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Changing Lives in Pakistan

The following is an excerpt of an article originally published in Spring 2015 edition of UMAA's Minnesota Magazine:

After three years, Fouzia Saeed had had enough. It was the mid-1990s and Saeed (B.S. ’82, M.S. ’84, Ph.D. ’87) was working for the United Nations in Pakistan, her native country. “It was a dream job,” she recalls in the documentary I Was Not Alone: A Pakistani Activist’s Journey for Change, created by the World Movement for Democracy and released last fall. “And then I realized that in addition to all the fun parts of the job there was this streak of frustration, painful experience, and harassment from one of my colleagues. I got really tired. It took me about three years to finally speak out.” But once she did, she gave voice to tens of thousands of women who, over the course of a decade, changed a country.

“When I raised my voice in a very hush-hush manner, quietly, I found out that actually every woman in that office was experiencing the same thing,” she recalls. Together, the 11 women filed a complaint against the colleague for sexual harassment and won their case after a two-year fight. In 2001, once the case ended, Saeed started wondering what she could do so other women did not have to go through what she and her colleagues had suffered. In collaboration with other activists, she founded the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA), a broad-based movement to end sexual harassment in the workplace ...

Saeed, who won the Humphrey School’s Distinguished Leadership Award in 2008 and the University’s Distinguished International Alumni Award in 1998, is currently the Pakistan Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., where she is documenting and analyzing women’s exertion of power in Pakistan. Though her research goes back to 1940, she is focusing on the last 15 years, honing in on a handful of movements in detail. “I want people to know that Pakistani women are very strong and have taken organized, strategic action,” she says.

Saeed holds three degrees from the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. She credits the U, particularly her adviser, Professor Emerita Jerry McClelland, with helping to shape her ethics and professional standards. “Jerry was extremely ethical and she taught me well how to be professionally honest,” Saeed recalls. “I will always appreciate that.”

Date Published: Spring 2015

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