners or mid-level career development practitioner, you must have participated in different meetings and attended some trainings. You should have some exposure or experiences related to the implementation of projects, visiting field areas and meeting new people. Compile your observations and share your suggestions during meetings or discussion related to the development projects. Naming development sector as “development sector” indicates its key characteristics of being innovative, risk taker and doer. Share your ideas with your colleagues and seniors. If you receive any feedback, that will improve your thoughts, learning and clarity on the issues and ideas.
5- Don’t compromise on quality
Most of the projects in development sector are short-term comprising the duration of a maximum of one year. In this short duration, you will be assigned as part of project team to implement quite a number of diverse activities. Don’t panic and compromise on quality. One thing I learn during my professional career that due to compromised quality of the implementation of projects, skills of the project team are suffered first. When you are in time stress, think over on innovative time efficient strategies to implement the project without compromising the quality of project. If you are in resource-related constraints, look for some the mobilization of local resources. Discuss with project partners, communities, and other stakeholders. You sure surely find out the alternative strategies to implement the project. Remember, stress is not always negative. It also works as a strong push factor to find out new and alternate solutions, use cost effective and time efficient strategies and move forward.
6- Read, listen, discuss and write
Reading plays a key role in learning new skills and knowledge. I have learnt that I remember only those skills that I practice again and again and able to recall the knowledge that I shared with others. Similarly, active listening to those who are seniors, have knowledge and skills is equally important to grow professionally. Discussions with colleagues and seniors is key to improve and clarify the ideas and learn new concepts. If you think you are creative, innovative and have ideas, start putting them on paper. This will help you to further elucidate your ideas. I have learnt that whenever I start writing any new idea on paper, it helps me to think critically to learn about different aspects of that particular idea.
7- Join groups, take memberships
There are number of national and international development organisations who have created various groups for networking of development practitioners and professionals. You may join these groups through internet or by getting the membership of such forums. This will support both the new joiners and mid-level practitioner in networking and engaging with other like-minded people.

I am available at khalidsaif1@hotmail.com to share my experiences with the individuals who are keen to grow in the development sector.

A Journey

It was 2014 when I was graduate from Superior college. I have nothing to do after my graduation due to higher second division I was enabled to got admission in my master program. I have no clear vision of my future. In the meantime I started an internship at MCB bank limited for the period of six months and didn’t pay for whole period, I left this internship as I got a job in a UK based call center as CRO but I left this job too after one month due to certain circumstances and came back to home. My teacher gave me some assistance by appointing me as a teacher for 10th grade in his own academy as I am well in tutting the children. My dream is to get admission in Punjab University in the master program and I became successful in 2015 and got admission in PGDAE ( postgraduate diploma in applied economics). So I left the academy and start learning economics.

I do have a project work on a Federal budget of Pakistan for the fiscal year of 2015–16 on my own and voluntarily. This project work gives me my vision for future and I decide to work for the govt of Pakistan to serve the nation through the ministry of finance. So I start learning economics and got admission in MSC. economics at the same university.

This first challenge I have faced in my study is that I need to travel 200 km daily to approach the university. It was really a difficult task cause I have no money left after my fee payment. So I start to teach in a school again. I do my duty in morning and attend classes in evening after traveling 200 km on daily bases. This exercise has a bad effect on my health but I keep it up cause this gave me a lot of opportunities to learn many new things which I couldn’t imagine in my life.

To be able to continue my study I need to work hard. First thing I do for this is to maintain my time, I use to teach from 7 am-2 pm and then travel to Lahore for my classes as the classes are in the evening shift. the second thing is to maintain my study and teaching.

To me, this exercise is really hectic and I suppose if there is any other individual other then me it will give up learning. I do this exercise and the main challenge I faced is to get familiar with the class environment.

The main learning of this whole exercise is that “ Work hard and there is no shortcut to success”. As Edhi Sb told “work and work, you will achieve your target”

Now I believe that with hard work we can achieve all of our goals and with firm believe and determination I will be successful in my coming life again as I am now.

Mansab Ali: from the Economics Department University of the Punjab.

Prioritizing Malnutrition

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Malnutrition has been identified as a core issue contributing to morbidity and mortality amongst children all over the world. Those belonging to vulnerable segments of society are more affected than others. The consequences of malnutrition (under-nutrition) include both short and long-term (irreversible) adverse health outcomes for the child including stunting, wasting and underweight.

Globally, nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are because of undernutrition. Asia continues to have both the highest rates and the largest number of malnourished children in the world. Adults who have suffered malnourishment as a child grow up to be less physically and intellectually productive and suffer from more chronic illnesses and disabilities. It is now established that meeting the specific nutritional needs during the first 1000 days (from a woman’s pregnancy to the child’s 2nd birthday) have an influence on the rest of the individual’s life.

