Nigar Ahmad (born 1945) has worked tirelessly for nearly 20 years for the political, social, and economic empowerment of Pakistani women, as executive director of the Aurat Publication and Information Service Foundation. Under her stewardship, the Aurat (woman) Foundation has taken up a range of “provocative” causes, from mobilizing women candidates for local government elections to generating debate across the country about the World Trade Organization and the controversial issue of intellectual property rights.
Nigar topped Punjab University in her masters in economics, and went on to study economics at Cambridge University. She was also a Commonwealth scholar. While teaching economics for 16 years as a member of the faculty of Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University, Nigar was drawn into the struggle against the antiwomen policies of Zia-ul-Haq’s military dictatorship. From 1983 to 1985, she was a member of the Women’s Action Forum, the pioneering women’s organization formed to protest these developments. Since 1986, Nigar, who lives in Lahore, has been associated with the Aurat Foundation, a civil society organization that works for women’s empowerment in tandem with a nationwide network of citizen’s groups and civil activists. Nigar has been politically educating activists to help them participate more effectively in decision-making processes. Her work helped to put women on the electoral agenda during the 1993 and 1997 general elections. She is responsible for organizing networks of citizens’ action committees in 70 districts to provide support to women. Nigar has researched the work of women in the informal sector, organizing national conferences for peasant women, and radio programs to inform them on health and agricultural issues. She was a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1991 on the gender impact of a watershed management project in Azad Kashmir. She presented a case study to the Asian Development Bank on a pilot on credit for rural women, and, as a consultant to the United Nations Development Fund For Women, has been involved in a rural credit and gender sensitization training program of UNDP staff. Nigar has also been involved with the National Commission on the Status of Women, and the South Asian Partnership. She was a coauthor for the report on Womens Development Programs for Pakistan’s Eighth Five-Year Plan.
South Asia | Pakistan