Perween Rahman Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: The film on the life and work of Pakistan’s ‘fighter for the poor’ Perween Rahman has won the second prize for best documentary at the 11th Istanbul International Architecture and Urban Films Festival.

Pakistan’s revolutionary social activist Rahman was gunned down at the age of 56, four years ago, in Orangi Town area of Karachi.

Directed by filmmaker Mahera Omar, the documentary Perween Rahman: The Rebel Optimist showcases the life and struggle of Rahman. The hourlong documentary highlights her passion and struggle for the humanity as well as reflects on her personality.

“Perween believed in cultivating human relationships. She had a very special connection with the people of Orangi. She won not only their hearts but [also those] of whomever had the good fortune to come across her. I wanted to tell her story and that of her very important work in Karachi,” said Omar.

The film was screened to audiences at several venues in Turkey throughout the weeklong festival (October 23 — 28).

Rahman was an architect, urban planner and director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) — a non-governmental organisation based in Karachi to help solve issues relating to health, sanitation, education, low-cost housing and employment.

She is rightly remembered as the ‘Mother of Karachi’ for devoting her life to the development of the impoverished neighbourhoods in the city. Rahman was a champion for the women and youth of Orangi and a role model for all Pakistanis.

After receiving her postgraduate diploma in housing, building and urban planning in the 1980s, she joined the Orangi Pilot Project initiated by Pakistani development activist Akhtar Hameed Khan in 1983. Through this project, she aimed to bring healthy changes to the lives of impoverished residents of Orangi, one of the largest slums of Karachi.

Rahman’s unique model of sanitation and housing was accepted by Karachi’s government and has since then been replicated in many other villages and towns of Pakistan. She also mapped more than 2,000 urban villages in Karachi and assisted poor people acquire land rights.

She was a firm believer in human development and empowerment of common people, she always spoke up against land mafias in Karachi.

She dedicated 28 years of her life for basic services and land rights for Pakistan’s poor before she was silenced by gunmen on March 13, 2013, who opened fire on her vehicle as she was on her way home from her office.

Rahman’s struggle for the slum dwellers and love for humanity has been beautifully portrayed in the documentary.

Perween Rahman: The Rebel Optimist has been screened at the 2017 Karachi Literature Festival, the Lund International Architecture Film Festival in Sweden, Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles, Architecture Film Festival of South Africa and Beijing International Women’s Film Festival.