South Asia Regional Working Group

Saira Rahman Khan

Bangladesh, Asia

Saira Rahman Khan is an Associate Professor at the School of Law at BRAC University, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Among the courses she teaches are “Women, Law and Legal Protection”, “Human Rights’ and “Criminal Law”. Saira is interested in women’s legal rights in Bangladesh and has been involved with various women’s rights oriented non-government organisations, and as a research consultant in issues pertaining to women and the law in her professional life. She spent a year working closely with women survivors of acid violence. Saira is a founding member of the human rights organisation, Odhikar and is involved in documenting and researching issues pertaining to violence against women, specifically the violence of rape, sexual harassment, dowry-violence and acid-violence. She is also a resource person in Odhikar’s training of grassroots women human rights defenders. Saira completed a PhD in Socio-Legal studies from the University of Kent at Canterbury in the UK and is a British Chevening Scholar. She is the author of the book ‘The Socio-Legal Status of Bangali Women in Bangladesh: Implications for Development’ and several articles, journal chapters and a monograph pertaining to women’s socio-legal rights in Bangladesh.

Simi Kamal

Pakistan, Asia

Simi Kamal has more than 30 years of global and national experience in civil society and private sectors. Her interests and expertise include water, environment, food security, climate change, women’s rights and empowerment, and building collaborative partnerships, platforms and networks. Kamal is the founder and chair of the Hisaar Foundation – a foundation for water, food and livelihood security, and has also founded and managed several other organizations in the social development and private sectors. She is chief of party of the Gender Equity Program in Pakistan, a $40 million Aurat Foundation program supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. She is author and co-author of more than 180 research and evaluation reports, and more than 430 papers, articles, book chapters, handbooks and modules published and presented worldwide.

Aurat Foundation

Established in 1986, as a national, non-profit, non-governmental organization under the Societies’ Registration Act 1860, Aurat Publication and Information Service Foundation (Aurat Foundation/AF) is committed to create widespread awareness and commitment for a just, democratic and caring society in Pakistan, where women and men are recognized as equals, with the right to lead their lives with self-respect and dignity. Over the last 28 years, Aurat Foundation has come to be recognized nationally and internationally as one of the leading institutions creating, facilitating and strengthening civil society groups and networks for promoting trust and collaboration among citizens to mobilize public pressure for women’s empowerment including social, political and economic empowerment.

“Our NGO is in favor of a global binding norm on VAW and is providing an organizational endorsement for the working group.”

Ferdous Ara Begum

Bangladesh, Asia

Gender Issues Specialist, Executive President: Forum for the Rights of the Elderly, Bangladesh Core Committee Member: Ministry of Social Welfare on Older Persons Rights, Member: SANWED (South Asian Women‘s Empowerment and Development ), Former MEMBER, UN CEDAW COMMITTEE, (Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women), Former Chair of the drafting Committee of the General Recommendation, “Older Women and Protection of their Human Rights” of the CEDAW Committee. (The CEDAW Committee adopted the General Recommendation in 2010), Former Member, National Council for Women’s Development, Bangladesh.

Active Aging and Research Center

Active Aging and Research Center is dedicated to protect and improve the human rights of women, older women and widows of all ages who are socially and economically disadvantaged in the family and society and who are vulnerable to violence , abuse , neglect and trafficking and ignored in the Government policies and programmes as well. The organization aims to fulfill its goal through awareness campaign and negotiation with Government to create opportunities for older women and widows to ensure access to justice and legal system, access to basic services of health, education, income generation, water and sanitation, adequate housing and living conditions including old homes and transportation. The goal of these activities is to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, older women and widows and implement perspectives of CEDAW convention in the project areas to promote equal status and opportunities for all. Promoting the concept of universal social pension to eradicate poverty among vulnerable women and widows is another important goal of the project. The geographical location of our work is the whole of Bangladesh including Hill areas and Char Areas. “We are committed to have zero tolerance for violence.

We support the move for an Additional Protocol to CEDAW to have a legally binding instrument that establishes global minimal norms and standards to outlaw violence against women. In addition to this we also support the move to have a CONVENTION for prohibiting violence against women.”

