UNESCO has been celebrating September 8 every year as International Literacy Day to draw the world’s attention towards eradication of illiteracy from the world. FLI has been observing this day together with its partner organizations in their respective areas. This year the event was sponsored by FLI in three language communities of northern Pakistan; Palula in Chitral, and Gawri and Torwali in Swat. The respective community organizations invited community elders, opinion makers, influencers, prayer leaders, students and parents to the event and used the opportunity for awareness raising. Speakers shed light on the importance of literacy, especially among women focusing on literacy in the mother tongue. The community elders were also provided chance to speak on the occasion who pledged to support FLI’s and its partner organizations’ vision to empower our communities by equipping them with education. This event has become a regular part of our literacy ventures in our target area which provides our partners the opportunity to meet maximum community people and cement their relationship with them.
Mother Tongue Initiative for Education and Research (MIER), a local language development organization in Chitral held a Language Documentation workshop in collaboration with FLI in Chitral yesterday. The chairperson of linguistic department of the University of North Texas, Ms Sadaf Munshi facilitated the training. More that twenty participants who represented seven languages, spoken in Chitral benefited from the event.
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Four languages of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province are being covered this year under the capacity building training by FLI. These languages have been taken up by the KP Govt to include in govt school curriculum. First training took place in Chitral in the last week of June 2019, for Khowar speaking government school teachers. Next training will be for Hindko, then for Pashto and lastly for Seraiki language will be held in their respective areas. The participants will be reviewing the textbooks to be developed in their languages.
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A language vitality survey for Burushaki speech community of Taus, Yasin valley in Ghizer district of Gilgit Baltistan was conducted from June 12 to 17, 2019 under Sustainable Use Model (SUM) workshops. The aim was to see how much the language was sustainable in areas of Orality, Identity and Literature in the above said speech community. The Burushaski, considered as an i[i]solate language by the linguists, spoken by more than [ii]70,000 people in the Hunza and Ghizer areas of GB is one of the literary languages of this country as good amount of religious literature for Ismaili sect of Islam has been developed by some local preachers. According to www.ethnolongue.com the total speakers of this language are estimated to be more than 110,000 people. However, the language faces some issues regarding the standardization of orthography in GB. Different groups use different writing systems to document their heritage language which hinders the promotional work within the community. In addition, the Burushaski language has been surrounded by the Khowar language and Burushaski speaking children are found to be simultaneous [iii]bilingual which pose great threat of language shift.
The workshop was attended by five
participants who later on conducted the survey in the community. This was first
ever intervention of FLI for Burushaski language. The GB government has started
initiatives to make the local languages including Burushaski as part of the
primary school curriculum and FLI is optimistic to support this initiative. The
need of holding a Writers’ Workshop was felt during the workshop which was also
demanded by the participants. FLI will proceed with this demand once the GB government
resolves the issues relating to this language’s writing system.
[ii] Participants of the workshop
[iii] Participants’ community survey
Printing books in the indigenous languages of Northern Pakistan is one of the activities of a great significance FLI has been regularly pursuing by encouraging its trainees from various language communities. These books serve well the purpose of language documentation. The latest poetry book, in Ormuri language, written by Mr. Rozi Khan Burki is the third book FLI published in the current year. Earlier a book was printed this year in Gawarbati, a language spoken in Arandu valley, Chitral. The second book FLI published was in the Indus Kohistani language, spoken in the Kohistan area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
FLI has achieved another landmark in the promotion of endangered languages of Pakistan. It has developed Android keyboards for two more endangered languages of its target area, northern Pakistan. With the development of this milestone the Yidgha, spoken in the Lotkuh valley of district Chitral and Indus-Kohistani, spoken in the Indus Valley of Kohistan, KP have joined Shina and Khowar languages for which FLI has already developed keyboards and that are being used by their community people. These keyboards which are ads free and very simple to use, have been made available, like earlier one, on Google Play Store for those in the community who use cell phone. The keyboard for Khowar has got green ticket on the Store for been heavily downloaded and used. Below are the links of the keyboards
- Yidgha keyboard link https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fli.yidghakeyboard
- Indus-Kohistani keyboard link https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fli.induskohistanikeyboard
- Khowar keyboard link https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fli.jalaluddin.flikhowarkeyboard
- Shina keyboard link https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fli.jalaluddin.shinakeyboard
FLI printed another book in another indigenous language of northern Pakistan,, Kohistani, also called Indus Kohistani (IK). The launching ceremony of this proverb book, collected and translated into Urdu and English by Talib Jan was held on April 10, 2019 in Islamabad. Talib Jan has been working for the promotion of his native language for more than a decade. Indus Kohistani is the major language of the west bank of the Indus River. There are two main dialects of Indus Kohistani – one that is spoken along the Indus River, in settlements such as Seo, Pattan and Jijal. The other is spoken in the Duber and Kandia Valleys, which are more remote. FLI has been working with this community for a long time and many interventions to develop and promote this language are underway. FLI also support a mother tongue based pre-school system in this community. The printing of proverb book in Indus Kohistani will serve the language and community in long future.
