A self-proclaimed biology geek, Sheena Hadi completed her pre-medical requirements as an undergraduate student at Amherst Collage Massachusetts. However, once she had her Bachelor’s degree in hand, she decided to try her hand at teaching before pursuing medicine further. This intent would eventually lead Sheena to her position today; Director of Aahung, Possibly the leading NGO and authority on sexual and reproductive programming in Pakistan today.
Sheena’s first experience in teaching could not have been at a finer or more progressive school. Ranked the best private school in USA by The New York Times, St. Ann’s unique pedagogy of having teachers provide a detailed assessment of a student’s progress instead of grading his or her work, is probably what taught Sheena that alternatives to established systems should be challenged for a finer outcome.
Sheena returned to Pakistan in 2003 and joined Aahung as a Program coordinator. By 2008, she was at the helm of the organization. Aahung’s mission is to enable a healthier society by improving the access that men, women and adolescents have to superior sexual and reproductive health and education services. To achieve this, Aahung works with health care providers, schools and community partners throughout Pakistan to priorities sexual and reproductive health programming alongside improving the quality of Services available.
During her initial months at Aahung, Sheena asked a group of mothers how they generally felt during puberty. An overwhelming number of them remembered feeling panic-stricken that they were ill, but were too ashamed or afraid to talk to anyone about what they were experiencing. When asked how many had learned from experience and spoken with their daughters, to ensure they were spared similar apprehensions, not a single hand was raised. This was a cry for help. Not only did it validate Aahung’s on-going dialogues with adolescents and their families, but it gave Sheena a sense of personal purpose as well.
Sheena is determined to continue confronting the taboos and practices which discriminate against women, yet remain justified by socio-cultural norms. With the enormity of Pakistan’s youth population, Sheena recognizes that working on sensitive and complex topics with young people is necessary if we are to see long-term change in the country. She is keen to improve Aahung’s life skills education programs so they continue to provide adolescents with a voice in an environment where their thoughts and opinions are often overlooked, improve family communication, prepare young girls and boys sufficiently or their future roles as parents, and most importantly, support girls in making decisions concerning their own bodies, marriage, and continued schooling.
Taking work leave from Aahung, Sheena completed her Masters’ in Education from Harvard University, focusing on Human Development and psychology. The previous year, Sheena had completed her certification in humanistic Counseling with Therapy Works in Karachi.
With such qualification and a vast body of work on hand, Sheena finds it difficult to choose one out of education, public health or counseling, her future field of interest. Grateful to be contributing to all three areas through Aahung, Sheena truly needn’t decide. Those whose lives she affects are just glad she cares.
[You can learn more about Aahung’s multiple initiatives by visiting www.aahung.org]