Seemantinee Khot

India, Asia

Seemantinee has over three decades of experience in the development sector, 20 years of direct
implementation with NGOs, 5 years of Bilateral Aid and UN and 6 years as Global Head for CSR with
leading wind energy company, Suzlon. She currently works as Consultant to FAO/UN on agriculture projects in South East Asia; besides guiding a number of Corporate in formulating CSR policies, implementation and reporting as a Partner of CHHAYA Strategic Advisors, a niche Consulting for CSR. She is on the board of some impactful NGOs like YUVA, YUVA Rural Association, Paryay and AFARM. She has woked as Faculty for CSR for the last three years at Institute of Directors that grooms board members for Indian Industries. Her experience and interests includes strategic planning and managing comprehensive development programs. Over 20 years in executing grass-root level programs, strengthening community based organizations and empowering them to promote sustainable natural resource management has given her hands on experience in shaping up and evolving new developmental initiatives. In all her work there has been a clear focus on Inclusive Growth and Participatory Development. She is committed to increasing engagement of marginalized communities, including women, in planning and implementation of development programs so that there is equity and justice. She did her Masters in ‘Urban and Rural Community Development’ from the renowned Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in 1982, after Graduating with Psychology major, from University of Pune in 1980.

Paryay

Paryay has a mission for the holistic development of the rural poorest through capacity building, information dissemination, natural resource management, research, networking, policy advocacy and local resource based
livelihood promotion. The vision of Paryay is the just and equitable society in which poorest of the poor have the development opportunities leading to their socio-economic, educational development and address their livelihood rights for improved quality of life.

Paryay is in favor of developing a global binding norm on VAW and supports this effort.

Lily Thapa

Nepal, Asia

Lily Thapa pioneered an organization focusing solely on the issue of widows. She is the founding chairperson of Women for Human Rights (WHR) which has been working for the social, political, economic and legal rights of widows in Nepal and in South Asia from past 20 years. Through WHR, her advocacy has changed government policy, and has succeeded in mainstreaming the issue of widows into the government agenda, changing many discriminatory legal policies in Nepal. Further, her work with the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) has led to the Ministry’s establishment of an Emergency Trust Fund solely for single women (widows) in Nepal. Lily continues to raise pertinent issues concerning the need for social security schemes for widows at the national level, as has been reflected in the directive principles and policies for the interim constitution. Her efforts have been recognized by numerous national and international awards, including recently from the President of Nepal on her work towards women empowerment and for peace. By profession Lily is the Lecturer in the University of Nepal on Sociology and Gender and engaged in women’s alliances for peace and democracy.

Sopheap Ros

Cambodia, Asia

Sopheap Ros is the founder and Executive Director of Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC), a gender-specialized non-government organization in Cambodia. She has previously held posts in government ministry and international and national development agencies and programs in Cambodia. Sopheap is known as an activist, organizer and advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Her activism and advocacy are drawn on vast knowledge and real life experience of Cambodian women. Over the course of her direction, GADC has progressed as the national leader in capacity-building of organizations, including government departments on gender mainstreaming into policies, plans and programs, and engaging men and boys to end violence and discrimination against women. Sopheap is also one of the founding members of Committee to Promote Women in Politics (CPWP), the national network of women’s organizations that lobbies mainstream political participles to promote women in political leadership. She has further brought the issues of Cambodian women to the international community. She has spoken about women’s rights issues in various regional and international forums, including the UN Sessions on CEDAW to obtain international support and actions to address the issues that affect women’s human rights in Cambodia.

Azra Abdul Cader

Sri Lanka, Asia

Azra Abdul Cader is a Sri Lankan development professional with over 10 years experience working in the development sector in Sri Lanka and in the region including think tanks, civil society organisations and the United Nations in Sri Lanka. She has engaged in research and advocacy, focusing on women in conflict, environment, economic empowerment and social protection, influences of religion, extreme interpretations of religion, culture and tradition on gender equality and SRHR. Her present work focuses on engaging in global advocacy processes to address the influence of extremism and fundamentalism on SRHR through an alliance of advocates working across the Global South. Her work also includes evidence generation and advocacy around human rights accountability mechanisms to ensure SRHR. She has experience working with civil society and the UN in Sri Lanka and the South Asian Region in trying to effectively use evidence for policy, gender equality and empowerment across diverse groups and in different contexts. She is a graduate in sociology and development.

