Fouzia Saeed

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Fouzia Saeed
Manganhaar two.jpg
Fouzia Saeed opening a Manganhaar Festival
Born (1959-06-03) 3 June 1959 (age 61)
OccupationExecutive Director, Lok Virsa, Pakistan National Institute for Folk and Traditional Heritage
Known forAuthor of TABOO: The Hidden Culture of a Red Light District

Fouzia Saeed (born 3 June 1959) is a social activist, gender expert, trainer/facilitator, development manager, folk culture promoter, television commentator and author. She is the author of two well regarded books. Her first book[2][3][4] is an ethnographic look at prostitution in Pakistan, TABOO!: The Hidden Culture of a Red Light District.[5] Her second book, Working with Sharks: Countering Sexual Harassment in our Lives (Sanj, Pakistan, 2011), was an autobiographical exposé on sexual harassment in the United Nations and the revenge meted out by the UN management she and 10 other women faced for making their case.[6]

Saeed is well known in the activist circles of Pakistan's social movement,[7][8] having worked for decades on women's issues,[9] especially those linked to violence against women, prostitution,[10] women in the entertainment business, women’s mobility and sexual harassment. Her work on violence against women spans over 20 years and includes founding Bedari, the first women’s crisis center in Pakistan in 1991. For over a decade, she focused on reducing the level of sexual harassment[11] and the impact of debt bondage[12] on Hindu women.

On 10 March 2009, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gilani, named Saeed to a three-year term as one of the 15 members of the National Commission on the Status of Women.[13][14] Subsequently, she was appointed as the Chair of the Sexual Harassment Legislation Implementation Watch Committee from May 2010 to May 2012.

In February 2015, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed Saeed as the Executive Director of Lok Virsa, the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage. She completed her term on 9 February 2018 with exuberant accolades from the press and civil society for her stellar success in revitalizing Lok Virsa and expanding the space for performance culture in Pakistan.[15][16][17]

Saeed says of herself: "I want to be judged by my abilities, my struggles and my achievements and not labeled or stereotyped by my gender, my economic background, my nationality or my beliefs."

Personal profile[edit]

Saeed was born on 3 June 1959, in Lahore, Pakistan. She received most of her schooling and early college education in Peshawar, Pakistan where she graduated from the University of Peshawar with a BS in Home Economics as the University Gold Medalist for Academic Excellence in 1979. As a result of her academic achievements, she received a Quaid-e-Azam Overseas Educational Award and spent 8 years at the University of Minnesota, where she earned an MS in Design and a Doctorate in Education. She received additional funding from the Ethel L. Parker International Fellowship Award of the American Home Economics Association for her doctoral research. Saeed returned to her native land immediately after completing her degrees, but has returned to Minneapolis on several occasions as a visiting lecturer and to receive a Distinguished International Alumni Award[18] in 1998 and the International Leadership Award [19][20] in 2008, both presented by the University of Minnesota in recognition of her contributions to the field of education and the women’s movement in Pakistan.

The government of Japan named Saeed as one of seven Asian Leadership Fellows for 2010. She attended the Fellowship program in Tokyo from September to November 2010 [21] and gave lectures at numerous Japanese universities[22] and wrote about her experiences on her return.[23]

Saeed was awarded the 2012 Battle of Crete Award by the Oxi Day Foundation for 'courageous action for freedom and democracy' based on her decade-long struggle for the criminalisation of sexual harassment in Pakistan.[24]

She served as the Director of Mehergarh: A Center for Learning where she headed its programs on youth, gender and human rights from 2004 until 2012. She remains as an informal advisor.

Between September 2012 and February 2015, Saeed was a Fellow at the US National Endowment for Democracy (DC), Draper-Hills Fellow at Stanford University (California), Visiting Fellow at George Mason University (Virginia) and Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (DC) under the Smithsonian Institution.

She lives in Sri Lanka with her husband, Paul Lundberg, whom she met in 1995 when they were both working in the United Nations in Pakistan. They have also lived together in Manila and Cairo. She is one of the very few Pakistani women of her generation who has learned how to SCUBA dive and has dived in Pakistan, the Bahamas, the Mergui Archipelago of Burma, Fiji, and various islands of the Philippines.