The Mother Language Literature Festival has been a regular component of cultural activities in Islamabad since 2016. The event becomes more popular among literary people each year. What more important is the venue the two day yearly event takes place in, is what people call the heart of Islamabad, the Lok Virsa, one of the few cultural premises owned by the federal government. Hundreds of mother tongue activists, researchers, teachers, students, writers, poets and language lovers gather in this place every second weekend of February relating the event with International Mother Language Day. Literature in minor languages are put on display, the new writers’ compilations are launched and local languages are discussed and new promises are made to strengthen them are some of the regular activities of the event. FLI’s people also take part in the event. Muhammad Zaman, the Senior Advocacy Officer of FLI participated in a panel discussion took place on Feb 16. 2019. The event lasted for two days. This session was moderated by the head of one of FLI’s partner organizations and there was another lady panelist who has been part of FLI’s training activities.
“I assure FLI and its partners in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) who have devoted their lives to work for the development of indigenous languages of GB my full support and every assistance in the GB Assembly”, this was stated by the opposition leader in GB Legislative Assembly, Capt. (r) Muhammad Shafi while speaking in a seminar FLI held on Feb 21, to mark International Mother Language Day (IMLD 2019) in Gilgit. FLI decided to observe the IMLD) 2019 in Gilgit so as to gather the speakers of indigenous languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and discuss what they feel for the future of their heritage languages. Mr. Shafi appreciated FLI’s efforts especially to hold the event in the Gilgit city. There are five languages vigorously spoken in GB and the good thing is that the sitting government of GB is pursuing a futuristic plan to develop these languages. Some good minds in the executive hierarchy of the government have been deputed with the task to include local languages in the schools curriculum. FLI is eagerly waiting for the initiation of this great work by the GB government and it has assured its full technical support to successfully implement the plans of the government. The aim of observing of year’s IMLD was also to reaffirm FLI’s resolve to not only work with the government but also with language communities of the region. All languages were represented in the event. Eight literary people who belonged to Shina, Balti, Khowar, Burushaski and Wakhi languages and one from the academia while two government officials gave presentations on the current status of the language work, the challenges they encounter and opportunities in sight. The event was a great success as it gathered all the genuine language workers at one place and linked them with politicians and government officials. While speaking on the occasion Hasan Hasrat, a literary personality of Balti language thanked FLI for holding the event in Gilgit and said that the event has never been observed by any organization or government in GB.
FLI organized a Community of Practice (CoP) on culture and arts on March 14, 2019 in Islamabad which was attended by 16 people from 11 language communities of northern Pakistan. The event was aimed to figure out why the local arts and music were facing the danger of extinction and what steps should be taken to revive the local musical arts. Eight people, belonging to Torwali, Gawri, Khowar, Shina, Wakhi, Hindko, Palula and Kalasha language groups presented their presentations on how music, an integral part of their indigenous cultures were eroding and what were the reasons. They also floated their recommendations for promotion of their cultural heritage. The conclusion brought up many reasons varying from geographical to atmospheric factors effecting the very cultural aspect of the region. Some of the findings of the CoP listed below:
- Music was no more a likable and profitable profession in some societies of northern Pakistan
- Music and musicians are stigmatized in some areas
- Globalization, religious extremism, social stigma and government negligence were blamed for overall degradation of local arts.
Factually, every indigenous culture in northern Pakistan, as come out of this event, had been giving great importance to the music in the past. In some places, the music was used not only for casual entertainment but was it also a part of daily life of the inhabitants. In Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral region, some type of musical instruments are still being played during the traditional polo competitions, meant to create thrill among the players. The same was done in the past during wars.
FLI has been requested by the participants of this event to work for the revival of this aspect of cultures in its target region. FLI will surely seek government help for the purpose though its advocacy efforts.