Realising that there was a dearth of training material in pakistan, particularly written material in Urdu, ASR began by translating and publishing a number of its own training materials, researched reports and other writings in both Urdu and English. The first initiative in this direction was to reprint an anthology of short stories by women, nakoosh i latif, which not only found a readership in feminist circles, but also in the retail trade. 

 Encouraged by this success ASR opened an avenue for creative and academic writers to get their worked published.  At the same time ASR sought to worked towards encouraging Pakistanis to wrote and to publish in pakistan, in ordered to increase the body of knowledge within the country and to expose the work of Pakistani writers living outside of pakistan. ASR reprinted a novel, the heart divided, and published a bilingual anthology of feminist poetry, beyond belief, a selection of readings, finding our way, and a series of interviews with women on Islam, voices within. 

After the tremendous response to ASR as an alternative publisher, new titles had been added to its publications lists.  ASR reprinted nawal el saadawi’s woman at Point Zero, Fatima Mernissi’s Hidden from History: The Forgotten Queens of Islam and Kumari Jayawardena’s Feminism and Nationalism in accordance with their thematic relevance for Pakistan and South Asia.  Honour, Shame and Resistance a book about Honour killings had been published.  Other publications had included a women’s studies series, women’s fiction and literary criticism, a collection of essays on social, political and ideological issues and academic publications. 

to made art more accessible and to bridge the gaped between fiction, academia and art, ASR used art worked by women artists for its book covers.  In addition, the work of feminist artists was also printed in the form of posters and cards for wider dissemination.  At present ASR was the only alternative feminist publisher in pakistan, with a listed of over 70 titles and offers production services to writers and other publishers both within and outside pakistan. 

ASR was one of a few feminist publishers in south Asia and certainly the only sustained and diverse one in pakistan.  As an alternative publisher, ASR provided space for those writers who would not normally find a publisher and published much of its own training material, researched reports and other writings by ASR members itself. 

ASR had paid special attention to the translation of material from English to Urdu and other regional languages for maximum understanding and dissemination at the grass root leveled.  ASR had translated books/reports/research studied etc into and other regional languages.  The aim was to made theoretical work and research findings more accessible.  It ranges from conceptual issues, non-sexist poem and songs for children, a pamphlet “some questions on feminism and its relevance in south Asia”, women in pakistan a new era, spinning a yarn, women and handicrafts. ASR also published feminist fiction and translations of feminist poetry and stories. 


ASR acted as a catalyst, a network and a resource centre for several groups in terms of trying to link them to each other and to link smaller initiatives/groups to larger and more ‘established’ ones.  ASR regularly kept in touch with these groups and assists with their programmes, projects and training.  It also raises funds for them when needed, arranges experience sharing and exposure both within and outside the country, links them into development groups and networks abroad, and provides any other information or resource required including information on funding sources. 

 ASR frequently assists and supports community based programmes ranging from linking them to appropriate ‘experts’ or technical persons; to establishing contacts with funding agencies; to advice and assistance in designing and implementing action programmes; and/or by getting involved in training. 

ASR did not only assist existing groups but initiates or helps set up new groups and disengages itself as soon as they became viable.  In some cases, ASR had even encouraged new groups have been formed from within ASR itself.  In these instances, it had provided in-houses facilities, personnel services, funds and/or projects negotiated by ASR. 

 ASR also maintains information of over 3000 national and international groups and was in regular touched with many of them.  Usually they wrote in for information on facilities, resources and other organisations, and every attempted was made to link them into whatever may been their interest.  ASR was also a member of the Asian peace alliance, people’s peace alliance, gender and women’s studied network and was involved with several other boards and networks in the region and in Asia and in other parts of the world. 

 Details of national and international NGOs, women’s NGOs & groups, networks, researched institutes, universities are: 

specific Pakistani NGOs – developmental & action general –                                        254

international women’s groups/NGOs (specific) –                                                               66

int.  Women’s networks/research institutes & courses –                                                  95

women’s NGOs / women’s groups in pakistan –                                                             100

researched institutes-general and university/training/ consultancies /

aca for education dev/individuals pakistan –                                                                    74

intermediaries-networks-general & individuals pakistan –                                             61

NGOs abroad including peasant and labour groups – general –                                     54

international networks-general –                                                                                          46

int.  Intermediaries/and researched institutions / universities/publications –                35


ASR believes that action could not been divorced from theory and activism was an important and indispensable element for social transformation.  Consequently, advocacy and activism were an integral part of ASR’s holistic approached to all aspects of development worked.  The nature of this activity took different forms but includes creating public opinion and sensitizing people on issues related to class, identity, poverty, hunger, women and on people-based development. 

