Rehana Hashmi of Pakistan
|"Standing with Our Sisters"
By Peace Writer Sue Diaz
Rehana Hashmi, a development professional and human rights defender, knows well the stark differences between the remote expanses of Pakistan and its bustling cities. Born in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North-West Frontier Province) and raised in the sparsely populated province of Balochistan, she now alternates her work between Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad and the remote regions of her childhood.
At a young age Hashmi saw her father jailed for political activism and soon followed in his footsteps, leading student protests as Pakistan went through political upheaval. When the police came to her door threatening her arrest, the teenage Hashmi was given two choices: stop the protests or leave town. But she would not be silenced.
In the 25 years since, Hashmi’s activism has centered on the defense of human rights, especially for women. She became a development specialist in the district of Chitral; the work involved organizing women of diverse sects to come together to improve their livelihoods. It was a challenging task, as women in this region had never before been allowed to form organizations or make decisions side by side with men.
Hashmi has also created two national networks to support women taking control of their rights. As the national manager of the Women Political School Project under the Ministry of Women Development, she trained over 25,000 elected women leaders to support their political engagement. Hashmi also formed the largest health worker’s network in the private sector to provide services in reproductive health, linking over 3,000 paramedics to reach 2 million women.
Through her leadership of Sisters Trust Pakistan, Hashmi has worked tirelessly to help victims of domestic violence and women and girls breaking free of religious fundamentalism and forced marriages. However, her defense of human rights has come at a price: A regular target of threats, Hashmi must frequently move locations, occasionally going into hiding. But this does not deter her. Declining opportunities to settle abroad due to her committment to stay and be part of the struggle for change, Hashmi leads women and those marginalized in Pakistan society to fight for their rights and create a country that will defend them.
Hashmi was a Woman PeaceMaker in 2013.