Archive | Asia

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Our Women Police on the Alert in Pakistan

Posted on 08 July 2014 by

This article was originally posted on Pakistan Horizon, the blog of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

Police Woman, Sindh, Pakistan

Police Woman, Sindh, Pakistan

They looked quite impressive in their dark grey uniforms, those women policy officers, whose appointment and career Aurat Foundation celebrated in an event on 3 July 2014. They included the first woman district police officer in Pakistan, Naseem Ara Panhwer, who is credited with countering dacoits (bandits) on her beat, and finding her way well into criminal gangs; Shehla Qureshi, assistant superintendent of police in the Frere area of Karachi, resplendent in her slightly different unifrom as she came into the police force through the government’s competitive examination; Azra Memon, assistant deputy inspector general of traffic in Karachi; Masuma Changezi, who is superintendent of police traffice also in Karachi; and Hajra Sabiha, who is the station house officer (SHO) of the Artillery Maidan women’s police station in the heart of Karachi.

Although some of the officers mentioned above are senior, the most significant appointments are those of two station house officers in charge of all-male police stations in Karachi, Ghazala Siddiqui who holds charge of the Clifton police station and Inspector Zaibun Nisa, chief of Bahadurabad police station. The station house officer is the lynchpin of the policing system and the original power lies with her or him because the police station is the very place where the community interacts with the police. In Urdu and local languages, the police station is called a “thana”, a word which evokes fear and apprehension.

Deputy Inspector General Abdul Khalique Shaikh spoke to us about the journey of the Sindh police in deciding to give these crucial responsibilities to women police officers. He said that, in terms of sheer numbers, the percentage of women in our police force is negligible. There are 450,000 plus men in the police force in Pakistan, and only 4000 or so women police, that is, roughly less then one per cent. The Sindh police were keen that not only should the number of women in the force be increased, but that they should be entrusted with significant and effective roles, and not marginal roles. As a general rule, they are posted mostly in women’s police stations and are used as escorts for women prisoners, when women are arrested or when raids are conducted, especially in houses where families are present. The police bosses felt that from their marginalised position the women police should be brought into the mainstream into roles where they could address the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898. But would their colleagues in the police force and members of the community accept their authority?

Many barriers had to be crossed. It was necessary that in decision-making circles there should exist no prejudice against women occupying positions traditionally held by men, especially in a hardened force like the police, and that there should be faith in their ability to perform as well, if not better, than men. Abdul Khalique Shaikh and his superiors had this faith, and felt that it was time to take the next big step. Initially, they thought it would be prudent to create safe beats where women could be groomed as station house officers for a few months and then moved to actual police stations. But they gave up this idea and decided to go ahead without taking preliminary precautions. Abdul Khalique Shaikh looks forward to the day when he can recruit women in large numbers not only as officers but also as ordinary constables.

Still, some encouragement and persuasion was needed. Ghazala Siddiqui, the first woman station house officer, told us how she had to be reassured that her superiors would stand by her if she made mistakes but Inspector Zaibun Nisa, who holds charge of Bahadurabad police station within whose remit my own house is located, apparently offered to become a station house officer herself. On taking charge of her office, she put an end to routine corruption, sidelined the “beaters” (beaters are persons who collect money from the community) of her station and put four of them in jail, closed down “shisha” dens and proscribed “gutka”, an addiction which is the curse of many people. Unlike the prevailing culture of the thana, she stopped all food coming in from neighbourhood restaurants and snack bars. As one of her constables told me recently, “Madam is very strict”. It is significant that all the women officers said that they continue to receive support from their superiors and none of them complained of criticism from the members of the community on account of their being women.

As we listened to how these women confronted crime, which now includes bomb blasts and other terrorist activities, and managed traffic on the vehicle-laden roads and streets of Karachi, a city of 20 million people, our focus shifted to the person who represented decision-making in the Sindh police, Abdul Khalique Shaikh, and he became the eventual hero of our event. We were overjoyed when he told us that a woman police officer would soon be appointed as “muharir” ( the one who records complaints) in a thana in Karachi. The entire team of Aurat Foundation joined hands to give him, with applause and cheers, the last shield of the day.

In my final remarks, I focused on the work and career of these women police officers in the backdrop of the women’s movement in Pakistan. Their numbers may be negligible in the total police force in Pakistan, but for the women’s movement their appointment has been a giant step forward. That the police administration made these decisions was the result of many factors ― urbanisation, social change and social motility, education and the effect of the affirmative action with respect to women’s rights taken by successive governments. Sindh, with its more open and urbanised culture, has been the leader in legislation favouring women’s rights but we must not forget that the decision makers in this case have all been men.

