This year (2017-2018) marks the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan. As in many other traditions, jubilees mark important anniversaries. The Diamond Jubilee celebrations therefore represent both a recognition of the Aga Khan’s work over the last 60 years and an opportunity to launch new initiatives – for the Ismaili Muslims as well as the communities in which they live – that improve the quality of life for all.
However, these celebrations and their purpose are often misunderstood. The images of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, being weighed in diamonds during his Diamond Jubilee still resonate in the public imagination. What was not commonly known at the time was that the funds gathered from weighing ceremonies were used to launch social programmes that benefited the most vulnerable in society.
These institutions include the Platinum Jubilee Hospital, which is now the non-profit Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi (one of the few hospitals in Africa to be ISO- and JCI-accredited); the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust, which started off as a community lending enterprise, and grew into a major retail financial institution – now called Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) – that helps promote small and medium enterprises across East Africa; the Jubilee Insurance companies, the largest providers of life and medical insurance across East Africa and Asia; and the non-profit Diamond Jubilee Schools in India and Pakistan, which were among the first to educate girls.