Shafiqur Rahman Khan

India, Asia

Shafiqur Rahman Khan is a young and passionate social activist with a singular attention on Bride Trafficking. His humble demeanor and enduring patience are his major strengths. He has been conducting workshops with various duty bearers including states’ highest level police officials as well as religious and ethnic religious leaders. His strategic priority is enforcing women and girls’ rights as human rights. Ever since he was a teenager, Shafiq was furiously active and stood upright for the education rights of Dalit children and other excluded communities. Ever since, he has been working actively in the social sector. From working single-mindedly for the cause of rescuing girls who fall victim to ‘bride trafficking’, he founded an organization EMPOWER PEOPLE which was started with a 300 kilometer March Against Female Foeticide and gender inequality in Haryana in 2005. Later he led Assam2Delhi March Against Bride Trafficking. The interventions of the organization started in the form of a movement in early 1999, when as a Naxal activist from the tribal belt, Shafiq, visited some villages and saw hunger and disease and apathy of officials and civil society. Upon realising that the radical party he was part of did not seem to care to tackle this, he decided to do it himself. An institution by the name Career Development Centre (CDC) was initiated. It started imparting education and played a key role in spreading education consciousness as part of its awareness program among youth. The aim to provide education and food to poor and marginalized children bore fruitful results.

Empower People

EMPOWER PEOPLE is perceived of as pioneer institution in protecting women victims of violence and mitigating post-violence trauma in north Indian states. Focusing on empowerment of Trafficking survivors, working to protect, support and organize trafficked women and girls from the vicious cycle of trafficking. The main focus of the organization is to work for disadvantaged women who are victims or potential victims of violence including domestic violence or other honor crime or killing, and trafficking or other type of slavery, and provide them shelter, proper counseling legal support and anything else required. First through an educational initiative called Career Development Corner (CDC) which started in 1999 and later through EMPOWER PEOPLE since 2006, the organization is gradually taking the form and shape of a social movement, with a few community based organizations. EMPOWER PEOPLE has a membership base of at least 17,000 people which form a loose informal network of committed change agents.

Suntariya Muanpawong

Thailand, Asia

Suntariya Muanpawong, is a Chief Judge in the Research Justice Division of the Supreme Court of Thailand. After finishing her Bachelor of Law from Thammasat University and Barrister at Law, she obtained Master and Doctorate Degree in Public Law from Muenster University, Germany. She practiced shortly as a lawyer and was a teacher in a South-East Asian refugee camp. Suntariya spent five years as a legal officer in the Harbor Department, then became a judge at the Court of Justice. She was the first supervisor of the Judicial Research Institute, where she played a significant role in developing the accountability and responsiveness of the judiciary. Suntariya has joined various human rights programs held by international institutions. She has conducted research projects on justice reform, child’s rights protection, gender justice, prisoners’ rights and environmental jurisprudence. As the Chief Judge of the Juvenile and Family Courts, she created some innovative programs to work with the communities. To develop the women’s human rights, Suntariya has worked with prominent scholars and women study institutions, including the UN-Women. She was an editor of a book on the Court and Gender Equality.

Meera Khanna

India, Asia

Meera Khanna is a writer, poet, and social activist. She is the Executive Vice President, of the Guild of Service , an NGO combining grass root work and advocacy interventions, and is in consultative status with ECOSOC . She has also worked as a Consultant with the High Level Committee on the Status of Women, Government of India. As a social activist Meera has worked extensively with the conflict affected women and children of Kashmir and her main focus of work is on underprivileged women, particularly widows and single women. Through her work with the Guild she has spearheaded projects to build economic. political, and legal capacities of under privileged women. Meera has written on career counseling, two books on Kashmir, film scripts, and several papers on women’s rights and widows’ rights for newspapers and compilations. She has also presented many papers at both national and international forums and the UN system

