Allah Warayo Bozdar

Ashoka Fellow
Illustration of a person's face depicting a fellow
Pakistan
Fellow Since 1999
RDOCC
This description of Allah Warayo Bozdar's work was prepared when Allah Warayo Bozdar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999 .

Introduction

Allah Warayo is leading a systematic effort to end the practice of karo kari ("honor killings') in which male family members kill female family members suspected of committing adultery. In the province of Sindh alone there were more than 423 such cases reported to authorities. The practice is most prevalent in rural areas and most cases go unreported.

The New Idea

Allah Warayo believes that intensive publicity of these cases, coupled with systematic intervention in the villages where they occur, can bring an end to this brutal practice. Allah Warayo approaches not just members of the extended family of the victim, but members of the village as well. For this effort he draws on a staff of people trained in village intervention as well as a network of women's groups in the area. By linking publicity of the case with an intervention at the village level to address an urgent need, such as surface drainage or the need for a new school, Allah Warayo opens the village to dialogue and self-improvement, and builds village level allies who continue to support his efforts to stamp out karo-kari.

The Problem

Until Allah Warayo began his work, the practice of karo kari went unreported in the media. It is an age-old custom reminiscent of medieval times. Very often, even the slightest suspicion of adultery therefore results in the killing of the woman. While illegal, the practice was widely condoned. The killings were viewed not as a crime, but as a necessary step to uphold family honor. In the feudal society of rural Pakistan the murderer takes the body of the murdered woman to the landlord. The landlord expresses his sympathy/concern for the honor of the family of the murdered woman and sees to it that no case is registered at the local police station.In cultural terms women are seen to be at once the source of all sin (as Eve seduced Adam in the garden of Eden) and the guardians of family honor. Women are severely restricted as to how they can dress, whether they can go out of the house and what they can do. Deviation from these rules is viewed as inevitably leading to licentiousness and loss of family honor.

The Strategy

When Allah Warayo learns of an honor killing his organization tries to approach a member of the victim's extended family. Often there is someone--a cousin or an uncle--who holds the view that what was done as unjust. Allah Warayo's strategy involves approaching these family members to divulge details. He then publicizes the details in newspaper articles and presses for police investigations. If family members do not cooperate, Allah Warayo approaches other members of the village to find those who are troubled by such a killing. He urges one or two of them to join his organization and holds a meeting in the village to talk about human rights and to discuss the needs of the village. By holding an implicit focus on the murdered woman's family without discussing it directly, Allah Warayo finds that villagers will then approach the family to confess to the crime. If a family member cooperates the process is the same: villagers are educated on human rights, a few are selected to join his organization, and women's groups and other outside organizations are recruited to help the village address whatever issue for which the village seeks assistance, thus cementing his relationship with the village in a positive way.Allah Warayo began experimenting with this approach in seventeen villages. Today the number has reached sixty-two. In villages where his organization has gotten involved the practice of karo kari has stopped. He is confident that the problem in these villages has not gone underground because representatives of these villages are members of his organization.Over the next 5-10 years Allah Warayo plans to expand throughout rural Sindh, where the practice is particularly prevalent, as well as into Baluchistan. He counts among his organization's supporters a number of pro bono lawyers. To supplement their efforts he has two staff people studying for law degrees.

The Person

Allah Warayo is from the Ghothi district in Northern Sindh. Small farmers cultivate twenty percent of the arable land. The balance is in the hands of four large landowners. Forty percent of the men and just ten percent of the women are functionally literate.Allah Warayo's mother was the victim of karo kari when he was just a year old. His father died soon after in a tribal clash and his grandfather passed away, so he went to live with his uncle's family. It was not until he was fifteen that he accidentally learned about how his mother died. Even before learning about his mother's murder Allah Warayo had run-ins with the local landlord. As a result of a newspaper article he wrote detailing a beating he received by the landlord. The story got published and was appreciated by the villagers. The incident gave him faith in the power of the written word.Allah Warayo finances his efforts through village membership fees, local donations, and income he earns from reporting karo kari cases to the Pakistan Human Rights Commission. The BBC has filmed his work and as the media have spread word of his work he has been inundated with requests from local organizations across the country to help them replicate his work.