“Walk into any Pakistani’s home and it will be in pristine condition,” said Amjad Aslam, the Chief Marketing Officer at Ansaar Management Company (AMC), “but outside our walls you’ll find trash in the streets.” A day later I observed as a couple riding on a motor bike threw their trash at a garbage container rather than in it. They sped off without looking back.
Amjad went on, “Pakistan lacks a sense of accountability for public spaces.” The picture above is from Gulberg, one of the nicest parts of Lahore. This is not a problem restricted to the poor; the trash-ic jam I snapped a photo of is evidence that even in the nicest parts of the city, waste disposal is an issue. As Amjad explained, Pakistanis do not feel responsible for the area beyond their four walls; the prevailing attitude is that “someone else will clean it up.” I have not been here long enough to make a judgment myself, but there does appear to be a dichotomy between public spaces and private spaces.
AMC, where I’m serving my fellowship, is often touted as a developer of affordable housing for the poor, but in fact that is not the case. While the company does develop affordable homes, AMC’s real ambition is to develop communal identity and accountability. Just as you can’t build a home without a hammer, you can’t build communities without homes. The home itself is just a tool; a tool which enables neighborhoods to reach their full potential. AMC’s mission is “To provide innovative affordable housing solutions to the lower income segments of the Pakistani population, and to create vibrant and empowered communities.” The last part is key; empowered communities take part in decision making and form lasting social contracts for their mutual benefit.
The founder of Amnesty International, Peter Benenson, coined the phrase, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” AMC’s vibrant communities won’t solve the waste disposal problem in Pakistan, but they will light up the path forward.
The Photo of the Week series features images chosen by Acumen Fund staff and community members — favorite photos they’ve taken in the field or pulled from the archive. Look for it in the middle of every week.