SWO & UNIFEM – Celebrates 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Take Back the TechSWO with UNIFEM Pakistan celebrates ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence’ Campaign 2009 with youth of Pakistan – Thinking about Women – a little differently!

These are testing times for women in Pakistan. The country ranks 106th out of 137 on the Gender-related Development Index and 66th out of 75 on the Gender Empowerment Measurement Index. Despite religious, constitutional and legal rights, women’s position in the society is weak.

With each passing day, conditions are getting miserable as women are subjected to more extreme forms of violence and exclusion. Incidents of honour killing, rape, fire and acid burning, domestic violence, dowry-abuse, trafficking, under-age marriage and trade of young girls among tribes for dispute settlement are gruesome and frequent. Women in rural and poor communities are more vulnerable to violence and crime, committed most often by their own family members, in the name of law, religion, customs and tradition. It is sad that incidents of physical and psychological torture upon women are increasing but grossly under-reported in the media or other public reporting systems.

Women’s access to education, employment, health, property and justice had been severely restricted for years. Now the rise in extremism has taken its toll as opportunities for socio-political interaction; education, health and freedom of expression and mobility have reduced sharply in large parts of the country. Pakistan has one of the lowest rates for girl-child survival, maternal safety, literacy and employment among women because of prolonged discrimination and injustice.

For many women early marriage, even at the age of 12 results in unreported / underreported domestic violence, high levels of maternal mortality, morbidity and incidences of Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI’s) including HIV & AIDS. Low levels of education and illiteracy, especially among women (37%), are also factors for increased incidence of STIs and HIV & AIDS. To top it all, involvement of men in highlighting these issues remains low, and is therefore a contributory factor to the deteriorating situation regarding gender equality, empowerment and violence against women (VAW) in Pakistan.
Signs of hope

Despite tough opposition, women’s rights campaigners have done exemplary work over the years to raise the issue of VAW. Due to their consistent mobilization and advocacy, many social norms and attitudes are changed. Successive governments had been under pressure to amend or even repeal laws that are discriminatory against women, because of the struggle put forwarded by these groups. It is easier for women to seek justice and gather support from rights campaigners than before. The media is playing an equally important role of highlighting VAW issues in a positive manner, thus creating awareness and courage in members of the society.

SWO initiatives

Keeping up with the spirit, Sunshine Welfare Organization (SWO), a group of committed young activists from Karachi and Islamabad, is trying to address the situation with fresh approaches. ‘We think the situation is alarming and requires a sustained but aggressive effort’ says Shahzad Iqbal, the founder of the Organization. “Violence against women must be stopped immediately. We are committed to challenge all discriminatory laws, attitudes and practices that are making women’s lives difficult”.

SWO has been advocating for women’s rights for several years. Now it is taking the effort to another level. From 25th November 2009, SWO is planning to initiate a series of activities to mobilize youth at an unprecedented scale, with the help of inter-personal as well as Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) tools.

“We are engaging communities of youth, both boys and girls, through dialogues and other means of expressions to celebrate the UN’s ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence’ campaign” Shahzad says.

The Organization intends to organize dialogues, walks, poster-making competitions, walks along with email and sms-based information dissemination campaign to audiences across the country. The activities would primarily ensure women’s participation as well as invite the government, media, civil society and business sectors to collaborate in this noble cause.

‘Our goal is to strengthen the voices that are demanding better living conditions for women across the world and in the country’ said Shahzad Iqbal. ‘We hope that the objectives for these activities are in unison with many other groups and individuals and we are looking forward to join hands with them’.

‘We are trying to move people’ says Shazad. ‘We want them to understand the connection between VAW and different health-hazards that the women are facing including HIV and AIDS.’

SWO activities are innovative, yet participatory on several counts. ‘Our activities would mobilize men and male youth (future men) by enhancing their awareness about VAW situation, its types, impacts and means of eradication including understanding of their roles. We would also build capacities of a group of representative men from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) which are not currently focusing /working upon women’s rights. It will sensitize them against VAW issues and initiate a change process in their organizations’ policies and functioning’. says Shahzad.

Through its training component SWO seeks to fill the void of interaction between gender specialists and those who are routinely blamed as perpetrators of subtle but routinely practiced forms of violence against women like private transporters, shop keepers, lower-level public servants including clerks, messengers and guards posted at public/private offices etc. It would invite representative organizations from such areas of public interaction and raise their consciousness about how women are being subjected to gender-related violence in daily occurrence; and how they can protect women from harassment and fears by changing their attitudes and practices.

