Gawaahi: Digital Stories of Abuse, Survival and Resistance in Pakistan

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Gawaahi: Digital Stories of Abuse, Survival and Resistance in Pakistan

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Gawaahi provides a space for Pakistanis to blog, vlog, take pictures to tell their own stories.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Post-9/11, Pakistan has seen growing extremism, religious intolerance and militarism. Resultantly, together with pre-existing patriarchal and feudal structures, spaces are shrinking for women, moderate thinkers and other minorities. Pakistani women may be a majority group, but they retain minority status, and this is true across the classes. The Thomson Reuters Foundation recently found that 90 percent of Pakistani women had encountered some form of abuse. We believe that to bring change, there needs to be awareness. On the micro-level, we intend to collaborate with other NGOs to give counselling and training to selected women. On the sidelines of these sessions, the video testimonies [] that we produce and send out to the world will make a case that will improve the quality of life for not just a handful, but for Pakistani women at large. This awareness/advocacy campaign will act as evidential to the State, Government, legislative bodies, the Judiciary and other NGOs as well as donor states.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Gawaahi uses and social media sites to challenge these problems, and offer viable solutions with the support of on-the-ground activities. Our pilot activity was a counseling session/story circle for 10 women survivors of abuse and Vaginal Fistula, a pregnancy-related condition that is largely taboo. [] Through, our video testimonies collectively intend to act as advocacy and awareness campaigns for gender sensitivity and to encourage democratic values in young people. The digital stories of abuse on our site have benefitted innumerable survivors, who have written to us in our comments and through social media sites of the inspiration and empowerment they have felt. The storytellers have also found strength in the telling and in the feedback they have received. Many of our contributors have become regulars, and readers have become contributors, proving the effectiveness of the medium. No Pakistani NGO or website is working with digital storytelling at the scale used on Gawaahi is pioneering the promotion of the Pakistani blogosphere and citizen journalism, giving concrete guidance such as Tips & Tutorials [] from leaders in the field of journalism, and dubbing into the national language, Urdu, our interviews with leading bloggers from around the world [].
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

[] In our pilot activity conducted at Panah Shelter for Women, a donation-based initiative, we held a story circle with 8 women survivors (4 of abuse and 4 of Vaginal Fistula), including a health officer now a doctor for fistula patients, Gawaahi Executive Director, Naveen Naqvi. The session was moderated by a psychotherapist. From the activity, we drew several video testimonies, eg below, of survivors who in their personal account, highlighted the need for amendments in Pakistani legislation to acknowledge women as rights-claimants. This activity and ensuing video testimony also promoted the work of a more experienced NGO that has little web presence. With our use of social media sites, we managed to bring attention to the suffering of these women survivors. This has encouraged other NGOs to adopt the method, and offer Gawaahi a 6-month-long advocacy campaign in response to the setback caused by the recent judgment against women’s rights icon and gang-rape survivor, Mukhtaran Mai. As the campaign is set to begin in September 2011, we are hoping that it will keep the issue of women’s rights, a low priority, in the forefront for Pakistan’s legislators and a newly influential Judiciary.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We have been compared to the Interactive Resource Center Pakistan [], but we believe that there is no other website or project in Pakistan that is doing the kind of work seen on While there are many NGOs giving counselling and training to women, none are compiling video testimonies for advocacy campaigns, using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), specifically the Internet to increase visibility.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country

, S

Country where this project is creating social impact

, S

How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world. was conceived at a wedding. I know how that sounds, but it’s true.'s other cofounder had just returned from Islamabad where she had trained to make digital stories/slideshows. I had returned from Bonn, Germany where I had participated in the inspiring Deutsche-Welle-hosted conference, Global Media Forum 2010. At the event, I had met the creators of crowd-sourced award-winning websites such as UShahidi, and was enchanted by the idea. We got to talking, and thought there was a need for something similar here in Pakistan. We wanted to create a site that developed, and sought submissions of digital stories, but we didn’t want it to be news-based.
As the site evolved, I felt that it should grow organically to become a platform that could be a space for voices (through blogs, vlogs and photos) that challenge injustices and advocate gender sensitivity and democratic values. This is why I set up Global Gawaahi, Tips & Tutorials and Resistance.
With the significant success of the site, a group of people (now our NGO board) and I decided to register Gawaahi as an NGO to expand on the ideas generated by, particularly the issue of women's human rights.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

