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Pakistani Women Leaders Visit UCLA to Discuss Muslim Women in AmericaFrom left, Shabnam Shoaib, Naela Quadri, Myra Kraus (International Visitors Bureau volunteer), Tehseena Rafi, Gail Hansberry (State Department English language officer).

Pakistani Women Leaders Visit UCLA to Discuss Muslim Women in America

Three writer-activists tour U.S. to explore situation of Muslim women in American communities. While at UCLA they observe the Clothesline Project commemorating victims of sexual violence.

By Gohar Grigorian

A distinguished group of three women writers and leaders of women's organizations from Pakistan visited UCLA May 13 as part of a national study tour of American culture as it affects women and the role of Muslim women in community development in America.

The three were:

Naela Quadri, program director for an organization called Conscience Promoters and author of three books, including Nuclearization of Asia. She is from Quetta in Balochistan, Pakistan.

Tehseena Rafi, consulting editor for the publication Educate of the Sindh Education Foundation of Karachi.

Shabnam Shoaib, director of Islamabad's Women's Welfare Agency, an NGO working to rehabilitate battered and sexually assaulted women. She is the author of four books including Societal Behaviors Towards victims of Violence.

Their UCLA visit was hosted by the International Institute's International Visitor's Bureau. Their first meeting was with Regina Lark, assistant director of the Center for the Study of Women. They shared information on the social and economic progress of women in developing countries. Regina Lark also described the content of Women's Studies at UCLA and the activities of the Center for the Studies of Women which does research and invites guest speakers from all over the world.

At UCLA, Women's Studies is supported by many departments. In Pakistan, there is no undergraduate department of women's studies.

The second appointment was with Arshad Ali, project director of Mentors for Academic and Peer Support (MAPS). MAPS focuses on helping under-served youth reach their academic and personal potential through tutoring, counseling, workshops, and community events with the aim of raising the number of attendees to four-year colleges and universities. MAPS contributes to the community by providing tutors for needy students, and workshops in the health care field.

The Pakistani women were particularly interested in information on how first generation Muslim students and alumni at UCLA get involved in their community through activities such as youth mentoring in underprivileged areas.

Mr. Ali discussed the positive and negative effects of 9/11 on Muslims in the U.S. There is more understanding of Muslims and Islam, but there is also more harassment and discrimination. He felt that the positives outweighed the negatives.

Both discussions ended with plans to have future exchanges.

The visit happened to coincide with the annual Clothesline Project, a display of commemorative T-shirts for victims and survivors of sexual and gender violence. Begun in Massachusetts in 1990, UCLA has participated annually since 1998. Each shirt is color coded for different types of violence such as murder, rape, attacks on transgendered persons, and incest. Each shirt, in a color denoting the type of crime, commemorates a particular victim. This year there were about 200 shirts displayed on clotheslines in Schoenberg Quad. The Pakistani visitors were impressed with the display and had a brief discussion with women in the quad during their visit.

More on the Delegation

Ms Naela Quadri holds an MA in the Philosophy of Pharmacy from the University of Punjab. She is a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and of Amnesty International. Her books include No to Killings, Biography of a Freedom Fighter, and Nuclearization of Asia. She had been an assistant professor of Pharmacy at the University of Balochistan but lost her job when she publicly criticized Pakistan's bomb tests in the mountains of Balochistan in 1999. In her work for Conscience Promoters she helped to raise relief supplies during the terrible famine in Balochistan in the spring and summer of 2000. She is also an active member of the global peace network Women Waging Peace.

Ms. Tehseena Rafi holds an MA in English literature from Karachi University. She has served as assistant manager of the Development Management Unit of the NGO Resource Center at the Aga Khan Foundation in Karachi, 2000-01. She is the author of many articles on education and community empowerment. She was instrumental in creating a national Adopt-A-School policy as part of efforts to promote public-private sector partnerships for educational development.

Ms. Shabnam Shoaib holds an MA in Psychology from the University of Punjab. She is a founding member of the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace, a Pakistan-wide NGO. Her books include Violence; Sexual Violence; Effects of Sexual Violence; and Societal Behaviors Towards Victims of Violence. She also serves on several government committees concerned with labor welfare and women's rights.

UCLA International Institute