Rubina Feroze Bhatti (born 1969), who works in two largely rural districts of Pakistan’s Punjab province, has been a driving force against domestic violence in her area. Thanks to the work of this young grassroots activist, many women have been speaking out against ill treatment at home, and more such cases have been reported to the police and the press in the previous three years than ever before.
In 1991, while Rubina Feroze Bhatti was a masters student at Bahuddin Zakria University in Multan in southern Punjab, one of her relatives was arrested under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws, and given the death sentence. In 1992, Rubina campaigned against the law, writing articles and organizing a procession in Sargodha and Multan. Her relative survived. Rubina, who is Christian, took up the issue of separate electorates, a form of religious apartheid imposed by the political establishment from 1979 to 2002, which prevented non-Muslims from voting. She galvanized public opinion, writing articles and making speeches. Many people in Sargodha and Khushab districts boycotted the elections to local bodies for 2000 and 2001. From 1996 to 2001, Rubina worked as a lecturer in chemistry at a local women’s college, and then founded the Taangh Wasaib Tanzeem (longing for hope), of which she is general secretary. Violence against women-such as “honor killings”-is key to Rubina’s schema. She has trained a women’s group to report on violence against women. She visits victims, supporting them with counseling, legal aid, and highlighting issues in the local media. In district Sargodha, the media reported ten cases of acid thrown on women, and 24 cases of honor killings. Rubina then launched a media campaign, along with civil society organizations, to highlight domestic violence. She set up an educational and healthcare facility in a village in Khushab for children slaving in Pakistan’s famous carpet-weaving industry. Rubina also focuses on building interfaith and inter-sect harmony in an area teeming with different faiths-primarily Muslim, but also Christian and Hindu. She has penned scripts for theater productions, developed a peace education manual, and built a sustainable peace education program.
Tangh Wasaib Tanzeem
South Asia | Pakistan