Changing the Slave Mentality towards Africans in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Sheedi community can trace its roots back to East African slaves brought to India by the Portuguese, hundreds of years before the partition of the subcontinent. Marginalized and overlooked for decades, the group has found its commanding, charismatic voice in Tanzeela Qambrani — in the halls of the Sindh provincial legislature. The 40-year-old lawmaker, whose ancestors came from Tanzania, is proud of her Sheedi heritage. But for a majority of her people, “Sheedi” is a word steeped in shame, often used as an expletive by racist non-Sheedis. The xenophobic undercurrent, still prevalent hundreds of years after the slave trade in South Asia, Qambrani reveals, is the reason behind her community’s lack of progress and visibility in society. In office, Qambrani has focused intently on education. She successfully pushed through a resolution in March to penalize educators who display racist behavior in the classroom toward Sheedi students. She’s hoping for more quality educational institutions for Sheedis — for those who have dropped out, and programs to keep kids in school longer. But that requires money, which she’s trying to raise locally and internationally.


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