War Against Rape (WAR), an NGO providing healing, counselling and medico-legal help to rape survivors in the country for decades, is facing imminent closure due to lack of funds.
The organisation has been in deep financial crisis since 2011, when one of its main funders, a Dutch organization called the ICCO cut off its funding because of the global recession. Since then, WAR has been staying afloat on small grants from other donor agencies. The organisation, which provided free legal aid to rape survivors, now only takes up critical cases and is wrapping up previous ones too. It has also undergone major retrenchment.
The scarce funding situation is exacerbated by the stigma surrounding sexual health issues in Pakistan. When the organisation put up a play in collaboration with the Lyceum school to raise funds, people bought tickets but didn’t show up. Sana Rasheed, the programme co-coordinator at WAR says this is because people do not want to be associated with the discourse on issues like rape.
Another reason, as explained by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research’s (PILER) Karamat Ali, is that Pakistan’s negative image does not discourages foreign donors. “People are not ready to invest in the country because of rising extremism and intolerance.” According to him, while individuals are not ready to help countries in the Global South, those who do lend a hand do so to the government instead of to NGOs.
For Rasheed and her colleagues at WAR, this is a testing time. She says the closure of the NGO would be a huge tragedy. “WAR is a place where a rape survivor can walk in easily, and if it closes down, there would be no help for them.”