But it will not be just talk. There will be colours too. SWO intends to provide creative means of expression to young boys and girls, aged 13 to 16 years, in Karachi and Rawalpindi or Islamabad to illustrate the situation of VAW in the society. ‘Through poster competitions, we would try to understand how growing minds are looking at things. It would be another kind of expression that involves more intense feelings and appeal’.

The Organization has developed special messages and materials for this year’s campaign. These would be sent out to thousands of people to mobilize them and invite them to join the movement. ‘There is no better time to raise the issue of VAW in the society. We have lost many precious lives due to inaction and apathy. Those lives should have been saved’ says Shahzad Iqbal. ‘But all is not lost. We know, our people have the strength to move mountains. It’s just a question of reaching out to them. And we are reaching out. We are certain; it is going to turn out good.’

SWO Activities for the Campaign

‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence’ 2009

  • Two Debate Competitions with 250-300 youth about women’s rights and impacts of VAW (one each in Karachi and Rawalpindi or Islamabad)
  • Two Poster Competitions with 250-300 youth on VAW (one each in Karachi and Rawalpindi or Islamabad)
  • Two Trainings Workshops with groups of men from Civil Society Organizations which are not currently focusing upon women’s rights (one each in Karachi and Rawalpindi or Islamabad)
  • 16-Day Campaign over the Internet for mass-awareness and information dissemination through SWO website, international social networks, local and foreign blogs and email-based groups in Urdu/English language
  • 16-Day Campaign through SMS to mobilize hundreds of people through especially developed slogans and text-based messages in Urdu and English languages.

Sunshine Welfare Organization (SWO) is a registered, non-profit organization with the mission to ensure justice and equality of opportunity to the disadvantaged and underserved people, to empower them to become productive members of the society. It believes that sustainable development would only become a reality when a democratic, free and accountable society is established. The Organization envisages a culture where decision-making processes are inclusive and participatory; and benefits are shared with everyone in an equitable manner.

For information about SWO and its activities, please visit www.swo-pk.org



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6 responses to “SWO & UNIFEM – Celebrates 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence”

  1. farrahshah Avatar

    I agree and support the post hundred percent .I wish if NGO’s can involve TV Campaign to change the perception regarding woman in the society.
    Simple things ,a girl walking in the street
    a girl going to school
    a woman alone in the house
    a woman going to market
    Is not out there to seek man’s attention .
    The fun for men to have a good look at a girl or a woman ,to chase them to follow them or to make dumb calls is harrasment and can affect seriously the life of the women or a girl involved.
    her education can be terminated,she can get married too quickly and she can be divorced or become a target of abuse by her own family.
    Their behaviour has the affect on the life of other person.
    A message that,” a smiling woman is flirting is wrong ”
    Girls do like to put on make up and dress up nice it does not mean they do it for boys to chase them.

  2. dr jawwad khan Avatar
    dr jawwad khan

    bay waqt ki ragni

  3. farrahshah Avatar

    The realtion of a brother and a sister is precious and extremely sweet .But it does not mean brothers own their sisters like a property or the sisters ahve to spend their life as per Brother's views.

    for example for a brother might think Matric is enogh of eductaion ,a sister might wish to be a doctor.


    Empower woman to lead a better life ,educate them.

  4. farrahshah Avatar

    dr jawad don't you start on Gender issues again.

    we had that in deatil.

  5. dr jawwad khan Avatar
    dr jawwad khan

    feminism and darwinism are the brain child of shaitan e laeen.

    the only purpose of these movement is to create a rift between husbands and wives just to destroy the institution of family.

    question is do the men in pakistan hate women?…it is a joke for me.sure male have tendencies to take undue advantages in pakistani society but saying that women are being victimized just because of their gender is the most rubbish thing i have ever heard.

    @farrah shah!

    kindly try to understand that in pakistan is run by rules of jungle.every man,woman and child without power and influence is a victim on way or by other.

    the problem women of pakistan are facing is not related with gender hate. women have enormous degree of love care and respect even in this time of decay of society.

    the gender related hate and crimes are purely a gift of west where women are not more than bitches.

    on the other hand the faminine movement has its own agenda

    not related with the actual crimes against women. this movement is especifically interested in westernization of the women.

    look at the movement for women…most of vocalists were the bitches in their student life. for example asma jahangeer, aasma jeelani, APWA women and other….just look at the institutions working for women right….

    this is not a fight for women right its a quest for free sex society.

  6. kurt Avatar

    For some reason the browser I have doesn't show your article accurately… It appears that a slight portion of it is not showing and the structure of the page doesn't appear to be right. Are you sure this post has been tested with Opera?