Areas of work[edit]

Sexual harassment[edit]

In 2000, Saeed was instrumental in forming a network called AASHA [6] (An Alliance Against Sexual Harassment) in Pakistan. Six organisations form the core membership of AASHA. They, along with several hundred individuals and organisations serve as partners and friends of AASHA. In 2002, AASHA, together with the Government, developed a Code of Conduct[25] on gender relations at the workplace that was initially adopted voluntarily by over 130 companies [26] in Pakistan. From 2002 onwards, AASHA continued to collaborate with the Government to press for the passage of a law requiring all public and private organisations to adopt and implement the Code. On November 2009 an amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code was passed by the Pakistan National Assembly explicitly making sexual harassment a cognisable offence anywhere in the country.[27] This was ratified by the Senate on 20 January 2010 and signed into law with immediate effect by President Zardari on 29 January 2010.[28] On 21 January 2010, the National Assembly approved a second bill requiring all organisations in Pakistan to adopt and implement the Code of Conduct.[29] After lengthy debate, this bill was also passed by the Senate on 25 February and signed into law by the President on 9 March 2010.[30] On 10 May 2010, Saeed was named by the NCSW to head the Government's Implementation Watch Committee, which will facilitate and monitor the progress of adoption of the sexual harassment legislation.[31]

On 22 December 2010, Dr. Saeed, under the AASHA banner, organised the 10th Annual Working Women's Assembly. The Assembly was held in the Prime Minister's Auditorium and the Prime Minister, along with Fehmida Mirza, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ferdous Awan, Minister of Women's Development and Shanaz Wazir Ali, officiated at the gathering of over 400 working women, including agricultural field workers, police officers, parliamentarians, doctors and senior government officials.[32] In his speech, the Prime Minister declared 22 December as National Working Women's Day [33] and he fulfilled a major aspect of the law by naming Ms. Musarrat Hilali as the first Ombudsperson for Women's Rights.[34]

Although she had been working on gender issues since the late 1970s, her attention became more focused on this particular issue when she and ten other women found themselves trapped in a systematic sexual harassment scenario by several of their managers [35] when she was working for an agency of the UN in Pakistan. Despite being competent, well respected and committed to their careers, they each had to take the risk of jointly reporting their supervisor to the UN Headquarters in New York. The women fought the case together, despite serious attempts by the UN leadership in Islamabad to break them up and discredit their professionalism, and finally won after nearly two years of effort.[36] After the main perpetrator was removed from the UN, the case became widely known and resulted in many policy changes in the work environment of the entire UN system. However, as reported in May 2009, this issue remains one of the most difficult for the management of this large, international organisation to properly address.[37] This case has been fully documented in Dr. Saeed's publication, Working with Sharks: Countering Sexual Harassment in our Lives. The publication of book was warmly received by a cross-section of Pakistani society.[38] and internationally[39] The book now has its own Facebook page.[40] The early reviews of the book have praised her bravery while questioning how such a situation could unfold with the management of a well-known international development agency fully backing the perpetrator.[41]

In her efforts to counter the stigma that Pakistani society attaches to the victims of sexual harassment Saeed has started to highlight the role of the harasser. Together with her colleagues from AASHA, she created a series of characters whose behaviour constitutes sexual harassment, whether knowingly or not. She gave each character a humorous name to break the aura that prevents women from complaining. Naming also concretises an issue and makes it manageable. Sabir Nazar, a famous cartoonist in Pakistan, drew the cartoons and they were compiled in a calendar for 2008. The response was electric with the calendar being reprinted several times. The calendar was widely discussed on television and in the press as a major breakthrough in shifting the public's perception of the root causes of harassment away from women's clothes and to on men's personal behaviour.[42] A second calendar, with 12 new characters, was brought out in 2009, followed by a third in 2010. The final calendar appeared in January 2011 composed of the favourite 12 characters out of the original 36, selected by fans via internet voting. The calendars were reported on by several leading English language newspapers in Pakistan[43][44][45] with full praise going to "the ascerbic humor and intelligent wit of Dr. Fouzia Saeed of AASHA."[46]

Violence against women[edit]

Saeed has worked extensively on issues of Violence against women (VAW) and its effects on women and their children over the past 25 years. Other than crisis counselling and sensitisation on the issues, she has given numerous talks on the subject of VAW in general, domestic violence, rape, incest, and bride burning. While studying in the United States at the University of Minnesota, Saeed actively volunteered at crisis centres in Minnesota. She received training as an advocate and a councillor to deal with violence survivors at Chrysalis [7]. She worked on the helpline, counselling violence survivors on the phone and provided them with references for legal help, medical and shelter facilities. She also received training from Minnesota Intervention Center for facilitating small groups of women. Later, she conducted a research study for St Paul Intervention Center [47] where she assessed the satisfaction level of violence survivors from the law enforcing agencies. This included police, courts, counselors and shelters. The outcomes of the report and the specific recommendations were presented to a body of senior judges and police officials. She also worked with St. Paul Intervention Center as a woman's advocate and volunteered in a program which provided violence survivors direct support after they had requested police intervention.

After returning to Pakistan in 1987, she joined Women’s Action Forum.[48] She formed a taskforce under its Islamabad chapter called Committee for Violence Against Women. This committee analysed factors that have helped this violence persist and initiatives needed in the society to address some of these aspects. To deepen the discussion she and others on the task force organised workshops on the issue.


