Gender based violence Prevention In Pakistan

Shirakat has been engaged in the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) since 2015.

We, as a group of volunteers (over 80% women) began our journey as an informal group in 2005 as a response to October 2005 Earthquake and tried to fill the gap due to little preparedness providing food, NFIs, shelter, psychosocial support to injured women, education and health working with Punjab Medical Association till end 2006. Then the Association handed over the hospital to Mansehra District Health Dept.

Registered as a Trust in 2010 we have been working on engaging men and boys for GBV prevention amongst other women's rights issues. We managed MenEngage Alliance Pakistan for 6 years (42 NGO members) and coordinated MenEngage South Asia for 2 years (over 200 NGOs from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan). One of the main areas of focus was GBV prevention. At the national level we are members of Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Alliance and Child Rights Movement which also focus on ending violence against women and girls. During 2019 and 2020, we were able to reach over 2 million people through animations, TV programs and social media – accessing 70,000 community members directly; over 28000 engagements.

Shirakat worked with 4 schools, (2 public and 2 private low-income schools) with Grade 8 and 9 students (ages 13-15) on gender equality – mainly exercises, role plays, fun and games – and collected their pledges. This was a two-year program funded by our core funds but had to be abandoned due to COVID.  Both girls and boys seemed very excited and a lot of peer-to-peer learning took place as reported by them. Boys made commitments such as ‘I will make evening tea for my mother’; ‘I will polish my own shoes instead of asking my sister to do it’ and many more similar to this one. More time had to be given to girls who wanted to renegotiate their tasks at home on negotiation skills, conflict transformation etc.

In 2015-16 Shirakat trained over 200 women in leadership, gender equality and GBV (including CEFM) prevention and also trained a similar number of men from their families on gender equality and men and masculinities who could amplify their voices. The women trained are still working on domestic violence and CEFM as shared occasionally by them in WhatsApp groups. They report that male members of the family who received training actively support the women when they raise such issues.

Shirakat led the process for engaging over 400 faith leaders (Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Behari, Sunni, Shia) in 2018-2019 in 11 districts of all the four provinces of Pakistan (Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and KPK) through CSO partners. The dialogue with faith leaders resulted in the religious leaders giving sermons on women’s rights in the respective religious texts (resource kit developed by Shirakat) in particular focusing on girls’ education and prevention of early child marriages. The sermons were recorded for use later. The leaders’ messages were videoed and presented at a CSW session.

In 2019-2020, Shirakat implemented another project on GBV prevention including ending CEFM in Sindh (partnering with SAFWCO) and Punjab. Regular consultations with the communities were conducted to encourage them to ensure that young men and women have violence-free and gender-equal relationships; and communities hold equitable gender norms and prevent violence.

Shirakat contextualized the SASA model of community mobilization and trained the staff who delivered the sessions to 30 volunteers in the community on men and masculinities, gender equality, and GBV. The volunteers took awareness and peer education sessions with the young women and men on the same model. All members NGOs of MenEngage Alliance Pakistan were trained on gender transformative approaches; various resources were shared with them and 11 NGOs reported integrating GBV prevention messages in their programmes.

90 Community Facilitators (CF) were trained on gender equality, men and masculinities, gender based violence, ending early and forced child marriages, and responsible fatherhood through the trained Master Trainers who had received a Training of Trainers. 58 (30 boys and 28 girls) adolescent boys and girls (Kirans) were provided with training on community mobilization against the issue of child marriages and GBV, who in return conducted 10 step-down sessions in which 288 participants (130 males and 158 females) participated. 29 (15 male & 14 female) teachers were provided training on GBV and gender transformative approaches with the request to take sessions with their students of adolescent age. Teachers reached out to a total of 1098 students (588 Girls and 507 Boys) through classroom sessions.

During COVID Shirakat developed WhatsApp groups of all community facilitators and tried to keep in touch with them through messages, voice messages, and sharing short videos. Linkages with other projects were active, for instance, a Shirakat project funded by UNICEF, working on key family practices, integrated GBV prevention in all of its activities promoting cohesion within the family, caring fathers, communication between spouses, and transforming masculinities. Thirty young changemakers (women and men) trained in Islamabad cascaded the training to train 60 changemakers. Each changemaker liaised with 20 families towards changing gendered roles and attitudes.

