In 1987, it was decided that ASR would concentrate on training at the grassroots level, particularly with community based NGOs and in developing materials and publications relevant to these training. At the same time it was decided that instead of expanding indefinitely it would build on its earlier experience and help initiate other organisations and groups. Furthermore, that it would take the initiative to widen an understanding of development to include collective, creative expression. It was the first group in Pakistan, for example, to initiate training in video production and media activism; in training in theatre concepts and skills and in organising theatre festivals. It also very consciously strengthened its links in Asia particularly in South Asia, worked on several South Asia and Asian initiatives especially in the area of training. Perhaps the most successful initiatives of this time were the training courses in Women in Development at the South Asian and National levels.
During the first 3 years (1983-1986), ASR was involved in research on development issues; developing a data base; evaluations; assisting the programming of other NGOs; translating and simplifying academic research; linking into development initiatives both within the country and abroad; initiating and mobilising other groups; and in development itself as a resource centre/intermediary NGO to encourage alternative development concepts and methodologies in people oriented development.
In 1990, however, the feed-back received from both training and publication programmes were that whereas these training were relevant and important at the grassroots level, that senior policy makers of these NGOs, as well as Government and UN agencies, also needed in-depth training in issues of development. ASR’s training made a concerted effort to link the micro with the macro so that policy decisions could be made anticipating long-term macro developments. This necessarily meant development of different training modules and encouraging acadeic debate.
The publications unit during this period also expanded to include academic, fiction, poetry and non-fiction general interest books. These were made available to the general public through mainstream bookstores. To some extent, the ASR Publications unit started bringing in some funds of its own which were then used for further non-funded publications. This was also the period in which ASR personnel attempted to concretise their own film training programme. The team made 2 films in-house. One of these films which was shown on television in Europe and Australia moved the film unit into the possibility of financial self-sufficiency. During this period ASR got identified as a multimedia initiative since it was particularly involved in publications, film and theatre, and particularly when it organised an India __ Pakistan theatre festival in 1989 and a South Asian theatre festival in Lahore in 1992. The latter initiative led to the establishment of the South Asian theatre activist’s network.
In the next period 1993-1995, ASR concretised its earlier plans in developing and working towards a Women’s Studies Institute; in community-based training; and in South-South joint activities and action. In early 1992, it had taken the initiative in organising a Women’s Studies discussion/research forum in Lahore, which prepared the ground for the Centre. A co-ordinator for the proposed Centre was put in place in February 1993 and several activities were organised by her both within Pakistan and other parts of Asia. This culminated in a Multidimensional Women’s Studies Conference in Lahore, in March 1994. ASR was much more actively involved with the Asian preparation for the World Conferences on Human Rights in 1993, in the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, the Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1995 and as said earlier in preparations for the World Conference on Women to be held in 1995. It was also involved in local government and city planning and in that capacity participated in the Habitat Conference in Turkey in 1996.
In early 1992, it had taken the initiative in organising a Women’s Studies discussion/research forum in Lahore, which prepared the ground for the Centre. A co-ordinator for the proposed Centre was put in place in February 1993 and several activities were organised by her both within Pakistan and other parts of Asia. This culminated in a Multidimensional Women’s Studies Conference in Lahore, in March 1994. ASR was much more actively involved with the Asian preparation for the World Conferences on Human Rights in 1993, in the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, the Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1995 and as said earlier in preparations for the World Conference on Women to be held in 1995. It was also involved in local government and city planning and in that capacity participated in the Habitat Conference in Turkey in 1996.
At the same time, it re-directed itself to move back into community level work by working with trade unions, both within Pakistan and outside with peasant organisations, community based NGOs and with micro level activism. In this context, it set up an office in Toba Tek Singh, Faisalabad district, for rural mobilisation and awareness raising programmes.
Over 1994, ASR did a considerable amount of reflection within itself and discussed the issues with the numerous groups that it works with. In the light of these discussions and in view of the specificity of the NGO movement in Pakistan, as well as to strive towards self-sufficiency, it has been decided that it would perhaps be best for ASR to focus on those areas in which it has the most experience and for which it might be perhaps most needed. This is partly because many other groups in Pakistan are now doing many of the activities that ASR initially undertook but also for ASR to respond to those needs that are not being met. The decision therefore, is to re-direct its head office in Lahore and its activities here into a Women’s Studies/Women in Development Training Institute.
While a considerable amount of time was devoted to developing and running the Institute of Women’s Studies including putting up the building, ASR continued its involvement with the several other aspects of its work. This includes short term training and workshops on the 12 issues identified by the World Conference on Women (1995). As previously noted it conducted 46 workshops in connection with the WCW and to large National Conferences both of which were held in 1995. ASR has attended or initiated several other workshops and training.
Networking, campaigns, advocacy and activism continued to dominate the activities of ASR. In its individual capacity, as a member of the Joint Action Committee and as part of the movement for equality, Justice and democracy in Pakistan, ASR had been in the forefront in trying to mobilise the public to struggle for a Just and equitable Pakistan. It had also consistently struggled against all oppression’s and exploitation, and for women’s, human and minority rights. The issue over the past years included taking stand against the nuclear issue; militarization of society; the 15th amendment; violence against women; violence against minority (religious, ethnic, linguistic and national); and economic decisions that are, or will lead to further poverty and deprivation. The activities caused the government of Punjab to single out ASR and the Institute of women’s Studies, as a subversive organisation. IWSL was charged for being `anti state’; `anti government’; `anti Islam’; pro Jewism and Hindu’; `leading women’ etc. The Minister of Social Welfare ran a vilification campaign in the press.