subeditors out to lunch; threw small office parties, especially on her birthdays; and rewarded them if they worked to her satisfaction, which was a very difficult task because she was a perfectionist.
After leaving The News she started freelancing for various English newspapers of the country, including The News, on issues close to her heart.
Her articles continued appearing in newspapers until last month, because she was a strong woman and a workaholic to the core who did not let her illness slow her down.
Naj the activist
Najma was a founding member of Shirkat Gah, an organisation she remained associated with from its inception in 1975 until her death. She worked on economics, environment and women’s awareness as regards their social and legal rights.
She was also a founding member of WAF, which was set up in 1981 by a group of women to fight for women’s rights after former military dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq had promulgated discriminatory laws against women.
Unlike the conventional image of an activist who stages rallies and shouts slogans against injustices, she chose to do practical work by running meaningful campaigns. Many of these campaigns were successful because they gave food for thought to the people who mattered.
She was a staunch advocate of women’s rights; be it farm labourers, bonded labourers working in brick kilns or women working in suppressing environments in the corporate world, her message was clear: women should raise their voice against injustices.
She was a staunch advocate of green economics: as director of The Green Economic Initiative at Shirkat Gah, during many of her seminars and presentations she floated the idea of microfinance to Pakistani women.
She also conducted many seminars on producing food through natural manure to stay healthy. She always advocated food security as one of the options to get rid of poverty.
Najma also worked on some documentaries with her daughter Deneb, an independent film-maker, on important issues, especially food security, women, and their relationship with land and the environment.
“Activists have to boost women’s courage to exercise their vote accordingly,” wrote Najma in her last article for the You magazine of The News. “It has everything to do with human rights and democracy. Start talking!”
Speak and raise voice for human rights. This is what Najma fought for her entire life and it was also her parting message.
The directors, managers and staff of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) expressed grief on Najma’s death, adds our correspondent.
During a condolence meeting, Piler Executive Director Karamat Ali paid rich tributes to the activist who, he said, fought her entire life for the rights of the poor and vulnerable sections of society.
Piler’s senior managers Zeenat Hisam and Sharafat Ali also eulogised Najma’s contributions. The institute’s employees offered their condolences and also observed a two-minute silence for the deceased.