Bedari is a national level non-governmental, voluntary, development organization in Pakistan working with women and children for the promotion and protection of their human rights. It started its activities in 1991. It got registered in 1992 under Societies Act 1860. Its registration number is RS/ICT/155.
It established Pakistan’s first crisis centre for women survivors of violence. In the past 24 years, it has developed expertise on issues of gender empowerment, addressing violence against women and children, and processes of attitudinal change.
In a society that blames women for whatever goes wrong in a relationship, family or society, it is extremely difficult for them to raise their voice against the manipulation and abuse that they go through in their own homes. As a result, innumerable incidents of mental torture, rape, incest and domestic violence go unreported. Those few women who do break the silence and seek help are usually driven by desperate and intolerable circumstances. Even for those few, the society provides no appropriate means of immediate or longer term assistance.
The lack of support to women in difficult situations results in many returning to the same unbearable circumstances that they had tried to escape from. Alone, isolated, no productive assets and with no one really to turn to, many women continue to tolerate all sorts of injustices and harsh treatment in their homes, in their job situations, in public and in the society as a whole. It was the urgent need for providing help and support to women in Pakistani society that led a group of professional women to initiate Bedari (Awakening) in 1991.
Bedari started as a small organization with no regular staff. It relied entirely on the time and efforts of volunteers for the achievement of its objectives. It continued to work in this mode with only one office assistant working as full-time employee. The lawyers, psychologists, doctors – all were working as volunteers. Bedari supported around 1000 women in distress every year.
As the demand from other areas grew, so did the workload, which made Bedari rethink its methodology. It became difficult to continue working with a large number of volunteers with fluctuating availability. Bedari constantly received new volunteers to replace old ones, but still it was not matching the demand. This situation led to the realization that there was a serious need to redesign the strategy. In 2006, the process for redesigning started.
Now Bedari has a formal, paid full-time working staff that has a support from a wide network of volunteers. It is establishing partnerships with donors to execute various projects with specific objectives. It has not dissociated itself from its past. Discrimination and violence against women remain core subjects. However, it has expanded its wings to other areas which affect women’s condition in the society. These include education, economic empowerment and formulation of explicit laws and their implementation to safeguard women’s rights.
Today Bedari is working more vigorously on these issues. Moreover, it has expanded its geographic coverage from Rawalpindi/Islamabad to Chakwal, Attock, Jhelum, Muzaffargarh, Vehari, Multan, and Lahore. It continues to rely on volunteers, but has a skeleton staff as well.