In Pakistan, malnutrition is recognised as a major public health problem and a threat to the social and economic development of the nation. Punjab, one of the most populous province of Pakistan with an estimated population of approximately 110 million as of 2017, shows the same dismal picture of malnutrition. Despite its elevated status as economically productive province of Pakistan and contributing to more than three quarters of the country’s annual grain production, Punjab is also facing a considerable threat of food insecurity and malnutrition. The findings of the 2011 National Nutrition Survey reveal a very grave picture of Punjab showing prevalence of chronic malnutrition among children under-5 years of age at 39.2 % and maternal anemia at 49.6%. Similarly the prevalence of acute malnutrition among children is 13.7% and child anemia in Punjab is 60.4%.

Similarly, micronutrient deficiencies, frequently referred in undermining maternal well-being are quite prevalent in the province. Deficiency of micronutrients like Iron; Zinc; Vitamins A and D; and Iodine is still a major health problem among women of childbearing age. Although micronutrient deficiencies are affecting the entire lifecycle of human population but pregnant women, lactating mothers and young children are more vulnerable due to relatively greater need for these micronutrients and higher susceptible to harmful consequences of deficiencies.

One of issues identified for micronutrient deficiencies is widespread lack of awareness about micronutrients among the population. Findings of National Nutritional Survey 2011 revealed that mothers had very low knowledge about micronutrients in the country. Although situation in Punjab is comparatively better than the national averages but it is still far below the optimum

Evidence through literature shows that low-cost methods of reducing all forms of malnutrition are available and proved to be quite successful. Among them, fortification of food is the most simplest and cost effective method. Fortification means adding micronutrients infood to cover dietary deficiencies.eg adding iodine in salt, iron in wheat flour or Vitamins in milk etc.

To combat issue of malnutrition and micro nutrient deficiency through process of food fortification, there is a need to involve various sectors like government, private sector, academia, media etc. Government can play its vital role in provision of fortified food through mandatory legislation for food/dairy fortification.Considering this is an election year and all political parties will be announcing their manifestos soon, there is a need for politicians and political parties to highlight issues of malnutrition and interventions like fortification in their manifestos. They should clearly describe solutions especially fortification as their party high priority agenda.

At community level, there is a need for a massive community awareness especially focusing on women. While giving health education, good nutritional practices especially significance of fortified food should be emphasized that are affordable for different types and level of communities. Food enriched with micronutrients or essential nutrients use should be promoted through involvement of private sector also. On one hand Government Programmes can generate demand for such products and at the same time on the other hand private sector can provide and market products targeting improvement in nutrition. The emphasis on nutrition needs to be included in health and other related multi-sectoral programs like agriculture, education, water and sanitation hygiene and social protection programs etc. A focused and holistic approach, involving all related sectors and stakeholders can definitely improve nutrition status of the province and can save many more lives.

Managing malnutrition contributes towards alleviation of poverty and offers the most effective and sustainable development solutions.World has entered into Sustainable Development Goals era; targeted to reduce poverty and improve health of population. Pakistan, being signatory to SDGs should prioritize to address malnutrition issue and raise awareness at all platforms to achieve SDGs successfully. That’s why I would like to make a public pledge that I will be pushing my political party to include malnutrition and ways to address it as a manifesto item. I hope other parties will also join in.

The writer is a Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) from Punjab, representing the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). This blog is already publish on THE NATION (https://nation.com.pk/Columnist/vickas-hasan-mokal). 

Pakistan Need women in Workforce

Pakistan is a developing country that can in future achieve income status, increase women ratio in labor force by enforcing and implementing key labor market reform. Pakistan  can progress as research shows that more women in worksforce can benefit the economy.

Women in the workforce hold the key to a vibrant economy. Though Pakistan has seen a turnaround in economic stability, without women’s participation in the workforce, accelerated growth will be a challenge,

Women can play an important part for development of country.During in 16 years a slow increase in women work force, which is 22% (compared to 67.8% percent of men) which is lowest rate in the region, second only 2 Afghanistan. By comparing in Vietnam and Bangladesh women working Labor force of participation is 73% & 36%.

Low female labor force participation has clearly accelerated the Economic Growth in Pakistan.
In 2016 IMF report estimates that Gender Close Gaps in Pakistan will boost up GDP in Pakistan up to 30%.

Why the female labor force’s participation in Pakistan is so low?
The answer to this question lies in both demand and supply side aspects of labor.
On the supply side

  • Policy Maker and Private sectors must pay attention not only Employment Opportunities for Women, but also for Quality Work.
  • In Pakistan 3% of women are involved in formal sector, with low Paying.
  • There are 67% difference in wages of labor of men and women.

On the demand side

  • Women face difficulties like, Lack of equal education, Opportunity and Technical skills, Lack of Safety, Affordable Transport, Sexual Harassment in public places are in the work place.
  • Child care is one of the main problem for women,
    For Example, Lack of Affordable and Accessible childcare make it challenging to joinworkforce easily or work freely.

At provincial Level the Government Sindh has passed a policy on Home based work for women.The Punjab Government is following that policy.The Government of Pakistan’s vision 2025 aims to increase women’s participation in the workforce to 45 percent.