For institutionalization of gender transformative approaches, meetings were held with the Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Social Welfare, National Education Foundation, National Commission for Human Rights and Police. All the stakeholders committed their support to the project. Representatives from the Ministry of Social Welfare were provided with training on GTA and WEE trajectories and committed support in collaboration for serial discussions on WEE and change trajectories however due to covid situation the institutionalization process could not be aggressively followed. SWD welcomed the interventions and agreed to hold serial discussions with a group of 8 organizations working for women’s economic empowerment. The senior decision makers in Police after orientation to the project, provided invaluable suggestions for effective coordination and implementation of the project and agreed to support the project.  Consequently, within the given circumstances i.e. COVID restrictions, 2 meetings with Social Welfare Department (Special Education) were held to collaborate for serial discussions on GBV prevention and change trajectories. SWD welcomed the interventions, the serial discussions held with a group of 16 (10 females, 6 males) 8 organizations working for GBV. 3 modules (500 copies) were developed under the project on ‘Preventing violence and harassment in the world of work’, ‘Women protection and gender justice’, and ‘Men and masculinities to address GBV’. The technical committee reviewed the content to ensure quality content and suitability for groups. The modules were disseminated among CSOs, service providers and relevant stakeholders.

To reach the target of developing the enabling policy environment a set of activities was carried out during the project duration. The accountability toolkit (published by MenEngage Alliance Global) was contextualized and translated in Urdu (500 copies) for effective use with Alliance/Network members and CSOs in Pakistan. In post COVID scenario, Shirakat produced 24 “vignette" style animated videos related to this – viewed by thousands of people (close to 28,000) and active engagement from over 4000 persons. Hum TV, a private national television channel has expressed interest in telecasting the animations as PSAs. Over 2 million viewership.

Shirakat made a submission to the CEDAW Committee for Pakistan Review to be held in early February 2020. The report also addressed engaging men and boys to end GBV in particular, in line with the List of Issues (LoI) raised by CEDAW committee and its response by the Ministry of Human Rights. Considering the state’s response to LoIs it was recommended that engaging men and boys for positive masculinities through a gender transformative approach is extremely important to address violence against women and girls.

A policy dialogue on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work was organized whereby a Charter of Demands was drafted and agreed upon by over 20 CSOs who attended the dialogue. The parliamentarians invited promised to have the State ratify ILO C190. A policy brief on C190 – Convention on Violence and Harassment and R206 Violence and Harassment recommendation was developed and published in December 2019.

Shirakat organized a press conference on ‘Violence and Harassment in the World of Work: C190 and current situation in Pakistan’ on 6th December 2019 at National Press Club Islamabad. The panel included Shirakat, EVAWG and Pakistan Workers Federation, attended by 15 Journalists (2 women and 13 men), attended the press conference. 4 newspapers published from Islamabad. A 3-day art exhibition focusing on ending GBV was organized using linkages with the National College of Arts, 10 young artists which included 8 female and 2 male artists participated in the event at PNCA (Pakistan National Council of Arts) Gallery 2. Mr. Sven Ruesch, Team Leader of Education and HRD in EU, Member National Assembly Ms. Shandana Gulzar, Ms. Asiya (Ex-MNA) and Director PNCA participated in the event along with 34 participants from universities, networks and CSOs.

4 TV talk shows were aired on national TV and streamed live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The cumulative views through all channels were around 1 million. Polls were held to gather the opinion of the public on issues related to early and forced marriages and engaging men and boys via Facebook and Instagram: 88,000 people participated in these polls.  Two webinars (including speakers from South Asia) were organized during the South Asian Conference on Early and Forced Marriages on October 2-12, 2020 organized by Shirakat. In addition, two webinars on COVID-19 and engaging men and boys to curtail GBV and prevention of early marriages were organized, total 75 people attended the webinars and 317 viewed it on Shirakat Facebook page (numbers reported in the month of Oct).

