Introduction

Initiated as a small voluntary women’s collective in Pakistan in 1975, Shirkat Gah (SG) has evolved into a leading women’s rights organization that operates out of offices in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar including its own facility in Lahore, and six new field stations across all four provinces.

In 1981, SG launched Women’ Action Forum (Khawateen Mahaz-e-Amal) as a platform of individuals and organisations for women’s rights and until 1984, SG Collective members were absorbed in establishing WAF. During the period 1985-86, the Collective made several key decisions that included:

          • Establishing SG as a full time institution so as to be a more effective resource centre; two members gave up other work to do so;
          • Changing society required working with men as well as women.

Starting in 1986, SG became the Asia Coordination office of the international solidarity network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML). An extensive action-research on the interface of women, law and customs under the aegis of WLUML’s Women and Law in the Muslim World programme galvanized SG’s outreach strategy.

A new phase started with the key decision to run an expanded and more systematic outreach programme. Three of the Collective members running projects became Coordinators for the two offices. SG grew exponentially from 1995-2005; adding staff, new projects, and a new office in Peshawar.

In 2005, SG realized that the organization required restructuring.To aid this process, a Transition Team was established and provided its recommendations shortly thereafter. These included (a) a single executive authority heading ShirkatGah in the form of a Chief Coordinator (b) the Collective to be split into (i) a Governing Board comprising 5-7 members, currently 6, mandated to act as a bridge between the Chief Coordinator and (ii) the rest of the Collective to form a General Body.

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In December 2007, a newly established Board was formed. Board Sub-committeeswere discussed as stipulated in SG Articles of Association in particular Article 16(2) which provides for coopted members and for the Board to allocate a budget for the use of the sub-committees which would report on the usage of any such funds as well as activities on a quarterly basis to the Board.A Programme Oversight and Human Resource Committee; Finance and Audit Committee were discussed on several occasions amongst the Board and Collective to assume responsibilities for functions being carried out by single Board members. The terms of reference of such committees are still being formulated.

In January 2013, Khawar Mumtaz relinquished her role as SG CEO to assume her responsibilities as the new Chair of the NCSW, and at the request of the Collective, Farida Shaheed assumed responsibility as Executive Director.

SG’s strategic approach is to (i) strengthen women as rights’ holders, (ii) reorient their immediate community actors to be more supportive and responsive, and (iii) promote a conducive policy framework..

Shirkat Gah works in 44 districts across Pakistan’s four provinces. The organization acts in concert with other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as key allies championing gender equality and social justice. Shirkat Gah has fully engaged with and led processes concerning obligations and reporting under, in particular, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action, the International Conference on Population and Development, particular goals of the Millennium Development Goals and Universal Periodic Review.

Nationally and internationally, Shirkat Gah partners with academia and research institutions as well as civil society groups. The organization is represented in many international bodies (e.g. IUCN (World Conservation Union), functions as the Asia Region Coordination Office for the international solidarity network, Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML), and sits on the steering committees of several initiatives to further gender equality.