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October 15, 2019

Approach to combat violence against women launched


October 15, 2019

Islamabad:A new mobilisation model titled, SASA! (Start, Awareness, Support and Action) was shared at a key event with government, civil society, international organizations and other development entities, in Islamabad. The SASA! Conference was arranged by Aiming Change for Tomorrow (ACT) and funded by the Australian Government.

SASA is a community mobilization approach to prevent violence against women (VAW) and HIV, developed by Raising Voices in Uganda. SASA works by supporting communities through a comprehensive process of social change focused on interrogating unequal power dynamics between women and men. This approach engages a critical mass of people across all levels of society in order to create social norm. It helps community members to reflect on their own lives and relationships before trying to influence others. SASA! helps to create happier, healthier, safer relationships between men and women around the world.

Representatives from government, the, World Bank, DFID and other stakeholders from the diplomatic community and development sector were also present. Zartaj Gul, Minister of State for Climate Change was the chief guest for the event. ‘’The women of Pakistan are more suppressed and under depression, they do not feel comfortable to share their issues they are facing specially domestic violence, harassment at workplace and mental torture’’, she said in her speech.

The conference included a presentation on SASA! by Kampala based non-governmental organization Raising Voices and implementing partners presented on the journey to adapting the SASA! model to the Pakistan context and its implementation. Testimonials of Community Activists (CAs), a comprehensive documentary on SASA! keynote session and award ceremony for the CAs was also part of the conference.

Since implementation, there has been a significant rise (54%) in community members who are able to reach out to women experiencing violence in communities, with a 58% rise in community members who consider that violence is not okay. In addition, on average 73% of the targeted community members are now very able to extend support to survivors of violence, know and can tell alternatives to violence, refer cases and can challenge social norms.

Addressing the conference, the chief guest stated, “it is essential to adopt newer and internationally tried best practices and approaches to curtail violence against women and girls.” She added that the present government is fully committed to reduction of violence against women and girls and involvement of women in all spheres of life. “

Speaking at the occasion, the state minister informed the participants that present government has been engaged in social mobilization of its beneficiaries. However, she said, that there is a dire need for mobilisation model for rural, illiterate and vulnerable communities. She said, “SASA! has provided an impactful alternative to mobilization of communities and it can be adopted in varying settings.”

On the occasion, the Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Dr. Geoffrey Shaw said that, “Women and girls deserve to live in communities free from violence. Violence against women is a shared global issue with one in every three women beaten, violated or abused during their lifetime. Sources estimate that 70-90 per cent of women and girls suffer from some form of domestic violence in Pakistan at least once in their lives. Changing behaviours and attitudes is the only sustainable way to tackle such high rates of prevalence. Australia’s AUD 11 million investment has helped 10,000 women and girls access gender based violence services, and through 450 community activists sensitised 12,000 men and women to reduce tolerance for violence in the community.”

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