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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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KARACHI, Pakistan, Sunday—At a seminar of the All-Pakistan Women's Association presided over by Begum Liaquat Ali Khan, I was given a picture of various problems and developments here. Begum Husain Malik spoke of the status of women under Islamic law. Then someone spoke on education and health, social services and economic development.

Women are taking up a number of professions. As doctors they are very much in demand, for many women will not have a man as attendant physician. The shortage of nurses is spoken of over and over again. One woman doctor, in speaking of the health problem, said there is one nurse to probably a million people here, whereas in the United States there is one for every 380 people. I have not checked these figures, but it is quite evident that there is a very great shortage. This is largely due to the fact that there have not been enough women of good family who would come out and take training, because the men in their family might object.

At Lady Dufferin Hospital, which I visited the other morning, they had a great many maternity cases and general illnesses of various kinds, as well as operative cases common to all women. The woman doctor in charge runs a nurse's training school and says she has an adequate supply. I was shocked but not surprised to find that there were a great many cases of infection among the maternity patients, since the greater part of the poorer women never come for any prenatal care and the conditions, particularly under which refugee women live, make it almost impossible to prevent infection at childbirth. The women are willing to go to the hospital, but only when they are really ill.

The All-Pakistan Women's Association showed me also a small maternity clinic which they started in a refugee camp under considerable difficulties, since water in the area is only turned on for two hours in the morning and two at night and they have no running water as yet in the clinic. They have no electricity, so that if they have night cases they must use lamps. But the conditions certainly are better than in the refugee huts, for they are clean and sanitary. In this same maternity center, all children of that area of refugees come in with cups every morning and get a spoonful of cod liver oil and a cup of milk.

We visited another camp of refugees a little later where I thought conditions were particularly bad. They had animals right in with them—goats, sheep, chickens and cows, all tied to the door or staked down and scratching around in the sand. The smell in some parts was not very pleasant and the flies were something beyond description. These conditions are what make the health problem so difficult at the present time, but I must say the women are valiantly struggling to do their share in meeting the problems.

Friday afternoon I saw a demonstration of the activities of the Pakistan Women's National Reserve and National Guard. They paraded for us, did exercises, and demonstrated the work of their various branches in civil defense by simulating an air raid. They are trained in clerical work, nursing, fire fighting and self-defense. While the work seemed to me as yet not very professional, it is of great value to get it started.

I've seen schools which the women have started for refugee children, and it seems to me the teachers are doing a wonderful job. I've also visited industrial centers and shops were cottage industries sell their products. All this is again the work of women.

In the evening I addressed a group of university students at the YMCA and later attended a dinner given by the Pakistan United Nations Association. It was indeed gratifying to see what an active association there is here and to know that they observe United Nations Day and are actively trying to promote knowledge of the work of the United Nations.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Karachi (Pakistan) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 25, 1952

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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