Simorgh engages in advocacy to change discriminatory laws, policies, social attitudes and practices through press and signature campaigns,street protests, picketing, lobbying and discussion groups.
Planting the Seeds of Change: Human Rights Workshops for Raising the Consciousness of the Women’s Police Force.
The attitude of members of the law enforcement agencies towards citizens has always been problematic. Verbal and physical violence is the norm for the police in their public dealings. While men as well as women, especially if economically disadvantaged are subjected to this form of state violence, women are at a greater disadvantage. In a series of workshops held by Simorgh in 2002, it has been found that no real distinction is made between the categories of women who come in contact with the police. Whether they come as citizens seeking redress or the accused, their mere presence in a police station places them outside the bounds of respectability and as such, they are seen as having forfeited any claims to humane treatment.
Simorgh felt that there was an urgent need for long-term intervention in this area as a step towards the elimination of custodial violence and miscarriage of justice. To this end Simorgh carried out a series of workshops and follow-up activities with the aim to:
– Create awareness of basic citizen’s rights and human rights concepts among members of the police personnel, including their own rights.
– Change mainstream perceptions with regard to women through addressing the issue of gender relations, culture, and human rights.
– Bring about attitudinal change among members of the police force in their dealing with the general public.
– Review of the Pakistan Penal Code and other related documents to identify gaps etc. between existing laws and ground realities.
As any intervention that challenges deep-rooted ideas/perceptions is bound to meet with resistance and take time to be understood and accepted, sporadic intervention would not produce results. In order to be effective, it was felt that the workshops would have to be spread out over a period of one year, enabling wider outreach and an indepth understanding of issues, while enabling monitoring and evaluation at multiple levels.
June 2003 – June 2004
Neelam Hussain and Ferida Sher – Project Supervisors
Marium Abrar – Project Coordinator
Mahvish Zaidi – Research Associate
Mohammad Waseem – Interactive Resource Centre Person
Transcribers – Firdous Rani
Duration of Project and Frequency of Trainings
The project was conducted in Lahore, Punjab and initiated by making visits to various police stations/ women complaint cells in Lahore to identify the issues that needed to be addressed. Over this one-year period, Simorgh met with two groups of thirty women alternately on a monthly basis conducting a total of twelve workshops; six with each group. The groups consisted of constables, SHOs and ASI’s.
Workshop methodology for all workshops was to encourage full involvement of the policewomen. New concepts were identified and introduced to encourage critical discussions on problems and issues arising in the daily workings of the police. Discussions, where appropriate were based on the elucidation and analysis of human rights and gender relations. Institutional analysis was based on SWOT, participatory exercises and case studies.
To enhance participation and avoid a lecture-based format various exercises were introduced that required group or individual work and presentations. The exercises included situational analysis, role-plays, interactive theatre, videos, writing situational scripts and acting.
By the end of one year we feel we have been able to make differences in the following areas:
– A positive change has come about in the attitudes and behavioural norms of the women’s police force vis a vis the public.
– The participants have come to the realisation that discrimination against women prevalent in our society is also happening in their own homes, hitherto considered the norm. This was encouraging as self-awareness is essential to bringing about any positive social change.
– Participants have come to understand the importance of the basic rights of women, e.g. the right to divorce, the right to inheritance.
– Awareness has arisen to the various forms of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment has been perceived as a form of sex discrimination. The changed attitudes of the women police force plus greater confidence and self esteem will enable them to deal more positively with male colleagues with regard to issues of sexual harassment in the workplace.
A core group of trainers from among the women’s police force is now in a position to assist with the training of their colleagues.
An evaluation report has been prepared for the donor agency.
This project had been made possible by the generous funds of the British Council Lahore.