Aurat Foundation, which has struggled for women’s empowerment since 1986, has always worked along with men in all its programmes. Unlike some other associations operating in the field of women’s rights, it has never followed a policy of confrontation with men as a genre. We were fortunate that we had the support of enlightened and educated men in all our endeavours. The earlier presidents of our Board of Governors ― before me ― were all men. Some of our leading executives are men and our citizens’ action committees in various districts comprise both women and men. The collaboration of our men colleagues has opened for us many doors in remote and conservative areas where access was difficult and tradition prevailed.

Therefore, it was a pleasure for me to thank DIG Abdul Khalique Shaikh and the male heirarchy in the Sindh police for taking the bold decision to empower women police officers. I thanked the Sindh government and could not resist acknowledging Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, for had he represented patriarchy in its traditional sense, these decisions could not have been made. How could it have been otherwise, though, for the Pakistan Peoples Party carries the legacy of Benazir Bhutto, in whose tenure the first women’s police stations were established in Pakistan?

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Fazil Jamili: A Confession of Crime

Posted on 11 June 2013 by

On 8 March 2013, the Provincial Assembly of Sindh unanimously passed a Bill against domestic violence which subsequently became an Act. On 30 March 2013, Aurat Foundation held a meeting of all stakeholders and those who had contributed towards the passage of this Bill. Poet Fazil Jamili dedicated this poem on this occasion to the women of Pakistan.

(Translated from Urdu by Dr. Masuma Hasan, President of the Board of Governors, Aurat Foundation, WLP’s partner in Pakistan, and Chairman of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. The translation was originally posted in the journal Pakistan Horizon.)

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Day of Action: Let’s stop sexual and gender-based violence against women and children!

Posted on 30 May 2013 by

Gulbarchyn Jumabaevа of WLP Kyrgyzstan shares photos and an update on the local day of activism against sexual and gender-based violence.


WLP Kyrgyzstan/Bir Duino Kyrgystan and civil society activists, representatives from women’s NGOs, and youth activists rallied today under the slogan: “Let’s stop sexual and gender-based violence against women and children!”

Each year the number of women and children facing violence in Kyrgyztsan increases, and the violence reported is more devastating in scale and form.

According to the Center for Assistance to Children, in the first quarter of 2013 they have already worked with 13 cases of child victims of sexual abuse. In 2011-2012 they worked with 254 children, 34 of which were victims of sexual abuse. And these figured merely represent the small portion of the population the Center is able to work with. According to an informal survey of doctors at a local children’s hospital 3-7 children are treated for injuries related to sexual assault each month.

The General Prosecutors Office reports that in 2011 there were 22 cases of domestic violence related suicides.

WLP Kyrgyzstan feels the hour has come when the whole community must say NO to violence against children and women, to demand the authorities take strong and effective measures and steps to improve the situation.

DSCF3702 DSCF3727

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WLP Central Asia Regional Training – An Indescribable Experience

Posted on 16 May 2013 by

WLP guest-author, Bahriniso Shamsieva, is a Mine Action Project Assistant for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Tajikistan Office and also an activist with local NGO Marriage and the Family. She joined women from Kazakhstan,  Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan at the WLP Central Asia Regional Training of Trainers Institute on Women’s Leadership and Political Participation in Shymkent, Kazakhstan this April as a participant. Bahriniso shares her reflections from the training below.


Dear sister! I want to share my impressions on the WLP leadership training seminar in Shymkent, Kazakhstan. I have the most vivid and warm memories of the event, because it was an amazing opportunity to meet with so many unique women—both from neighboring Central Asian countries as well as from abroad. I realized that women around the world have shared vision for the world and our problems are very similar. And we can all easily understand each other and support each other. WLP as an organization is using their knowledge and experience to help us to unite and support each other.

Personally, working with these wise and active women who share similar passions, brought me great happiness and pleasure. Meeting with politician trainers— such as Asma Khader and other no-less inspiring women leaders— face-to-face, hearing them speak, and learning so much from them was an indescribable experience.

There were three of us women from Tajikistan at this Institute, and we were so pleased to have this opportunity. At this time, Tajik women are in need of such leadership trainings, as these trainings may help change their mentality and help them realize their place and significance, and find the strength to become more active in the personal and public arenas. While many of the preconditions for this kind of change are in place in our country, women still do not use their full potential and are not very active in politics and public life.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of the organizers of this workshop training on behalf of the Tajik delegation and myself personally for inviting us and for this opportunity!

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Reflections from WLP Central Asia Regional Institute

Posted on 10 May 2013 by

WLP guest-author, Saida Arifkhanova, is trainer and facilitator for journalists with twenty years of experience and a public relations specialist in Uzbekistan. She joined women from Kazakhstan,  Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan at the WLP Central Asia Regional Training of Trainers Institute on Women’s Leadership and Political Participation in Shymkent, Kazakhstan this April as a participant. Saida shares her reflections from the training below.

