Who we are

Gawaahi Executive Director

Naveen Naqvi (Broadcast, online and print journalist, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Gawaahi.com) is responsible for the running of the organization, fundraising efforts, administrative work, the hiring process (to begin but with the final approval of the Board) and supervising outreach.

Gawaahi Board Members

Amina Agha (TV Chef/Entrepreneur/Owner of Poppy’s Culinary Institute) is the President.

Sabeen Mahmud (Rights Activist/Social Entrepreneur/Founder and COO of NonProfit PeaceNiche, Founder of B.I.T.S.) is the Vice President and acting Treasurer

Mahenaz Mahmud (Educationist/Founder and Director of the NGO Teachers’ Resource Centre) is the General Secretary of the Board.

Zahir Riaz (Corporate/Commercial Lawyer, Orr Dignam & Co) is the Joint Secretary and Legal Consultant.

Dr Shershah Syed (President of the Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health/OB/GYN who repairs Obstetric Fistula patients) is a Member.

Raana Shaikh (Filmmaker/Former Secretary for Pakistan Ministry of Culture) is a Member.

Attiya Dawood (Poet/Activist) is a Member.

Sophie Malik (Communications Designer) is a Member.

Gawaahi Advisory Council

Ayesha Mir is a women’s Rights Activist. She is presently freelance Consultant to nonprofits working in women’s rights, and was formerly employed by NGOs Shirkatgah, UNIFEM and UNWomen.

Ishma Alvi is a Karachi-based Psychotherapist who is committed to the cause of women.

Kalsoom Lakhani is a US-based Pakistani social entrepreneur, philanthropist and blogger at CHUP! – Changing Up Pakistan. She is Founder and CEO of Invest2Innovate.

Why the group was formed:

After the successful completion of the Gawaahi.com project, the group wanted to translate the evidence generated through the stories into advocacy strategies and campaigns to influence policy and laws discriminating against women. One aspect of this is Violence Against Women while other areas that Gawaahi would like to explore include the harassment of women.

The group at Gawaahi feels that women need to be empowered as rights-claimants for structural and systemic changes in Pakistan. Contributing to the low status of women are (1) state policies and laws that are discriminatory, inadequate and/or inappropriate, frequently changed and poorly implemented, and (2) the persistence of negative customary practices, sanctioned in the name of religion when these practices may in fact, blatantly contradict religious injunctions. This misconception is bolstered by ignorance of (1) how customary practices differ from one area to another within and between provinces, and (2) how laws said to be ‘Islamic’ in fact differ – sometimes radically – from one Muslim community/country to another, and (3) existing facilities, schemes and provisions of state laws.

Given the minority status of women despite their being a majority group, they are consistently denied access to resources – including rights and information – opportunities and state-provided rights, and remain excluded or marginalized in decision-making processes. Adding to these problems are the lack of support structures and effective basic documentation – the lack of birth certificates enables child marriages, the lack of marriage (and divorce) certificates leads to legal harassment, and until recently, criminal proceedings. Women are frequently denied their right to National Identity Cards (NICs). This, in turn, deprives them of their legal right to vote, and also prevents their access to all government benefit schemes.

To compound this, in the post-September 11 scenario, growing extremism and militarism in the region has brought new threats that, together with pre-existing patriarchal structures, not only impede progress, but threaten gains made by women over the decades. 

Evidence of these factors lead us to believe that women have become more susceptible to threat, intimidation, harassment and acts of violence.

There is a way out!

While people adhere to traditions, they give importance to state laws. Consequently, while isolation and ignorance prevent actions for positive change, when armed with information about state provisions and linked to support mechanisms, people can change their practices and attitudes, and quicker than one would assume. The urgency of bringing about such positive change in state laws cannot be emphasized enough, as it has now been accepted that women’s empowerment is not only a rights issue, but an essential requisite of development as well as poverty alleviation.

The Executive Director of Gawaahi, Naveen Naqvi has been a broadcast, online and print journalist for ten years. She represented NBC News in Pakistan and was a Senior Anchor and morning news presenter for Pakistan’s first English language channel, DawnNews. During this time, she became known for her reportage and pursuit of socio-economic issues and in particular, her commitment to women’s human rights. Simultaneously, she brought to Pakistan ‘networked journalism’ with her on-air integration of online and broadcast journalism by using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. More recently, she has traveled from Brazil to Germany to discuss her work as Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Gawaahi.com.  With these experiences as a journalist, Naveen Naqvi feels that using the increasingly forceful tools of Information and Communications Technologies, there can be significant change in nongovernment work, unlike we have witnessed before due to the unique power of the digital/new/social media.

Accomplishments

Our group is very new, and yet, our project, Gawaahi.com has been making waves all over the world. It was nominated for the world’s largest weblog awards, the Deutsche-Welle Best of the Blog Awards 2011 under the Best Blog for Social Activism Category. At Pakistan’s Social Media Summit in June 2011, the first event of its kind, US Consul General to Pakistan, William Martin, made special mention of Gawaahi in his opening remarks.

For its effective use of the social media to invite submissions, garner support and highlight an issue/cause, Gawaahi.com was also used as a case study for a series of workshops organized by Mahiti Technologies, Inc. in India. As described by workshop conductor, Trupti Chengath, nonprofit leaders were shown how they could benefit from using ICTs to further their causes and increase awareness.

For us, our most important accomplishment is the kind of response we got from our readers, who went on to become contributors. In comments and submissions, innumerable women and men wrote to us, saying that having read a post or having seen a video narrating an experience of abuse, they felt inspired and emboldened to tell their own stories. This was always a crucial purpose behind setting up this portal that is unique to Pakistan – to give women who have endured, or are going through abuse a place to speak out, where they would not be judged, and where they would find support from similar voices.