KARACHI: Social activist Dr Fouzia Saeed has been recognised for her services by the Washington Oxi Day Foundation.
The foundation chose Dr Saeed for its Battle of Crete Award, which honours women who have contributed to freedom and democracy in their countries. Last year, the award was presented to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Battle of Crete Award is named after the women of Crete, Greece, who fought against the invading Nazi forces at the Battle of Crete, 1941, in The Second World War. It will be presented to Dr Saeed in October this year.
The award aims to acknowledge her struggle against sexual harassment and comes after the publication of her book ‘working with sharks: Countering sexual harassment in our lives’. The book, published in December 2011, documents her work against institutionalised sexual harassment at the United Nations’ offices in Islamabad.
Saeed’s 13-year-long fight for justice at the UN spawned a movement for the rights of working women, and eventually to the criminalisation of sexual harassment in Pakistan.
The movement, called the Alliance against Sexual Harassment (Aasha) was launched in 2001 and engaged all segments of society, including government officials, the International Labour Organisation and the private sector. Aasha influenced 300 organisations to voluntarily adopt a policy against sexual harassment.
Finally in 2008, Dr Saaed drafted two pieces of legislation to curb sexual harassment at formal and informal workplaces, including public spaces and homes. After intense lobbying, the bills were unanimously passed by the National Assembly and by a heavy majority in the Senate in 2010. The comprehensive law against sexual harassment is the first of its kind in South Asia.