Shirkat Gah began as a small women’s collective in Pakistan in 1975. The organization has since grown, and now works in 44 districts across Pakistan’s 4 provinces. In Pakistan, 80 women and girls affiliated with Shirkat Gah have been designated as ‘champions’ in the removal of social and cultural barriers to
promote Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). This is geographically significant, because the provinces that they work in are culturally conservative, and patriarchial. One of Shirkat Gah’s strategic objectives is “to strengthen women to raise their individual and collective voices against patriarchy and other obstructive factors, claim their democratic rights and demand justice from the local to the global”.
This aligns closely with the first premise of WHRAP- SA’s theory of change, which is “mobilized voice to ensure that women on the ground are aware of their rights and entitlements and have the due capacities to voice out their demands to duty bearers.
The Building Momentum- Strengthened Champions initiative
This campaign works to to build the capacity of community members to advocate their needs and to ensure the accountability of government and community service providers.
•One champion in the Charsadda district defied gender norms when she ran in a general seat, rather than a gender-specific seat, in the Union Council Hassar Hassanzai elections . Although she didn’t win, her contestation of gender and empowerment to run was inspiring.
•Sakina Javed from the Sheikhpura district lodged a formal complaint to the Medical Supervisor at the Tehsil Hospital, after illegal fees were being demanded from patients. The complaint was acknowledged and acted upon, and the fees have now stopped.
•Another champion, Shazia, has spearheaded a birth registration campaign by going door to door and collecting information from pregnant women. This is important, especially for girls, because it protects them from underage marriage, and makes it easier to do things like go to school and open bank accounts.
•These champions are doing fantastic work demanding that their voices be heard, and their rights upheld. Due to cultural, religious and patriarchal ideas of women, each champion’s success contributes to a larger paradigm shift towards equality and respect for women.
Shirkat Gah utilizes its online presence in the form of a website, blog, facebook, and twitter account to advocate for women’s rights. Their facebook page discusses honour killings, domestic violence, menstruation, breast-feeding, child marriage, and contraception. These taboo topics are gaining support, as shown by the 1,965 person increase in Facebook followers from January to June.
The Women’s Health and Rights Advocacy Partnership (WHRAP) -South Asia aims to promote marginalized women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. WHRAP combines grassroots evidence with national and international advocacy to promote the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of women. http://www.whrap.org