Saeed was a Founding Member and Executive Director of, Bedari,[49] a community organisation focused on women's issues, specifically related to violence. The organisation was founded in 1992 by Saeed and Ambreen Ahmad. At that time others among the core members who formed the first executive body included Sara Tirmazi, Shazreh Husain and Roshaneh Zafar. Bedari became the first Crisis Center in Pakistan that dealt with women experiencing violence.

Women in folk culture[edit]

Fouzia Saeed has been working throughout her career on women's issues in the field of folklore, development and social change. Her career started as a Deputy Director Research at the Pakistan National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa)[permanent dead link] where she developed and supervised a folklore research program and contributed to improvement of the folklore archives and the library of the Institute. She conducted research on various aspects of folklore, through the Institute and on her own. Her first research was on women in folk theatre in 1991. Recently, Lok Virsa requested her to update and enhance the book, which they published in 2011 as 'Forgotten Faces: Daring Women of the Pakistani Folk Theatre'.[50][51] In the book, she chronicled the life of Bali Jatti, the first women to own a travelling stage theatre in Punjab, as a vehicle to capture the tradition of Punjabi folk theatre through the eyes of the female performers whose careers are spent in front of audiences of men who keep their wives hidden at home. The first review of the book,(Documenting Arts by Sarwat Ali) appreciated her ability to present these stage stars as real women who faced more than their share of troubles in their lives.[52] She has also done research on other entertainment forms like folk circus, folk dances and folk natak (drama), and has mostly focused on women’s experiences in each of them.

Her book, Taboo: The Hidden Culture of a Red Light District,[53] is the first book-length ethnography that captures the fading traditional systems of prostitution in Pakistan,[54] with their close relationships with classical music and dance, as they are steadily replaced by the more exploitative modern brothel systems. The culture of the prostitutes serves as reverse-image of mainstream Pakistani society with their female heads-of-household and male family members who serve no economic purpose. Saeed used this culture as a mirror for Pakistanis to assess their own gender relations. For this reason, the book became a cult classic among young English-speaking Pakistanis.[55][56] The book was published in English and Urdu by Oxford University Press[57] and has been translated into Hindi[58] and Marathi[59][60] by nonprofit groups in India. A Japanese translation was published by Commons in October 2010.[61]

She also contributed a shorter, more technical version of her book in an international collection of articles comparing legal systems for prostitution in Europe and Asia.[62]

Saeed has been actively involved in reviving Pakistani folk performance arts[63] through organisations she has been associated with, and is also a folk dancer herself. Together with the Folklore Society of Pakistan she helped to re-establish the Manganhar folk singing genre that had almost died out in Pakistan.


Saeed has been associated with electronic media since 1977 when she was among the first female television news announcers on Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) from Peshawar. She was a college student at the time. After completing her studies in the US, when she returned to Pakistan in 1987, she started her engagement with PTV again. This was through conducting programs for PTV and later with other television channels from time to time.

She hosted four different television series of talk shows on social and cultural issues: Hum Qadam, Bholi hui hun dastan, New Horizons and Rishtay (about 50 programs in total). In addition, she has hosted numerous live transmissions and special programs onvarious occasions.

She continues to appear on PTV and other channels as a commentator on political and social issues.[64][65][66]

In October 2009, her last television program began on anti-talibanization called Ye Kon Log Hen? (Who Are These People?).[67] The program ran for three months. This program was a part of her larger agenda addressing the ways terrorists establish themselves in fragile communities.[68][69][70] She organised a large gathering of citizens at the National Library on 23 June 2009 to map out a strategy for countering talibanisation in Pakistan.[71][72] In 2010, she galvanized citizen support for a constitutional amendment formalizing local government as a third tier of the state administration as a part of her counter narrative agenda.[73] She continues to broaden her counter narrative through her work at Lok Virsa.