Shirakat participated in CEDAW review for Pakistan held in Geneva on 10th February. It represented civil society organizations from Pakistan along with a group of 6 organizations. Shirakat played a lead role in compiling and drafting an oral statement to present CEDAW Committee. Shirakat played a key role in contributing to shadow report for CEDAW Committee and actively collated input from in-country organizations. We participated in Global to Local advocacy training held in Geneva from 6 – 8 February. It was organized by International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) and attended by organizations from Zimbabwe, Latvia, Pakistan and Eretria, countries under CEDAW review.  The training covered practical ways to use advocacy spaces efficiently and meaningfully.

Other actions included webinars and a national consultative workshop on gap analysis of pro-women legislation was organized in the form of 4 webinars. Concept notes, each event invited 4 panelists, each from international, regional and national backgrounds including a feminist at the national level.  The webinars were attended by 46 people and viewed by 180 people on Facebook (numbers reported in the month of Oct).  The findings from the discussion were published in the form of a book (500 copies). The books were disseminated among CSOs, lawmakers and relevant stakeholders. The following four topics were covered in the webinars: engaging men and boys to address gaps in the implementation of pro-women laws; systemic barriers and harmful masculinities: Analyzing De Facto challenges in the implementation of pro-women laws; role of Government Institutions in addressing VAW and Transforming Masculine Behaviors and Patriarchal Norms; and Accountability Mechanisms, Gender Transformative Approaches Post-Legislative Scrutiny.

Overall, we were able to engage with over 2 million people in Pakistan mainly through the media partner Hum TV which also used its own FB, Twitter, Instagram and other internet options to relay GBV prevention messages. 28,000 people commented on webinars, animations and other messages and shared the posts on Shirakat FB as well as Hum TV spaces.

In 2021-22 we conducted comprehensive research on CEFM titled Shattered Dreams – the Voices of Brides and Bridegrooms: A Report on Child Early & Forced Marriages in Pakistan, in collaboration with Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore. The book was published, launched and disseminated (available on the website). An article in a podcase has been presented; an article for an international journal is being written.

Since 2020 Shirakat is implementing a youth-centric initiative to address key socio-economic challenges affecting low-income and vulnerable groups (particularly young women, young people with disabilities, transgenders, and religious minorities), which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 wreaked havoc, especially on low-income and vulnerable groups across the world. This includes women and girls, as UN has described the worldwide increase in domestic abuse as a “shadow pandemic" alongside Covid-19. The intervention aims to: create an enabling environment for the low-income youth to lead efforts for social progress and upholding the rights of vulnerable groups within their communities; facilitate technological and economic empowerment of young people through a variety of innovative interventions; and mobilize civil society to position and mainstream inclusion and active participation of youth for better development and governance in Pakistan. One aspect is facilitating improved skills of the youth to foster grassroots change by promoting gender equality and social cohesion in their communities while combatting GBV exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second one is facilitating a path to prosperity in the prevailing COVID-19 context and beyond for the vulnerable youth, often marginalized, in livelihood opportunities that are green and sustainable. The third one is devoted to enhancing CSOs’ capacity building and facilitates meeting the governance and development challenges due to COVID-19 that pose a significant threat to Pakistan’s economic stability. Mainstreaming of gender, conflict sensitivity, inclusion of green jobs offered to youth in their communities to reduce internal migration and promote social cohesion in diverse faith communities are integral parts of the action. These measures are expected to open up spaces for youth to enter in discourse and increase their voice and visibility at the local and provincial tiers. The multiplying effects of increased linkages between horizontal and vertical elements of the action are expected to ultimately bring in local ownership and sustainability.

Under this project, Shirakat has trained over 2400 young women and men in 20 UCs of two districts, Rawalpindi and Lahore in GBV, governance, climate change, gender equality, and self-awareness. 1900 of these women and men (age 18-29) are now being provided with technical and vocational training for employability. The youth have formed their smaller groups with designated leaders, developed their community action plans with support from community influencers and are implementing them.

The intervention also works on capacity building of 8 CSOs; infrastructural support to shelter home; training shelter home staff on GBV, rape case management and other relevant topics.

Therefore, the strategies being used are community mobilization; capacity enhancement of youth and CSOs; active support to linkages with duty bearers to hold them accountable; allies in the community for prevention of spousal violence and CEFM as well as research and advocacy with duty bearers as well as constant dialogue and communication support.