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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fencing out danger

Naveed is an Active Citizen from Quetta. He lives in STN housing community – just off Spinny Road. This area has a high crime rate, specifically theft. The robberies follow a fixed pattern: they take place late at night when most of the residents of the housing scheme are asleep. So far these incidents have been violence free.

The community is constructed such that it has a single entrance big enough for one vehicle to pass through. A rocky road leads up to this entrance. There was talk of carpeting the road once, and construction began; soon afterwards though all construction ceased.

Naveed reached the conclusion that the best bet for a crime-free neighbourhood would be to install a gate at the entrance of the housing community. Furthermore, this gate should be guarded by a watchman.

An idea had been born, but now came the hard part: how to turn this idea for a secure neighbourhood into a reality? Naveed made use of the community and leadership skills that he had learned in his Active Citizens training and reached out to the community members. He pointed out the natural advantage that a single entrance into the housing scheme offered them. Since there was a single point of entry, taking measures to guard it offered the simplest solution.

He also pointed out the increased rate of robberies in their neighbourhood: the most glaring examples were the theft of a motorbike and a family whose house had been robbed. Within their community also resided a member who had been unemployed for a while. Naveed suggested him as the candidate for the job of the watchman.

He argued that if this person were employed as the watchman, an unfortunate member of their community would be in a position to earn a living again because of his community’s help. At the same time he would be giving to the community his time and services. In this way an idea could be turned into a self-sustaining Social Action Project.

To Naveed’s delight the community embraced his idea and elected a committee of residents to oversee the project. A collection was started for purchasing materials for construction of the gate and to pay the hired labourers. Everyone pitched in some money and soon supporting structures for the gate were in place.

But not everyone was happy with these developments. One night some people tried to knock down the gate-posts but were chased away by disgruntled residents who awoke because of the noise. A surprising but welcome ‘side effect’ of this Social Action Project was that once the construction of the gate started, construction of the road leading to the gate was restarted by the local authorities.

At the time I visited Naveed, the gate project was in its final phase. Naveed and his neighbours seemed to be in high spirits and were optimistic about the security that the gate would provide them and their families.

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