  1. ^ /
  2. ^ Taboo Review Dawn
  3. ^ Taboo interview Sikh Spectrum Archived 9 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Puneites are a very discerning audience", Richa Bansal, The Times of India, Pune, Times City, 26 May 2007
  5. ^ (Oxford University Press[1] Archived 31 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Karachi, 2001, 2nd edition 2011)
  6. ^,,,
  7. ^ "Is Taboo taboo?" by Shabnam Nasir, Books and Authors, DAWN, 16 February 2003
  8. ^ "Breaking Taboos" memoires by Kamil Ali Rextin in The Friday Times, 9–16 October 2009.
  9. ^ Speech on Women's Day 2007[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Men and sexuality
  11. ^ AASHA
  12. ^ Bonded labor conference
  13. ^ Official GoP list of NCSW membership
  14. ^ NCSW Press Announcement
  15. ^ "Lok Virsa: from 'shambles' to a swelling pride - Daily Times". Daily Times. 3 February 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  16. ^ TNS1 (7 February 2018). "Dr Fouzia Saeed deserves another term for her miraculous performance". TNS World. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Distinguished International Alumni Award
  19. ^ International Leadership Award Archived 25 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^
  21. ^ ALFP
  22. ^
  23. ^ Saeed, Fouzia. "Some Like it Raw", The Express Tribune Magazine, 16–22 January 2011, p. 34.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Copy of the Code Archived 2 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ List of employers adopting the Code Archived 25 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^[permanent dead link]
  30. ^
  31. ^[permanent dead link]
  32. ^ Malik, Javeria Azaz. "Civil Society Triumphs", The Friday Times, Vol XXII, No 48, 14–20 January 2011, p.9.
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^
  35. ^ Discussion of the case
  36. ^ Announcement of official UN decision
  37. ^ Ban Ki-moon comments on SH in the UN
  38. ^’s-book-sold-for-rs-125000/49192/\story_26-12-2011_pg7_7 Archived 3 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^,,6689353,00.html
  40. ^ [2]
  41. ^,,
  42. ^ Article showing the cartoons Staying Silent no More
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ Jajja, Nadia. "A parting shot", DAWN, 21 January 2011.
  47. ^ [3]
  48. ^ [4]
  49. ^ [5]
  50. ^,,,,,,, Archived 22 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^ Kamal, Nudrat, Ode to the Theatrewallis", NEWSLINE, December 2011, pp. 93–94.
  52. ^ Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  53. ^ "Breaking a Taboo", Mohsin S. Jaffri, The News YOU Vol 11, No: 48, 27 November 2001
  54. ^ Taboo review Newsline Archived 25 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  55. ^ "Of myths, taboos, and bold truths" by Amina Kamal Khan, The Nation Literary Supplement 7 October 2001
  56. ^ Taboo review[permanent dead link]
  57. ^ Taboo Urdu edition release Kalunk
  58. ^ Taboo Hindi launch Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  59. ^ Taboo Marathi launch
  60. ^ "Some light on Red light", Maharashtra Herald, Register, p. 2, 27 May 2007
  61. ^
  62. ^ Saeed, Fouzia Good women, bad women: prostitution in Pakistan in Gangoli, Geetanjali and Nicole Westmarland, International Approaches to Prostitution, The Policy Press, University of Bristol, UK, 2006, pp. 141–164.
  63. ^ Folk Festival and Conference in Delhi, India
  64. ^ BBC News interview comments
  65. ^ honor killing in Balochistan (in Urdu)
  66. ^ CBS News interview comments
  67. ^
  68. ^ Dispelling the myths about Taliban
  69. ^ "Force back the Taliban and save the people"
  70. ^ "not a futile effort"
  71. ^ Taliban leadership must be eliminated: experts[permanent dead link]
  72. ^ Economic, social reforms to root out terrorism
  73. ^ Are we for a democracy?


  • Saeed, Fouzia (2011), Working with Sharks: Countering Sexual Harassment in our Lives, Lahore: Sanj
  • Saeed, Fouzia (2011), Forgotten Faces:Daring Women of Pakistan’s Folk Theatre, Islamabad: Lok Virsa Press
  • Saeed, Fouzia (6–12 March 2011), "of Myths and Men", The Express Tribune Magazine, p. 38-39
  • Saeed, Fouzia (16–22 January 2011), "Some Like it Raw", The Express Tribune Magazine, p. 34-38
  • Saeed, Fouzia (September 2009), "Are We for a Democracy?", Newsline
  • Saeed, Fouzia (2006), "Chapter 6: Good women, bad women: prostitution in Pakistan", in Gangoli, Geetanjali; Westmarland, Nicole (eds.), International Approaches to Prostitution: Law and policy in Europe and Asia, The Policy Press, University of Bristol, pp. 141–164, ISBN 1-86134-672-7
  • Saeed, Fouzia (2001), Taboo!: The Hidden Culture of a Red Light Area, Karachi: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-579412-5
  • Saeed, Fouzia (December 1991), "Prostitution in Shahi Mohalla", Women's World
  • Saeed, Fouzia (1990), "Folk Dances of Pakistan", Lok Virsa Research Journal
  • Saeed, Fouzia (December 1990), "Violence Against Women", Women's World
  • Saeed, Fouzia (1991), "Queen of Hearts", Newsline.
  • Saeed, Fouzia (1987), Social consequences of overseaseducation : readjustment of returning Pakistani scholars Dissertation: (Ph.D.)--University of Minnesota, 1987.

External links[edit]