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ASR’S INVOLVEMENT AND LINKS AT REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LEVEL

At the regional and international levels ASR is involved with networks and groups in different capacities and working relationships. Quite apart from the relationships that have been forged as a result of struggling on a common turf, Nighat Khan has been involved in the initiation and founding of many of the international groups, she was an international Associate of ISIS International, on the executive of the Asian Cultural Forum on Development (Bangkok) and responsible for several ACFOD sectoral programmes including the women’s programme and the Cultural Action Programme. ASR was also linked with the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, the Asia Women’s Human Rights Council, the South Asian Women’s Forum, Asia Pacific Society for Basic Adult education, among others.

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Although ASR had not been set up until 1983, Nighat Khan was part of the national process for the World Conference for Women in Mexico in 1975. By the time of the UN World Conference on women in Nairobi in 1985, ASR was set-up and Nighat Khan not only wrote the alternative country position but she was also a key person organising and running the panel on Asian Feminism. ASR was also involved in the panel on Development organised by DAWN as well as sub – theme workshops on media, publishing, alternative film, theoretical feminism and women and religion. Nighat Khan on behalf of ASR made presentations on six different panels. In addition to this ASR raised funds for four other women to participate in various panels. ASR has also been informed and kept in touch with World Conferences such as the World Conference on Environment Rio (1992).

ASR was also very actively involved in preparation towards the 4th world conference on women in Beijing in 1995. In this connection ASR was given responsibility as a member of the Asia Pacific NGO working group to organise one of the twelve issues based workshops on behalf of the regional NGO that she was representing at the Asian and Pacific NGO Women in Development Symposium held in Manila in November 1993. This was the Asian Pacific preparation for the World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995. Nighat Khan ran the workshops on the issue of Women and Political Empowerment in Manila at the NGO WID Symposium. There were several sub-themes under this main panel but each was organised to flow with some continuity. The workshop on Political Empowerment was the most heavily attended in terms of participation and considered most participatory approach to discussions and recommendations with some key questions and areas for discussion initiated by the resource persons.

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Subsequently ASR went to the 2nd Ministerial meeting on women in development in Jakarta in June 94 to lobby and work on the Asia Pacific draft pland of action that wasa forwarded to the WCW Beijing. The entire process of regional preparations and activities was being shared through ASR with national groups and NGOs to facilitate and motivate preparation in Pakistan. ASR considers the process of raising  awareness  and mobilising people to think on issues far more important than the end. Nighat Said Khan was invited by the UN NGO Forum Secretariat as a key note speaker in Beijing in 1995. ASR also organised 4 workshops at the NGO Forum, all of which were very well attended; and as a member of the Asia Pacific Working Group, it took all responsibilities at Beijing itself, and at the Asia Pacific level post the WCW. At the same time ASR was involved at the national level in assisting in putting in place the implementation structure and process. In this connection ASR held 46 local, issue based, provincial, sectoral and national meetingsand workshops. It also held two large pre and post WCW Conferences in which several thousand activists participated. In addition to this it brought out 9 publications including the Manila document in both urdu and sindhi. Towards the Beijing Plus 5 process it was involved in the national process at the provincial and national level, participated in the South Asian level work in Nepal, the Asian and Pacific level meeting in Thailand, and the UN Beijing Plus 5 meeting in New York in 2000. It has also interacted at the South Asian level on some areas of the PFA in particular education, economic restructuring, women in conflict situations, violence against women, human and women’s rights.

 ASR AND SOUTH ASIA

From  its inception ASR has seen in the context of South Asia on the premise that this region is so linked geographically, historically, politically, economically and culturally that it is almost impossible to resolve issues in one country without also addressing others. In many cases what may happen in one country has a direct bearing on the other or may even be in response to the other. As such ASR has always worked with a South Asian identity which is reflected in almost all of its activities. It has not only been involved in training programmes in South Asia but has included South Asians even in its national programmes. This is particularly the case with participants from India since Indians and Pakistanis have been more cut off from each other since independence.

The other activities undertaken have been in the field of theatre activists, film programmes and joint productions, programmes for artists, joint publications or translations of material from other countries, conferences, and especially facilitating activists and others to join in South Asian programmes. In the past twenty years ASR has facilitated over 5000 participants to attend programmes in other parts of South Asia.

Perhaps the most important aspect of these activities has been to try and inculcate the idea of peace in the region and to mobilise activists on issues of peace. In this regard ASR was a member of the South Asian Women’s Forum; the ACFOD South Asian Forum; a founder of the Pak-India People’s Forum; Member of the Pakistan Peace Forum; The Joint Action Committee of 36 NGOs in Lahore which is active on this issue; facilitated the work of WIPSA including housing and organising the second women’s bus visit to Pakistan; is supportive and was the host of the Soldiers for Peace; and assisted over the last three years over 200 visiting Indians, including students, from India.

The Institute of Women’s Studies, Lahore, set up by ASR also has a South Asian focus with faculty and students coming from South Asia.

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Networking, campaigns, advocacy and activism continue to dominate the activities of ASR. In its individual capacity, as a member of the several CSO networks and alliances and as part of the movement for equality, Justice and democracy in Pakistan, ASR has been in the forefront in trying to mobilize the public to struggle for a Just and equitable Pakistan. It has also consistently struggled against all oppressions and exploitations, and for women’s, human and minority rights.

In this context it has continued to be engaged on the grass roots level particularly in more marginalized areas from 1997 to 2009 it has worked in and/or facilitated work in Skardu; Baltistan and Azad Kashmir; Peshawar; Khyber and Malakand Agencies; Kohat; Chitral; Kalash; Loralai; Turbat; Gwadar; Badin; Karachi; Hyderabad; Dadu; Sukkur; Taxila; Gujranwala; Thal; Rahim Yar Khan; Sheikhupura; Bahawalpur; Abbotabad; Muzaffargarh; and Lahore. This culminated in mobilizing, organizing activities and facilitating participation in the Asian Social Forum in India in 2003 and the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India in 2004.

For the World Social Forum 2004, ASR registered itself as coordinating the “Process to the WSF and Beyond, Pakistan and Beyond . . .”ASR’s point of departure in terms of participation at the WSF was to encourage those who could best represent Pakistan in terms of the foci of the World Social Forum.  Since ASR works in the most remote areas of Pakistan; with the most excluded; with women; religious minorities; and with the marginalized, ASR thought it is crucial that such peoples should be encouraged to participate so that they themselves could go and speak on their own behalf. ASR facilitated the participation of 140 people to go to the WSF which had a 50% representation by women and 50% by religious minorities.