Originally a small voluntary women’s collective in Pakistan in 1975, Shirkat Gah (WEBSITE, FACEBOOK, TWITTER) has evolved into a leading women’s rights organization in Pakistan. Shirkat Gah is committed to a just, vibrant and democratic society in which women are fully empowered, human rights and dignity are enjoyed equally by all without discrimination, where peace prevails and resources and opportunities are ensured on a sustainable and equitable basis.
Shirkat Gah works to ensure women’s rights and State’s accountability for equal rights, security, dignity and sustainable and equitable use of resources; advocates for gender equality and social justice both on national and global levels; promotes a culture of peace, democracy and pluralism and resists the use of culture and religion by State and non-State actors to deny women’s rights.
SRHR Landscape in Pakistan
Although over the past three decades Pakistan has made considerable progress in implementing SRHR, progress in some areas has been rather slow. Unsafe abortions are still prevalent; many cannot access family planning services. Because of long distances to health centers, many births are still attended by untrained midwives. Youth’s SRHR is largely missing from the SRHR discourse; stigma associated with youth sexuality prevents young people from accessing SRHR services. Sexuality education policy exists only on paper and has never been implemented by the government. Financial constraints are also a big obstacle as only a fraction of the GDP is allocated to health and population welfare programs.
According to Shirkat Gah religious fundamentalism and cultural conservatism are the two greatest challenges that CSOs and SRHR activists face when advocating for SRHR. SRHR activists continue to face strong opposition from the religious institutions and are often labelled as “foreign agents”.
Currently Shirkat Gah is implementing projects that focus on promoting women’s rights, reducing incidents of unsafe abortion by challenging abortion stigma and providing women with correct information and access to services, improving and promoting marginalized women’s SRHR and reducing structural poverty by building and promoting women’s sustained leadership to challenge inequitable structures among others.
Effective Advocacy and Campaigning Strategies
Shirkat Gah sees engagement with decision and policy makers through consultations and policy dialogue as the as the most effective advocacy and campaigning strategies. For example, the recent passage of a bill against early and child marriage was a result of civil society’s continuous engagement with the policy makers. Alliance building with other CSOs, use of traditional and social media are increasingly becoming important tools in advocacy, awareness raising and campaigning.