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Campus

The Institute is located in Lahore, a city that boasts not only a historical and cultural history, but also a history of political consciousness and political activism. The choice of city and Institute was a conscious effort to draw upon and live up to the many possibilities of Lahore. The city has museums, numerous libraries and archives, bookshops, publishing houses, art galleries, historical monuments/architecture, and several parks and gardens.

When the plan for the IWSL was conceptualized, a lot of effort was put into the site’s selection. It is in the center of the city with easy accessibility to market places and other areas for recreation. However, the Institute is located in a quiet lane, away from the nerve wrecking sound of traffic and the congestion of office buildings. Also because security is a major consideration for families to send women members for training or to a public space this also became a main concern when looking for a location. IWSL is the only public Institute that is primarily for women to access, interact, utilize for research, training, library, use of the book shop and for meetings. In Pakistan there has been a dearth of such easily and safely accessible places with all these facilities for women at one location.

The concept of ‘women’s space’ and ‘non-hierarchical’ feminist methodology is kept in mind while designing the building. The living quarters for the students have been structured in such a way to be in line with the methodology. It has been constructed deliberately to look like a house, instead of a typical hostel, usually separated by corridors with disconnected rooms, and consequently, disassociating the occupants. In-built into the methodology is the concept of ‘sisterhood’ with the building designed to enhance integration among the students. A conscious effort is made to subside and gradually eliminate any class, race, ethnic or religious barriers that the students might have.

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The methodology is aimed at inculcating socialist feminism into the students in such away that it becomes part of their life. It is a process of deep analysis of one’s self and the surroundings: processes of deconstruction of both, for only then can one de-constructs patriarchy and class. Self-reflexivity is therefore, an important ingredient of any feminist endeavor and this course is no different. Throughout the course, assignments and general discussions (in and outside the classroom) are aimed at the ‘self’. The last assignment, which is the major part of the overall grade, was in fact on self-reflexivity. As the aim of the course is to bring theory and action together, and come up with a well-informed activist.

The consistency in methodology was also considered while decorating. So, the décor was actually done while keeping in mind ‘women’s creativity’. The T.V room and the dining room had a mural, painted by lay women in a workshop at ASR. The women were just told to draw, no size, pattern or shape was specified as such and their raw creativity flowed onto the mural which now graces the walls of that room. The rugs in the center are also woven by women. In fact these are done by Central Asian women and not as articles of sale but, as part of their daughter’s dowry. ‘Women’s creativity’ is lauded in other ways in the décor also. The staircase up to the seminar room has photographs of prolific women from the performing arts in Pakistan. Another methodological issue in consideration was the consistency between theory and action.