Bilquis Edhi – Pakistan

Added July 2008: She is also one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005. Her peacewomen-bio.

Unwanted infants that are left at Edhi emergency centers are are given shelter and cared for at Edhi homes. These children are then handed over for adoption to couples in need. Bilquis Edhi personally meets and conducts interviews with the prospective adopting parents. The background of the prospective parents is thoroughly checked. So far more than 14,700 children have been adopted through the Edhi Foundation after personal approval from Bilquis Edhi. (Read this very long article by Faisal Abdulla on Women of Pakistan).

Text: just need somebody to lean on.

Wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi. One of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan. She heads the Bilquis Edhi Foundation. She is a professional nurse who reputedly proposed to him. They both received the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service. She is also the recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize. Her charity runs many services in Pakistan including a hospital and emergency service in Karachi. (read on

Text: An Inspiration for Pakistanis.

Bilquis Edhi – Pakistan

Bilquis got married at a very young age. She met Maulana Edhi at the same place which was then a dispensary, now a hospital and the Edhi headoffice, where she was serving as a nurse. It was an arranged marriage. Bilquis recalled that Maulana Edhi started his social work immediately after independence, on a small-scale among his Memon Jamaat. However, he did wanted to be a part of a larger community. “I’m proud that the Almighty Allah brought his dream true and today he is part of the world now,” She said. “We have 350 centres in Pakistan, 600 cars, one helicopter, three planes and 17 homes for women, children and mentally ill men,” she said. “Once a week we give an advertisement in newspapers, appealing to parents not to throw away children for poverty or other reasons. We keep them carefully and later childless couples adopt them.” (Read this long article on
this site).

Excerpt: … for the last fifty years, many of the poor, the desperate, in Pakistan have had a place to turn. Slowly, steadily, and with the help of many volunteers from all walks of life, Muslim social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife Bilquis have created a vast network of social services for the common people where anyone, regardless of faith or social status, can find help. Fuelled by a fierce conviction that the only way out of poverty is through self-help, Edhi has created perhaps the world’s largest volunteer organization, which is funded entirely by donations, and exists without logistical or monetary help from the government. In Karachi alone, a sprawling city of fifteen million, Edhi Foundation clinics take care of thousands of people every day. The destitute, the homeless, the handicapped, and the mentally ill are housed in Edhi Centers. To women fleeing abuse and children who run away, shelter and counsel is given. Soup kitchens feed the hungry, volunteers tend the sick. Even unwanted babies can be left in “jhoolas,” cradles provided by the centers, to save them from being abandoned. Medicine is free, treatment is free. (Read all on Ode-Magazine).

Many are adopted by Pakistani families who cannot have children. The rest are brought up in the Edhi Foundation’s network of 17 orphanages. “They’re basic by western standards,” says Fatima, a British Muslim from Luton who adopted her two children, Shehla and Mohammed, now 10 and 6, from the Edhi Foundation while she was working as a nurse in Pakistan. “The cots are metal and the floors stone. But you can tell the children are loved. My little boy was three when I adopted him, and Bilquis and everyone who works at the orphanages had really cared for him. You can see that the children are happy.” Children who are not adopted are educated within the orphanages and grow up calling Bilquis and Abdul Sattah “Ammi” and “Abbu” (“Mummy” and “Daddy”). Boys are taught trades, and girls learn to be homemakers. Many choose to stay on to work within the foundation. For others, Bilquis arranges marriages as a Pakistani mother would, and the foundation raises the girls’ dowries. It only takes a walk through Karachi to see the fate of unwanted babies not lucky enough to end up in Bilquis’s care. In the teeming port city of some 12m, armies of ragged children carry out backbreaking labour, or beg in organised gangs. In the sprawling heaps of rubbish and in drains, the tiny bodies of newborns are often found, garrotted, burnt or asphyxiated. Their births are not registered, so neither are their deaths. “We come across more important cases than these every day,” says a Pakistani police officer. “That leaves us with no time to probe these cases. It is not that we don’t consider infants important, but usually such cases are impossible to follow up on.” Instead, they call the Edhi Foundation, which collects and buries the little bodies. They are the only people who keep account of how many are found. It is sometimes as many as 50 a month, though the number has decreased as they have left out more cradles. Anwer Kazmi, a spokesman for the foundation, says that almost all the abandoned and murdered babies are girls. About 3% are disabled; only 1 to 2% are healthy boys. “Female babies are a liability all over the subcontinent. Males can work for the family when they grow up. A girl can’t work, but still has to be fed and clothed, and her dowry has to be raised.” Typically, a dowry is three times the father’s annual salary. For many Pakistani families, especially those with daughters already, a female or a disabled baby is unaffordable, says Kazmi, yet they cannot afford not to try for a son. The country is governed by Sharia law, which forbids abortion and adultery. Kazmi speculates that many of the abandoned, healthy boys are illegitimate, their mothers driven to abandon them by the fear of public execution by stoning, or a private honour killing. (Read all on TIMES online).

She was born in Bantva, a village in the Kathiawar Peninsular, on August 14, 1946. “I was made for Pakistan,” she adds proudly. Bilquis’ father Usman, who ran a bicycle repair shop, died when she was only ten. Her mother Rabia Bai took up teaching in a private school after the death of her husband, but switched profession to become a mid-wife after eight years. While mother was at work, young Bilquis took care of two younger brothers at home. (Read more on


Government of Pakistan;


Experience Festival;

Google groups alt.adoption.

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