Paper version of ‘Working with Sharks’ launched


Amid the colourful ambience of ‘National Women at Work Festival’ at Lok Virsa’s Heritage Museum on Friday, Dr Fouzia Saeed, a noted rights’ activist, launched the paper book version of her much proclaimed book ‘Working With Sharks’ on the occasion of International Women’s Day. After her best-selling book ‘Taboo’, Dr Fouzia Saeed’s book ‘Working With Sharks’ is a riveting account of a complaint of sexual harassment filed by eleven women against a UN official in Pakistan and the institutional harassment suffered by those women for voicing their complaint when the UN officials colluded with the perpetrators to crush their case and their spirit. Lok Virsa, in association with Development Communications Network (DEVCOM, Pakistan) arranged the book launch ceremony where Lok Virsa’s Executive Director Khalid Javaid, renowned artist Jamal Shah and Dr Fouzia Saeed spoke.
In his speech, the Lok Virsa chief executive lauded the efforts of Dr Fouzia Saeed in bringing out the book highlighting the problems confronting women in the society, particularly at their workplace. “Lok Virsa has already published a comprehensive book on women folk theatre with the able support and cooperation of Dr Fouzia Saeed, who is one of our former colleagues”, he maintained.
Dr Fouzia, instead of making a formal speech, preferred to have an interactive dialogue with the participants creating awareness about the subject matter of the book.
She described this book as a beginning of a major change where members of the society will stand in solidarity with a woman who wants to speak out against such crimes as opposed to the tradition of stigmatising women. The audience praised the author for such an informative interaction.
Published by Sanjh Publishers based in Lahore, the book grabs attention first because of its cartoon cover.
The book in first-person narrative is a non-fiction account of a complaint of sexual harassment filed by eleven women against a UN official in Pakistan and the institutional harassment suffered by those women for voicing their complaint when UN officials colluded with the perpetrator to crush their case and their spirit. This case sparked a national movement that culminated in the passage of legislation by the Pakistani Parliament in 2010 making sexual harassment a crime. The prime minister of Pakistan declared the day of December, when the original complaint of this case was launched, a National Day for Working Women.
Dr Fouzia Saeed is a brave social activist who has repeatedly raised issues when it was not acceptable to talk about them. Her book on prostitution, Taboo! (OUP, 2001-reissued 2011), provoked a national debate on women’s morality. Her recent book, Forgotten Faces (Lok Virsa, 2011), describes the paradox of fame and stigma faced by the female stars of Pakistan’s folk theatre. Her booklet and video, Women in Bondage (Mehergarh, 2007), exposed the conditions of women living in bondage in interior Sindh. Saeed’s work on violence against women spans over 20 years and includes founding the first women’s crisis centre in Pakistan in 1991.
She also edited a collection of articles on Violence Against Women in 1990 at a time when this issue was only an unspoken truth. Her work has helped our society to recognise these issues and many others by initiating open debate around them.
Dr Fouzia Saeed earned her PhD from the University of Minnesota, USA, and returned to Pakistan to pursue a career in social change. She has worked for the United Nations and other international development organisations. Her main identity remains her activist work on women’s issues, social justice and democracy. She is currently the Director of Mehergarh, a human rights institute.
Meanwhile, ‘The National Women-at-Work Festival’, which opened here at Shakarparian yesterday, is in full swing. The event has been organised jointly by Lok Virsa (National Institute of Folk & Traditional Heritage) and DEVCOM – Pakistan (Development Communications Network) to mark the International Women Day.
The main features of the festival include 56 female artisans stalls from AJK, KPK, Sindh, Balochistan, FATA and Punjab; government agencies including ERRA and NDMA, NGOs like SPO, Safe the Children, Helping Hand and seven UN agencies – UNICEF, UN Women, WHO, UNDP, WFP and UNFPA. On the second day of festival, a painting competition-cum-exhibition was also held in which more than 70 female students from different local universities and colleges participated. Main themes of the competition were ‘women at work place’, ‘violence against women’ and ‘ending torture against women in police custody’.
The students used their imagination and artistry to bring out beautiful master pieces through various mediums like oil on canvas and on the spot painting. The paintings were judged by a panel of jury headed by the TV celebrity and artist Jamal Shah.
Works of the students were exhibited at the Heritage Museum. A colourful prize distribution ceremony was organised on the occasion wherein shields and certificates were awarded to the participants. Three prizes were also given to the winning contestants. The winners in the graduate category include Shumaila from Islamabad Model College for Girls F-7/2, Samia Basirat, Syeda Anum Fatima and Kanza Tariq from Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi. In the post graduate category, Ibna Khalid, Hamna Ejaz and Maryam Ali Khan from Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi got the prizes.


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