Saida Blog Post

This training made a very unique impression on me. The participants of this training were beautiful and stylish women, possessing strong character and leadership qualities. Participants were instantly happy to see each other and it was clear that something invisible united them. In all, there were women from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. And there were the four of us—women from Tashkent— representing Uzbekistan.

Gradually, I learned more about those who took part in the training and realized that each of these women has a unique position, and that each is successfully serving her community. Many participants work on issues such as human rights, women’s rights, and protecting women from abuse. I could sense their resolve to act decisively to achieve social change. I could also tell that these women held harmony and calm in their hearts, so when I heard about the struggles they faced everyday in their work I felt confused.

So, I asked many of the women if they were happy. At first my direct question seemed strange to them, and they did not answer me directly. Yet, as the days went by we began to communicate more closely, and many of the women came up to me and began talking to me. Gradually, our communication became more intimate and heartfelt.

I learned that each woman has a complex history behind her—the story of what pushed them to dedicate their lives to creating change. For some, that pivotal event was the experience of an ancient tradition of custom—for example bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan or norms that deny women a voice and a vote, and confine her to her role in her family. Some of what I heard was new to me, as I grew up in a family where my parents always discussed issues openly and made decisions together.

Some of the participants shared first-hand accounts of recent conflict in Kyrgyzstan and human rights abuses. As they shared their experiences and their stories, I realized that these women are making history and that each hard won freedom gives them personal strength and inspiration. So many of these life stories were piercing and unique. I began to see clearly that all of our women from Uzbekistan possess the same features and abilities as our peers in other Central Asian countries, but we have been completely overwhelmed by the need to maintain stability in our country.

During this training it became obvious that our countries are no longer as  similar to one another as they had been before and our realities are quite different today. Tajikistan has experienced a war, Kyrgyzstan has been through two revolutions and many difficulties, Kazakhstan is still overcoming the sharp shock of transition, and Turkmenistan faced leadership transition. In Uzbekistan, we are still struggling to maintain our stability, at the cost of many of the gains of independence. Still, while women in our countries do not speak the same language or share the same experiences, we very clearly understand each other and can relate to each other’s adversities.

Through the training it became very obvious that all these women are educated and independent, and that they will continue to do what they do despite these adversities. However, they still benefit from this access to better tools to support them and the work that they are doing for their communities.

Namely, they benefit from acquiring special skills and knowledge of topics such as,  modern public relations technology, effective communication skills, time management skills, and techniques for developing a vision. In addition to the training provided, this may require a special training facilitated by experts in all these areas. It is obvious that these women will be able to comprehend these complex topics, and from what I saw at the training these women could benefit from even more investment in their tremendous capacities.

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Following My Dreams: Reflections from WLP’s Central Asia Regional Institute

Posted on 23 April 2013 by

Maria Kolesnikova is a citizen journalist in Kyrgyzstan and a volunteer with WLP Kyrgyzstan/Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan. She joined women from Kazakhstan,  Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan at the WLP Central Asia Regional Training of Trainers Institute on Women’s Leadership and Political Participation in Shymkent, Kazakhstan this April as a participant and to present on her own experiences utilizing social media for change as a citizen journalist. Maria shares her reflections from the training below.

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After years of struggle, a timely victory for women in Pakistan

Posted on 12 March 2013 by

Author at Aurat Foundation's Women's Day March, Karachi

Author at Aurat’s Women’s Day March, Karachi

It was a great day for Aurat Foundation. Not only because 8 March was International Women’s Day but also because the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed long-awaited legislation against domestic violence. In its dying days, the Assembly adopted the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2013. This much needed legislation, defines domestic violence as:

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IWDN Coordinator Presents on Women, Tech, and Democracy Panel During Social Media Week

Posted on 05 March 2013 by

On February 19, 2013, as Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) Program Associate and the International Women’s Democracy Network Coordinator, I spoke on the panel, “Women, Tech, and Democracy: The Next Frontier,” as part of Social Media Week in Washington, DC, at the National Democratic Institute (NDI).  I presented on WLP’s successful technology programs, WLP Partner advocacy campaigns that are bolstered by social media, the International Women’s Democracy Network, and WLP’s forthcoming Online Learning Portal, which will serve as a vehicle to build constituent’s capacities by hosting eCourses and webinars.

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G-TOT Malaysia Speaks Out!