Keerty Nakray

India, Asia

Dr. Keerty Nakray has a wide-range of dynamic research interests which arise from her interdisciplinary training in social sciences. She is currently Associate Professor at Jindal Global Law School in NCR Delhi, India and Visiting Fellow at the Feinstein International Center, Tufts University. Her recent co-edited book with Margaret Alston and Kerri Whittenbury is titled “Social Science Research Ethics for a Globalizing World: Inter-disciplinary and Cross-Cultural Perspectives” (Routledge, New York) which examines the ethical dilemmas in studying sensitive topics such as gender based violence, child abuse studying combatants and climate change. Keerty’s previous work includes another edited book “Gender Based Violence and Public Health: International Perspectives on Budgets and Policies” published by (Routledge, London) which encapsulated some of the most latest debates on the theoretical and empirical advances in the understanding of gender based violence as a public health issue in developing economies. She has published in leading journals on gender budgets, child sensitive budgets and comparative social policy. She maintains a keen interest in research ethics and establishing linkages between academic research and policy. Dr. Nakray holds a PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is also currently the Book Reviews Editor of Journal of South Asian Development and she also serves on the editorial board of Journal of Gender Studies (UK).

Taskin Fahmina

Bangladesh, Asia

Being a human rights activist with special focus on women’s rights and gender equality, Taskin Fahmina has been working with Odhikar (www.odhikar.org), a leading human rights organisation in Bangladesh for 12 years . Presently she is a Gender Expert of the organisation. Taskin has been engaged in profound analysis, research and training on gender issues, including gender mainstreaming, women’s empowerment, combating Gender Based Violence (GBV) and discrimination against women. Taskin also engages in awareness raising, networking, communication, project design, policy level advocacy, organisational planning and development. Due to her commitment and interest in women’s participation and decision making in electoral systems, she observed elections in different countries as an International Election Observer in Myanmar ( 2015), Philippines ( 2010 and 2008) and Nepal (2008) as part of the international election observer group, Asian Network for Free Elections http://anfrel.org/ Taskin has conducted a number of human rights, women’s rights and Gender Equality trainings, fact-findings and research. She has also been involved in Universal Periodic Review procedures on Bangladesh (2009 and 2013) for the United Nations. Taskin is also a freelance researcher on gender equality and women’s rights issues. She obtained a Master Degree in Development Studies (2013) from North South University and Master in Marketing (1994) from Dhaka University in Bangladesh.

Odhikar

Odhikar (www.odhikar.org), is a human rights organisation, founded in 1994 in Bangladesh. Its principal aims are to monitor and document the general human rights situations, including violations, to raise human rights awareness, and undertake policy advocacy. These monitoring activities contribute to transparency and accountability in responsible sectors of government with the aim to improve its human rights record. Odhikar’s activities primarily focus on civil and political rights including working to combat violence against women. This includes: documentation, in depth fact-finding and dissemination of information; launching media campaigns to raise awareness; monitoring police stations; observing government activities at local and national level in respect of abuses; training human rights defenders; local, national and international election monitoring; lobbying and advocacy through local and regional networks; organising seminars and workshops to discuss prevalent issues and raise awareness of them. Odhikar always emphasises the active participation of the people from the grass root level. It realises that empowerment is the precondition for establishing human rights, which is based on the recognition of people’s own power and resources. With this realisation, Odhikar is working with the vision of “a society where full enjoyment of human rights by every human being will be ensured”.

Odhikar is in favor of a global binding treaty on VAW

Angana Chatterji

India, Asia – ADVISORY MEMBER

Angana P. Chatterji is Co-chair of the Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Project at the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley. A cultural anthropologist and human rights specialist, she focuses her scholarly work on issues of gendered violence and reparatory justice; nationalism and minoritization; religion in the public sphere and religious freedom; and livelihood security and cultural survival. Angana Chatterji has served on human rights commissions and offered expert testimony, including at the United Nations, European Parliament, United Kingdom Parliament, and United States Congress. In Kashmir, Chatterji co-founded (in 2008), and was co-convener of (in 2008-2012), the People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice. In 2005, Chatterji founded the People’s Tribunal on Religious Freedom and Human Rights in Odisha. In 2004, Chatterji served on a two-person independent commission on displacement and rehabilitation in the Narmada Valley. Chatterji served on the faculty in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Ca. Institute of Integral Studies, where she co-created a graduate curriculum in postcolonial anthropology, from 1997-2011. Between 1989-2002, Chatterji worked with the Indian Social Institute, Planning Commission of India, and the Asia Forest Network. Chatterji’s publications include: Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India’s Present; Narratives from Orissa (Three Essays Collective, 2009); a co-edited volume, Contesting Nation: Gendered Violence in South Asia; Notes on the Postcolonial Present (Zubaan and U. Chicago, 2013); a co-contributed anthology, Kashmir (Verso, 2011); the reports for which she was lead author, entitled, BURIED EVIDENCE: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves in Kashmir (2009), Communalism in Orissa (2006), and Without Land or Livelihood (2004).