Our pilot activity benefitted 8 women. As to how many benefitted from viewing our videos, and reading the posts on since its launch in February 2011 can be quantified by seeing the stats of the page. On average, gets close to 6500 views a month, and has gotten as many as 8500 views in one month. Just this last month, we had over 2500 absolute unique visitors. Our readers and viewers are from all over the world, concentrated in Pakistan, India, United States and Britain (in that order). On YouTube, since the launch of our channel in late February 2011, our videos have had close to 20,000 views.
With over 20 million Internet users in Pakistan, our Global Gawaahi section and its international blogger interviews (now also dubbed in Urdu) and Tips & Tutorials for citizen journalists as well as theme-related calls for submission, drawing in photojournalists and aspiring writers can benefit millions.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how? creates a space where platforms are shrinking for alternative ways of thinking in an environment of growing intolerance and persecution of minority-status groups. The project encourages people to speak out, and initiates a dialogue between those who oppose these forces. In the next 5 years, we hope that with on-the-ground activities like counselling sessions for women, we will have enough testimonies for an effective awareness/advocacy campaign. Our activities at academic institutions that boost the new media and nurture political engagement should benefit future leaders. In today’s world, intolerance is not restricted to Pakistan or to any one religion, it is a widespread phenomenon that can be challenged by the Gawaahi model anywhere. This is also true for sexual abuse.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

12 video testimonies for an advocacy campaign with another NGO for the rights of women violence survivors

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Produce 2 video testimonies a month with women rape survivors

Task 2

Publicize the testimonies using social media tools and the Internet

Task 3

Hold an event and media campaign during 16 days of activism to project the advocacy campaign

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Counsel and train min 20 women, record their testimonies for advocacy, and get more young people blogging and speaking out

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Conduct at least 3 counselling sessions with 10 women each, record minimally 24 testimonies, and publicize these using ICTs

Task 2

Do 6 more referential international blogger interviews, and record 6 more tutorial videos with mainstream media journalists

Task 3

Do a 'My Pakistan' style awareness campaign, focused in academic institutions to politically engage Pakistani youth

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured


What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

Working with ICTs in a Third World country poses operational tech-related problems, eg slow bandwidth, frequent power outages. Limited Internet access restricts audiences. Challenging injustice and encouraging people to 'speak out' in a hostile environment is difficult and could prove threatening. While we are committed to ICTs, Gawaahi would like to do more on-the-ground activities for awareness, also tapping into Exec Dir Naveen Naqvi's contacts in the broadcast and print media. We are developing an Urdu version of the site, and have already begun dubbing videos in English to increase accessibility. Creating a network of volunteers in the near future, Gawaahi intends to create awareness on the community level, especially focusing on academic institutions.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

Over the next decade, Information and Communication Technologies, especially mobile technologies and the online media will become increasingly influential. With smart phones, DSLR cameras and technologies becoming increasingly accessible, digital storytelling will be the medium of the future. Innovations such as mobile reporting applications and web documentaries already show that the Internet will streamline existing mediums. For Gawaahi, we are already working on the idea of a Gawaahi mobile reporting application.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

With over 65% penetration (over 100 million users) in the mobile technology industry in Pakistan, this is an untapped and powerful medium. At the same time, the country is in an education emergency where 50 percent of school-going children cannot construct a sentence, and the situation is much worse for girls. Gawaahi would be very interested to launch a mobile literacy campaign, devising a teaching application that could complement conventional schooling, or be used for adult literacy.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

Gawaahi will be funded largely by donations, donor states and agencies, and partnerships with NGOs.
However, the Gawaahi mobile reporting application, which is currently in the planning stage, would be downloadable for a small fee that would add value to the product and make it self-sustaining. Interactive awareness-creating installations or testimony-recording events in galleries and public spaces for an entry/participation fee are options under consideration.

Tell us about your partnerships

In January 2011, we received a micro grant of $5000 from online feminist organization, TakeBackTheTech! in cooperation with Association for Progressive Communications Women's Networking Support Program (APC WNSP), Bytes4All, and Pakistan Software Houses Association. In February 2011, also received technical support valued at $7000 from German media house, Deutsche-Welle. Gawaahi did its pilot activity, a counseling session with Panah Shelter for Women and Women's Action Forum. has also partnered with Acid Survivors Foundation.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

Gawaahi Executive Director Naveen Naqvi is responsible for the running of the organization, conceptualizing and implementing projects, fundraising efforts, administrative duties, report-writing, the hiring process, and supervising outreach
Project Coordinator - Overseeing the implementation of the project plan, and coordinating outreach as well as linkage with other NGOs
Project Manager - management of the office, the project, administrative duties and accounts
2 Research Assistants/Interns -Studying project impacts, compiling reports

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Marketing or media, Collaboration or networking.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Research or information, Collaboration or networking.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

Gawaahi is a Pakistani NGO that archives video testimonies of abuse, survival and resistance for awareness/advocacy campaigns.