ASR was established in 1983 as a multidimensional, multidisciplinary group working towards democratic political, economic and social transformation. Although ASR is not a women’s Centre, its ideological underpinnings are socialist feminist and its core principle is to work against all forms of oppressions and for equal, equitable and just citizenship rights especially for women, religious, ethnic, class, and linguistic minorities or other communities/peoples living ‘on the margins’. This position, as well as its holistic view of political, economic and social transformation, has led ASR to experiment with diverse constituencies and activities within Pakistan, in South Asia and Globally.
While the emphasis may have changed at different times, ASR has been involved in a range of activities which include
- Research and Writing
- Training and Teaching Programs
- Audio-Visual production including performing art; alternative theatre; film production; fiction; art; crafts; poetry and music
- ASR Publications; the first and only regular feminist publishers of academic, fiction, and poetic works
ASR is equally involved in networking, solidarity, lobbying at various levels and in activism at the national, regional and global levels.
All projects of ASR work in tandem with each other and integrate the conceptual and academic with grassroots and movement activism through awareness raising; orientations; campaigns; mobilization; fact findings; demonstrations and direct actions. Together and separately they organized and conducted training programmes; seminars; lectures; consultation; conferences; action and academic research; publications; art exhibitions; poetry recitals; and music, films and theater festivals. ASR established two autonomous institutions within ASR, namely
- Institute of Women’s Studies, Lahore (1993)
- South Asian Women for Peace/Institute of Peace Studies and Activism (1996)
ASR also engages with national processes to impact policy, legislation and national plans either as a part of the civil society movement or at its own initiative. ASR thereby located its activism within conceptual frames while grounding the IWSL and the SAWP in empirical realities.
To support its own work as well as to provide a free service to those requiring such facilities, ASR developed and maintained a comprehensive resource and documentation Library/Centre. It also provided residential facilities and work cubicles for researchers, writers, film makers and for other start up NGOs to use the Centre as their offices. Our collection included over 7000 books; 3000 readings, reports and documents; 500 theses; 2000 bound volumes of newsletters, magazines and journals. In addition to this it had 3 million news clippings covering the period 1983 to 2018. Unfortunately, the library could only be used on site thereby limiting its access.
In 2013 ASR decided to initiate a process that would make these resources available as a ‘living archive’. The purpose was to enable its access to a wider public; to work towards a process that would assist those who required these resources through an interactive public domain; and to assist others to use its courses and training materials and readings, its audio and video archives when required.
Support and Donations
In 2018, ASR donated its library to the Government College University to make it accessible to a wider public. The memorandum agreement with the university includes the terms that the ASR collection have a designated space; that it be open to all who may need to use it (even those not members of a university or research institute); that courses and sessions be held with students, faculty and researches on the content, significance and use of the material in the library; and that these holdings be linked into the web portal of the university library and through this with other libraries in Pakistan.
Additionally, ASR has been involved in discussions with other universities and NGOs for collaboration on the contents of its curriculum, its course material and a sharing of its faculty as resource persons. These discussions have included the possibility of joint lecture, teaching, seminars and conferences. The ideal is for ASR and its programs to be integrated into the mainstream thereby ensuring that ASR’s experiences and resources continue without ASR necessarily involved in the long term.
The ASR team is now working on digitizing its remaining archives and making it available on an interactive online platform. These materials include over 3000 photographs; 3500 hours of audio material; 900 hours of video archives; and over 1000 documentaries and films that could support the work of other initiatives.
In addition to this ASR is to scan and upload its own publications (a total of 74) on its online portal. All the above are to be free of cost so that those who cannot afford these services are not constrained by the costs.