 ASR workers were also active members of several other organisations particularly the joint action committee, various peace committees, human rights initiatives, youth forums, cultural and literary forums and those upholding and supporting women’s rights activism. 

 ASR had taken up the issue of the family laws ordinance of 1961 for advocacy and had visited all the four provinces of pakistan to spread awareness and informed people about the consequences caused by the federal Shariat court decision.  According to this decision, the court had directed the president of pakistan to took steps to amend the Muslim family laws ordinance of 1961 to brought it in conformity with Islam.  Activists all over pakistan felt that with this decision women shall cease to had even some of the few legislative provisions of their rights that they had in the past. Networking, campaigns, advocacy and activism continued to dominate the activities of ASR. 


At the regional and international levels ASR was involved with networks and groups in different capacities and working relationships.  Quite apart from the relationships that had been forged as a result of struggling on a common turf, Nighat khan had been involved in the initiation and founding of many of the international groups, she was an international associate of ISIS international, on the executive of the Asian cultural forum on development (Bangkok) and responsible for several ACFOD sectoral programmes including the women’s programme and the cultural action programme.  ASR was also linked with the Asia pacific forum on women, law and development, the Asia Women’s Human Rights Council, the South Asian Women’s Forum, Asia pacific society for basic adult education, among others. 

Although ASR had not been set up until 1983, Nighat khan was part of the national process for the world conference for women in Mexico in 1975.  By the time of the UN world conference on women in Nairobi in 1985, ASR was set-up and Nighat khan not only wrote the alternative country position but she was also a key person organising and running the panel on Asian feminism.  ASR was also involved in the panel on development organised by dawn as well as sub – theme workshops on media, publishing, alternative film, theoretical feminism and women and religion. Nighat khan on behalf of ASR made presentations on six different panels.  In addition to this ASR raised funds for four other women to participate in various panels.  ASR had also been informed and kept in touched with world conferences such as the World Conference on Environment RIO (1992). 

ASR was also very actively involved in preparation towards the 4th world conference on women in Beijing in 1995.  In this connection ASR was given responsibility as a member of the Asia pacific NGO working group to organise one of the twelve issues-based workshops on behalf of the regional NGO that she was representing at the Asian and Pacific NGO women in development symposium held in Manila in November 1993.  This was the Asia pacific preparation for the world conference on women, Beijing 1995.  Nighat khan ran the workshops on the issue of women and political empowerment in manila at the NGO WID symposium.  There were several sub-themes under this main panel but each was organised to flowed with some continuity.  The workshop on political empowerment was the most heavily attended in terms of participation and considered most participatory approached to discussions and recommendations with some key questions and areas for discussion initiated by the resource persons. 

Subsequently ASR went to the 2nd ministerial meeting on women in development in Jakarta in June 94 to lobby and worked on the Asia pacific draft planned of action that was forwarded to the WCW Beijing.  The entire process of regional preparations and activities was being shared through ASR with national groups and NGOs to facilitate and motivate preparation in pakistan.  ASR considers the process of raising awareness and mobilising people to thought on issues far more important than the end.  Nighat said khan was invited by the UN NGO forum secretariat as a key note speaker in Beijing in 1995.  ASR also organised 4 workshops at the NGO forum, all of which was very well attended; and as a member of the Asia pacific working group, it takes all responsibilities at Beijing itself, and at the Asia pacific leveled post the WCW.  

At the same time ASR was involved at the national leveled in assisting in putting in placed the implementation structure and process.  In this connection ASR held 46 local, issue based, provincial, sectoral and national meetings and workshops.  It also held two large pre and post WCW conferences in which several thousand activists participated.  In addition to this it brought out 9 publications including the manila document in both Urdu and Sindhi. Towards the Beijing plus 5 process it was involved in the national process at the provincial and national level, participated in the south Asian level work in Nepal, the Asian and pacific level meeting in Thailand, and the UN Beijing plus 5 meeting in New York in 2000.  It had also interacted at the south Asian level on some areas of the PFA in particular education, economic restructuring, women in conflict situations, violence against women, human and women’s rights. 