Saad Rasool

Pakistan, Asia – ADVISORY MEMBER

Mr. Saad Rasool is a lawyer based in Lahore, Pakistan. Graduating Summa Cum Laude, he joined Merrill Lynch & Co. in the Asset Backed Finance Group, New York, as a Financial Analyst. In 2007, he was promoted to Vice President in the Global Structured Finance & Investment Banking Group of Merrill Lynch in New York. He completed his Masters in Law (LL.M.), in 2011, from Harvard Law School, where he was the Commencement Speaker for his graduating class. His professional activities extend to a wide array of areas, including Civil, Criminal and Constitutional Law, focusing primarily on legislative and litigation work in the Human Rights area. Mr. Rasool is faculty at the Lahore University of Management and Sciences (LUMS), teaching, inter alia, Contract Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, Jurisprudence and Legal Theory, and Muslim Personal Law. He is the Legal Expert to the Gender Equity Project funded by the USAID at LUMS. Mr. Rasool frequently speaks at conferences, workshops and colloquia around the world. He writes a weekly column for The Nation, which is also translated in Nawa-i-Waqt (Daily Urdu Newspaper). He frequently contributes to other leading national newspapers including Dawn, The News, and Pakistan Today, and has written for international news organization such as Al-Jazeera.

Saad Rasool Law Associates

Saad Rasool Law Associates (SRLA) is a collection of young, dynamic, and professional group of lawyers, who endeavor to provide an un-parallel degree of professional and intellectual commitment to serve the interest of their clients. We tailor our services to the specific requirements of our Clients, providing comprehensive advisory and litigation services. SRLA has a dedicated team of lawyers, catering exclusively to legislation and litigation in the Human Rights area. We offer our Clients unmatched performance and a competitive pricing policy. Through a network of partner legal firms and lawyers, in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, SRLA has the capability to offer reliable legal support in any cross-border transaction and disputes. The Firm has an active pro bono litigation practice, focusing primarily on gender equity issues and minority rights, through the SRLA Human Rights Clinic. Our lawyers are encouraged to take on such matters, with the full support of the Firm’s resources. Associates are encouraged to attend Human Rights training classes and seminars, held by our partnering organizations. Additionally, summer interns routinely participate in the SRLA’s Human Rights Clinic, and may be assigned any pro bono matter.

Saad Rasool Law Associates is in favor of a global binding norm on VAW and supports this effort.

Dushiyanthini Pillai

Sri Lanka, Asia – ADVISORY MEMBER

Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai is a well known Sri Lankan journalist, who courageously covers issues related to human rights, reconciliation, accountability, transparency, and justice among other issues. She is currently working as the Sri Lankan Correspondent for a foreign news agency, and recently won the Photojournalist of the Year 2013, at the Journalism Awards for Excellence. Dushi was the first ever Sri Lankan woman photojournalist decorated with such an award. She has also won the Professor K.Kailasapathy Award for Reporting under Special Circumstances in 2012. Apart from being a journalist cum photojournalist, Dushi tirelessly trains journalists and activists in Sri Lanka, and internationally on many issues including journalism, photojournalism, investigative journalism, reporting on gender, and human rights. Her captivating photos have been exclusively publicized, and have been displayed at different exhibitions worldwide. Her nonpartisan blog remains the first and foremost Sri Lankan blog hosted by a woman to be shared at a reputed international platform. Dushi is being a risk taker, has continued to travel solely, and has covered numerous sensitive hard stories from the former war zones. Her compelling stories have provided voice to the voiceless.