Icon of women’s struggle in Pakistan remembered

Glowing tributes paid to Nigar Ahmad

Zubair Qureshi

Tributes were paid to Nigar Ahmad (died: Feb 24, 2017) founder of Aurat Foundation and one of the pioneers of women’s rights groups, Women’s Action Forum at a ceremony organized by Aurat Foundation Thursday.
Speakers made a pledge to continue her and keep striving for a peaceful, tolerant, just and caring society. The ceremony was attended by people from all walks of life, including foreign dignitaries, political leaders, academicians and members of various minority communities from all over the country. A number of speakers, some in tears, spoke about Nigar’s revolutionary ideas and described her as the visionary feminist leader of women’s rights movement in Pakistan and South Asia.
Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer of the Aurat Foundation begun the session by welcoming all the people that gathered to pay tribute to Nigar and her memory. He started by giving a brief background as to how Nigar Ahmad and Shela Zia founded Aurat Foundation in YEAR.
Younus Khalid, Chief Policy and Strategy Officer, AF, spoke of his first interaction with Nigar, her inspiring leadership skills and her commitment and devotion to all staff members. Mehnaz Rehman, Shabina Khan, Mumtaz Mughal, directors AF, moderated the session, each giving their personal account of their interaction with Nigar as a friend and colleague. Haroon Dawood, director AF, also spoke fondly of Nigar. Saima Munir, of AF, spoke of Nigar as a diligent and tough but also caring boss and friend.
A short video was played to the audience about Nigar’s her life and her journey towards becoming one of the leading voices for the emancipation of women and the pioneering founder of the women’s movement in Pakistan.
Bilal Siddiqui, Nigar’s son, said that if one wanted to really understand his mother, it was to emphasis the one quality she believed and carried with her in her personal and professional life was that being a caring person and working towards a caring society is the only way to change the world. He said she never made any distinction between herself, her family members and her colleagues.
Kate spoke passionately about Nigar’s personal attributes of generosity and affectionate nature. Kate said Nigar never treated her like a daughter in law and always encouraged her career. She said the country and the world would be a better place if Nigar’s message in terms of public policy and her personality and interaction with people was promoted and followed by more people. I.A Rehman, legendary human rights activist, spoke about Nigar’s real understanding that change is only possible through the emancipation of women. “Nigar strongly believed in this and this was visible through her life long struggle through Aurat Foundation,” he said. Tahira Abdullah, well-known rights activist, said Nigar was Pakistan’s quintessential renaissance woman. She spoke about Nigar’s commitment to rural, poor women, particularly labourers. She ended her tribute with a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, often recited by Nigar. Ubaidullah Chaudary, a close friend and previous colleague of Nigar’s at AF, described Nigar as a complete human being.
Istaqbal Mehdi, a friend from Nigar’s government college days, spoke about Nigar’s student days and her love for life, heated discourse, defiant nature, cricket and her insatiable desire to change the world. Dr. Alia Khan, professor Qauid-e-Azam, a student of Nigar’s spoke about her time with Nigar as a teacher and mentor and how she encouraged her to become an academic activist. Anis Haroon, ex-chairperson NCSW, spoke about Nigar’s warm and ever giving personality that she applied to her work till the end of her life. She spoke about how Nigar’s vision is seen today in AF and the best way to pay tribute to her life would be keep struggling for the things we believe in.
Kishwar Naheed, well known poet, paid tribute to her dear friend with an ode that spoke of Nigar’s belief, commitment and struggle for the people of Pakistan and their emancipation. Alia Mirza, feminist poet and dear friend of Nigar’s spoke about the love and encouragement Nigar showed to her friends and ensured that others always realised their full potential. Naheed Aziz, activist and well-known professional, said that along with Nigar’s passion for women’s rights, she was also passionate about children’s rights and mobilised a huge protest in Lahore in the 1980s, when AF was newly formed, to raise awareness around the rights of children.

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