Fellow Since 2008
This profile was prepared when Aisha Mehnaz was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Aisha is addressing the problem of child abuse in Pakistan by enabling society—parents, doctors, schoolteachers, lawmakers, politicians, religious leaders and others—to break the taboo of discussing abuse and take concrete actions for its prevention and proper treatment. Aisha has developed a model that revolves around early detection of cases and an infrastructure to address measures for protection, prevention, and rehabilitation. The model brings together public education and advocacy through media and through networking between the Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA), local hospitals, legal and social professionals, and various citizen organizations committed to reducing child abuse. Aisha has developed a training program for schoolteachers, parents and medical workers in order to raise their awareness about the issue and pry open the conversation at the societal level. To improve treatment of abuse, Aisha is creating Child Protection Committees in the hospitals. Participating doctors are trained to diagnose and register the child sexual abuse cases in ways that are most sensitive to children’s psychological needs and privacy. Each CPC is also meant to motivate parents or family members to register cases, learn basic ways to prevent further incidents of abuse, and learn how to help children deal with the trauma. In cases where parents or families are the primary perpetrators of abuse, the CPC welcomes children as a safe space where they can get support and begin a path of recovery that will enable them to once again trust those closest to them. In addition, Aisha has begun a campaign against corporal punishment in schools and homes to reverse the cultural norms that currently view physical violence an acceptable form of discipline.