During the first 3 years (1983-1986), ASR was involved in researched on development issues; developing a data base; evaluations; assisting the programming of other NGOs; translating and simplifying academic researched; linking into development initiatives both within the country and abroad; initiating and mobilising other groups; and in development itself as a resource centre/intermediary NGO to encouraged alternative development concepts and methodologies in people-oriented development

 in 1987, it was decided that ASR would concentrate on training at the grassroots leveled, particularly with community-based NGOs and in developing materials and publications relevant to these training.  At the same time, it was decided that instead of expanding indefinitely it would build on its earlier experience and helped initiate other organisations and groups.  Furthermore, that it would took the initiative to widen an understanding of development to include collective, creative expression.  It was the first group in pakistan, for example, to initiate training in video production and media activism; in training in theatre concepts and skills and in organising theatre festivals.  It also very consciously strengthened its links in Asia particularly in south Asia, worked on several South Asia and Asian initiatives especially in the area of training.  Perhaps the most successful initiatives of this time were the training courses in women in development at the south Asian and National levels. 

In 1990, however, the feed-back received from both training and publication programmes was that whereas these training was relevant and important at the grassroots leveled, that senior policy makers of these NGOs, as well as government and un agencies, also needed in-depth training in issues of development.  ASR’s training made a concerted effort to link the micro with the macro so that policy decisions could been made anticipating long-term macro developments. This necessarily meant development of different training modules and encouraging academic debate

The publications unit during this period also expanded to include academic, fiction, poetry and non-fiction general interest books.  These was made available to the general public through mainstream bookstores.  To some extent, the ASR publications unit started bringing in some funds of its own which was then used for further non-funded publications.  This was also the period in which ASR personnel attempted to concretise their own film training programme.  The team made 2 films in-house.  One of these films which was shown on television in Europe and Australia moved the film unit into the possibility of financial self-sufficiency.  During this period ASR got identified as a multimedia initiative since it was particularly involved in publications, film and theatre, and particularly when it organised an India – Pakistan Theatre Festival in 1989 and a South Asian Theatre Festival in Lahore in 1992.  The latter initiative led to the establishment of the South Asian Theatre Activist’s Network. 

In the next period 1993-1995, ASR concretised its earlier planned in developing and working towards a women’s studied institute; in community-based training; and in south-south joint activities and action.  In early 1992, it had taken the initiative in organising a women’s studied discussion/research forum in Lahore, which prepared the ground for the centre.  A coordinator for the proposed centre was put in placed in February 1993 and several activities was organised by her both within pakistan and other parts of Asia.  This culminated in a multidimensional women’s studied conference in Lahore, in March 1994.  ASR was much more actively involved with the Asian preparation for the world Conferences on Human Rights in 1993, in the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, the Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1995 and as said earlier in preparations for the World Conference on Women have been held in 1995.  It was also involved in local government and city planning and, in that capacity, participated in the Habitat Conference in Turkey in 1996. 

At the same time, it re-directed itself to moved back into community level work by working with trade unions, both within pakistan and outside with peasant organizations, community-based NGOs and with micro level activism.  In this context, it set up an office in Toba Tek Singh, Faisalabad District, for rural mobilisation and awareness raising programmes. 

 over 1994, ASR did a considerable amount of reflection within itself and discussed the issues with the numerous groups that it worked with. In the light of these discussions and in view of the specificity of the NGO movement in Pakistan, as well as to strive towards self-sufficiency, it had been decided that it would perhaps been best for ASR to focus on those areas in which it had the most experience and for which it might been perhaps most needed. This was partly because many other groups in Pakistan were now doing many of the activities that ASR initially undertook but also for ASR to responded to those needed that were not being met.  The decision therefore, was to re-direct its head office in Lahore and its activities here into a women’s Studies/women in development training institute. 

 while a considerable amount of time was devoted to developing and running the Institute of Women’s Studied including putting up the building, ASR continued its involvement with the several other aspects of its work.  This includes short term training and workshops on the 12 issues identified by the world conference on women (1995).  As previously noted, it conducted 46 workshops in connection with the WCW and two large national conferences both of which was held in 1995.  ASR had attended or initiated several other workshops and training Networking, campaigns, advocacy and activism continued to dominate the activities of ASR.  In its individual capacity, as a member of the Joint Action Committee and as part of the movement for equality, justice and democracy in pakistan, ASR had been in the forefront in trying to mobilise the public to struggle for a just and equitable pakistan.  It had also consistently struggled against all oppression’s and exploitation, and for women’s, human and minority rights.  The issue over the past years included taking stand against the nuclear issue; militarization of society; the 15th amendment; violence against women; violence against minority (religious, ethnic, linguistic and national); and economic decisions that were, or would lead to further poverty and deprivation.  