Posted on 24 May 2012 by

Participants from WLP’s most recent Global Training of Trainers (TOT) in Malaysia blog about their experiences:

WLP Malaysia 2012 G-TOT Participants

More Convinced of My Cause
By Endok Sempo M Tahir, WIRDA, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Attending the WLP/AWAM National Training of Trainers Institute for Women’s Leadership and Political Participation is a priceless, nurturing and inspiring experience. It was fun, enriching and mind-stretching—and gave us all a sense of contribution.

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My H.I.P. Experience in Malaysia

Posted on 23 May 2012 by

Ringing sounds of laughter and fun filled the learning environment at the WLP Malaysia/AWAM, National Training of Trainers (N-TOT) in Malaysia. This is the most relaxed and sisterly meeting place I had ever been in the world! The togetherness, warmness, cooperation and respect among Malaysian sisters is really commendable. The energizers from Suraya got me thinking… very enriching and entertaining and took tiredness off the bones.

Malaysia Pre-TOT Ice Breaker Exercise

Malaysia Pre-TOT Ice Breaker Exercise

The secret of the fun and facilitation skills-building sessions…? Hmmm….using the H.I.P principles!!!! “What’s H.I.P.,” did you ask? I’ll tell you, it’s horizontal, inclusive and participatory leadership process…. so eaaasssy! The process was all HIP!!!  from the point of introduction, facilitation, group discussions, etc… the HIP goes on.

Betty shared a little progressive secret with me…and with her consent I am going to share. She informed me of the great success she recorded with the HIP principles during a training session at the Sunway University, Malaysia. Can you believe after session, because of her facilitation techniques, other lecturers commended her for the very impressive participatory approach? The next day Betty saw me, the first thing she excitedly informed me was, “I tried out the horizontal participatory facilitation skills and it worked!” I was stunned and excited, and wished I had been there to experience her happy moment.

Ok, back to the N-TOT – hmm Samah… Samah is such a sweet darling and in-fact a valuable facilitator for WLP. I had never met her before Malaysian N-TOT but the first time I met her she was on my bed sleeping away peacefully.  I was confused but pleased to see she arrived Malaysia safely. Wao!  Samah is NICE personified! She is calm, friendly and willing to learn. In-fact I love WLP’s approach of putting facilitators from diverse background, cultures, languages, etc. such as me from Nigeria, Sindi from the Caribbean Island, Samah from Egypt and AWAM’s facilitators from Malaysia. Without announcing it to each other, we collectively shared a vision under the WLP training methodology and fitted into the roles as though we already rehearsed….

The enthusiasm to participate in team work gave a positive spirit to the training. The lead facilitators had a great role in guiding their co-facilitators for each session and guess what we have about 2 “newbies” with AWAM and some bold ones who tried out their facilitation skills.


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NEWS FROM G-TOT team: Malaysia Training happening NOW!!!

Posted on 23 May 2012 by

Warm, very warm is how I describe WLP Mayalsia/All Women’s Action Society’s (AWAM) reception of the Global Training of Trainers (G-TOT) team to Malaysia. The pre-institute training involved the programme staff and volunteers of AWAM– about 14 women in total attended this session. The learning environment was a very safe space where participants demonstrated mutual respect for the views and opinion of others.

Malaysia GTOT Pre-training May 2012

For me, doing the building blocks of leadership and giving some highlights on women’s political participation was a very empowering process. I was very glad I facilitated learning. And, remarkably, some negative views of politics as “dirty” changed for good. This was as a result of using the WLP Leading to Action manual to clarify issues on politics and power. Happily, the pre-institute participants realized that, in a subtle way, we are all politicians and are in one way or the other involved in the games of politics in our daily interaction. Thanks to WLP, I never knew I had been involved in some level of politics until I facilitated some of the LTA sessions.

In reviewing the multimedia pack, I observed a good level of content appreciation from participants. It really seemed a complicated tool to engage with, but as usual, we reassured them that in life and as a facilitator, one has to learn by practice and the more they involve themselves with the WLP Multimedia pack and training manuals, the better their facilitation skills.

Some of the pre-institute participants described themselves as “Newbies” and asked that we be kind to them!!!! I just imagined some signs of cold feet on their part but amazingly we had a few Newbies who even though acted shy were always ready to try out their facilitation skills. Some of them will be co-facilitating at the National Training of Trainers (N-TOT) with the global team– good for AWAM, Malaysia and good for WLP in general!

In preparation for the N-TOT, the G-TOT had a briefing meeting with some co-facilitators to mentor and provide guidelines for their sessions.

We are all looking forward to the N-TOT Malaysia tomorrow!

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WLP International Youth Day Honorable Mention: “Hey Sister” by Akhir & Norrye

Posted on 12 August 2011 by

The following is a music video submitted to WLP’s International Youth Day Contest, which was one of four selected to be in the honorable mention category.

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