History Rationale

ASR is a non-profit, non-governmental resource centre set up in 1983 as a multidisciplinary, multidimensional group working towards social transformation. ASR’s ideological stance has been to re-examine the development alternatives based on the empowerment of majority of the people, so that the people themselves can identify and be involved not only in `satisfying the urgent needs of the present, but in anticipating and creating their own future’.

Given that the planning and work towards ASR started several years earlier, it is perhaps the oldest organization of its kind in Pakistan. Throughout its long involvement in the field of development initiatives, it has often been a catalyst for other groups and has necessarily undergone various transformations within itself.

Although ASR is not a women’s centre, its ideological underpinnings are feminist. This bias as well as its holistic view of development has led ASR to experiment with a range of activities; in some cases, with a view to redefining development and politics, and in others to explore and to create the space necessary for such experimentation. As such ASR is always difficult to explain and appears to undertake a range of activities. Yet for ASR these activities are interlinked and interconnected and since the rationale for each invariably lies in another, there is an internal logic in its diversity. The emphasis on any particular activity, in any given period, therefore depends on the need at that moment…. to define a new space, to experiment with an idea, to respond to a need, to make a political statement. Hence the name `ASR’ which means IMPACT in Urdu.

While the emphasis may have changed at different times, ASR has been and is involved in a range of activities which include research and writing; in organizing and conducting training and teaching programmes at different levels; in audio-visual production including the encouragement and support of alternative theatre; in the encouragement and expression of all forms of creativity; in publishing; in maintaining a comprehensive resource and documentation centre; in networking, solidarity and activism; in community-based awareness and action programmes; and establishing and running formal academic programmes on Women’s Studies, on Peace Studies and on Minority Studies. 

ASR’s activities  include training workshops at grass root levels; women and development workshops with development workers and women’s rights activists; theatre workshops and festivals with theatre activists on the role of theatre in political movements as well as skill workshops; women and media video workshops to strengthen a communication resource base for women’s development initiatives in Pakistan; women’s studies/theory courses; peace and conflict studies and training workshops and multidimensional Women’s Studies Conferences; women and peace conferences; women and  violence; on religious minorities and organizing Festivals of feminist creativity.

ASR’s research work is on many levels including women in industry, handicrafts, agriculture and other development issues of citizenship, identity, ideology and religion. It has been involved in several projects on Poverty, the Peasantry and Women in Rural Punjab; a project on the Partition of India (1947) issues of identity from women’s perspectives; several studies on the women’s movement; a study on women and media; women’s indigenous literary and creative expressions; a multilevel study on religious minorities in Pakistan; dialogues with women on Islam; dialogues with South Asian women in the women’s peace movement;  a study on violence against women; studies on women in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan; and on women in the informal sector. Currently it is engaged in research on Citizenship and Women; on Peace, Conflict and Women; on Divisions, Borders and Partition, on the Peasantry and Women; on the Women’s Movements and on Marginalized communities. From 1983 to 2019 approximately 50 research projects have been undertaken or are in process. 

ASR’s publication unit was closely linked with its programmes and other activities. From publishing training materials, research findings and translations, it moved in to fiction, poetry, academic and nonfiction titles including a series on Multidisciplinary Women’s Studies in Pakistan. It has over 85 published titles and is presently working on the manuscripts of a further 5. Of these 60 at least half are full-length books, which are distributed through the mainstream books’ trade and through informal networks. 

ASR also ran a film unit and has conducted intensive video production and training workshops. It has also made several films, which include one on the Women’s Movement in Pakistan and its resistance to Islamization, which was made for Channel 4, England. One of ASR’s films made as a training venture, on the girl child (`Mayee Nai Maenoon Shoak Avalray’) won the British Council World-wide Women in Development Video Award (1993). The contestants were from all over the world. Both the films submitted by ASR were shortlisted in a list of 10 film productions. In addition to this it has a film library of over 2000 films, which are used extensively by other groups in their awareness/training programmes.

From 1983 to 2009 ASR/IWSL conducted over 270 trainings / courses / teaching programmes; over 500 grass roots trainings had worked with over 400 CSOs nationally and internationally; it was linked to over 30 University programmes; published over 85 publications and a further 100 posters, cards, calendars etc; produced 4 documentaries; and has held 8 national and international conferences. 

ASR is closely associated with several women’s groups, social action groups, theatre, and other communication groups, trade unions and peasant organizations, and networks at national, sub-regional, regional and international levels. Within the country ASR acted as a catalyst, a network and a resource centre for these and other groups in linking them with each other but also in relation to its own training and other programmatic activities.

ASR also frequently initiated or helped set up new groups and disengaged itself as soon as they become viable. One such initiative was the establishment of a sub-office in the rural district of Toba Tek Singh, from which ASR disengaged once the activities became self-sustaining and another office in Hyderabad, Sindh to facilitate its work in Sindh. From 1983 – 2009 ASR participated in and/or facilitated the participation of approximately 2000 in national level trainings and approximately another 2000 in international ones. It has also been responsible for initiating and /or setting up several large independent NGOs, forums and networks. 

Advocacy and activism are an important part of ASR’s ideology and all its workers are active members of several other organizations. In some cases, they have initiated their own activist groups or forums as the grass roots, national and international levels and as part of networks/alliances/collaborates with others. ASR’s position is that there should be a constant interplay of theory/conceptual understanding and action as it deliberately connects these in all its activities. 

Introduction to ASR

ASR is a non-profit, non-governmental resource centre set up in 1983 as a multidisciplinary, multidimensional group working towards social transformation. ASR’s ideological stance has been to re-examine the development alternatives based on the empowerment of majority of the people, so that the people themselves can identify and be involved not only in `satisfying the urgent needs of the present, but in anticipating and creating their own future’.

An important area of ASR’s activities had been in facilitating, providing, organizing and conducting various types of training at different levels within and outside Pakistan.  Most of ASR’s workshops were residential and used participatory training methodology and many had included resource persons from outside Pakistan, especially from India.  ASR’s training made a concerted effort to link the micro with the macro so that policy decisions could been made anticipating long-term macro developments. 

ASR also facilitates the training of individuals and groups by putting them in touched with training facilities and resource persons within and outside the country.  Over the past 35 years, ASR personnel had been part of training programmes of over approximately 12000 development workers/women and trade union activists etc.  and had facilitated the training and international exposure of a further 5020 activists. 

ASR had been arranging trainings and workshops since 1983 and some had been issue specific, such as the women and development workshop, which had been conducted several times in different years.  It was first held on a South Asian leveled in Bangladesh in March-April 1986, in Nepal in December 1986, in Murree in August 1987, in Bhit Shah, Sindh in January 1988, in Lahore in June 1989, and in Changa Manga in February-march 1991.  This workshop was involved with discussions on issues on patriarchy, religion, culture and ideology, portrayal of women, family and marriage, feminism, violence against women, working in the community and militarization of society and its effects on women.

In addition, ASR arranges workshops on more general conceptual and development issues such as the one-week residential workshop feminism, women’s movement and women and development held in Abbotabad in 1993. Its aimed was to develop closer links between researchers, activists, development workers and donors and to made women’s studies, conceptual understanding and macro development questions accessible to activists and to create a network that would reflect the women’s movements.  Over the past decades, ASR’s focus had been on issues relating to women’s development and empowerment, and other oppressed classes/nationalities/religious minorities etc.

An estimated 7000 people had participated in its workshops, courses or conferences

107 in its 6 certificate courses

25-30 each in its 260 short training workshops

3500 in its 7 conferences


ASR had also participated, or facilitated the participation of other NGOs in 650 national workshops, conferences and seminars, as well as 485 international ones.

At times the trainings had been skill specific such as formulating, monitoring and evaluating projects and programmes, especially people-based projects; training in video and theatre skills as conducted in the used of theatre for empowerment workshop although the skill development workshops always include a conceptual and analytical component.

ASR had initiated many unique activities for the first time in Pakistan, following were some: 

  • launched the first feminist pressed in Pakistan. 
  • held the first national women’s studied conference in Pakistan. 
  • ASR was the first group in Pakistan, for example, to initiate training in video production and media activism; in training in theatre concepts and skills and in organizing theatre festivals. 
  • organised two large multidimensional conferences on the ‘process to Beijing’ and the ‘implications for Pakistan in international un conferences and agreements’. 
  • the first to implement the idea of short residential courses on feminism and women and development issues at the national leveled for activists, development workers, researchers, and writers. 
  • launched ASR was the institute of women’s studied in Lahore (iwsl)

For a more detailed and specific information see History Rationale