Launched on November 26 2001, this advocacy project was an effort to stimulate a thinking process through generating awareness and sensitisation about the institution and practice of dowry and dowry violence in Pakistan. Fight Against Dowry (FAD) was an initiative of Advocates of Gender, Education and Health Information (AEGHI) Resource Centre, the technical wing of the Society for the Advancement of Community, Health, Education and Training (SACHET) - a not-for-profit voluntary civil society organisation (CSO) committed to promoting the development of disadvantaged communities in Pakistan from a gender-sensitive perspective. Central aims included:
  • To identify perceptions, attitudes, practices in connection with dowry in Pakistani society.
  • To inform all stakeholders, primarily youth and students, about the social, economic, psychological, and health hazards of dowry and dowry violence. (Editor's note: For example, according to a Wikipedia entry titled "Bride Burning in South Asia", "[c]ases of bride burning have been reported in Pakistan. The Ansar Burney Trust International says that in some cases, accidents are engineered (such as tampering with a kitchen stove to cause victim's death) or the victims are set ablaze, and the attack is disguised as an accident or as suicide.")
  • To engage mass media in promotion and dissemination of awareness against repercussions of dowry.
  • To lobby for various reforms with the various levels of government.
  • To organise and mobilise students and parents against dowry.
Communication Strategies: 

As part of this effort, FAD worked with media, youth, and all interested groups to highlight the costs and consequences of the custom and institution of dowry. FAD took some practical steps for the cause by breaking the culture of silence, promoting positive dialogue, and organising activities to involve youth in the process of advocating the message.

The key strategies to achieve these objectives included research, media advocacy, youth involvement, and collaboration with legislators, religious leaders, and opinion makers. Specific examples of programme activities include:

  • Investigating and identifying perceptions, attitudes, practices in connection with dowry - One research focus was identifying power relationships in decision making among men and women. A central question is "who does what?", asked with an eye toward assessing gender, age, time spent, and location of the activity. In addition, a research survey to assess the perspective of young people about dowry was conducted in October 2001; other research papers have been presented at conferences, such as "A micro study on the coverage of dowry related issues in the selected newspapers of Pakistan: Dowry and silence of the civic Society as reflected by the newspaper media."
  • Informing young people and students, in particular, about the social, economic, psychological, and health-related hazards associated with dowry and dowry violence - A team of volunteers conducted interactive sessions including both students and their parents at community centres, Mohallas, and in villages. Other sessions included students from different colleges and universities. In addition, awareness and sensitisation seminars involving role models, professionals from the development sector, students, and representatives from public institutions were conducted on a quarterly basis at the provincial capitals. Other events were organised to inform and engage young people. For instance, a poster competition involving young people as participants and judges took place in October 2002. A 2003 calendar including contest entries was produced. Public service message hand bags were produced with slogans against dowry and violence in conjunction with National Women's Day.
  • The sharing of personal experiences with dowry through poetry (click here to read examples) and a book (click here for details).
  • Engaging the mass media in increasing awareness about these hazards - Professionals were asked to act as pressure groups in policy-making institutions to foster an accurate portrayal of women in mass media. Specifically, a public service message/video spot aired on Pakistan television in March 2002; various television appearances to share details about FAD occurred. FAD also used the internet as a means of communicating with stakeholders about the project. National, regional, and local print media were also involved. Regular features, articles, reviews, and news about FAD were included in English and Urdu newspapers. In addition, FAD published a special edition of the "FAD bulletin" (March 2003) that included the views of students, youth, and professionals.
  • Television advocacy - AGEHI Resource Centre produced a 15-minute, 13-episode television series called "FAD-jahez k khilaf jang" that aired in 2003. The series was based on the "edutainment" approach and included poetry, songs, and docudrama. Each programme dealt with a particular dimension of the complex issue of dowry such as patriarchy, loopholes in the law, and the role of boys and girls in perpetuating dowry systems. True stories of dowry victims and survivors were also included in 7 of the episodes. The programme voiced opinions and concerns of people not only from Pakistan but also from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka. Specifically, the segment "Youth Views" explored the views of rural and urban Pakistani youth regarding their perceptions, attitudes, and knowledge about marriage expenses, customs, traditions, the dowry system, dowry violence, and their potential to change the negative practices which have become norms. The "FAD Tip" portion of each programme utilised the services of a well-known female TV personality to disseminate information about "Nikkah naama" (marriage certificate), rights of women, and the cost of dowry violence. "Civic Will" brought together academicians, intellectuals, and activists to express their views on the issues of dowry. A video series was produced based on the show; it is designed to spark community understanding of the issue and continued efforts to address it through local attempts to challenge existing legal roadblocks.
  • Lobbying the various levels of government, including the Parliament, courts, and government ministries - In 2003, FAD organised a 2-day national consultation in collaboration with the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan to amend the existing Act of 1976 and propose rational and gender-sensitive amendments to the Act by working with all stakeholders.
  • Organising and mobilising young people against dowry - An ongoing signature campaign asked students to pledge to neither take nor give dowry when they marry. Large posters accommodated 200 signatures each.

FAD ensured continued community participation even beyond the project period through the creation in 2003 of FADAN (Fight Against Dowry Advocacy Network). Based on the philosophy "When a gift becomes demand it is a form of violence", this national-level advocacy network against dowry violence worked to strengthen partnership with stakeholders as part of its effort to create and sustain a social movement against dowry by demand. FADAN membership takes into its fold both individuals and organisations, with the essential prerequisite of determination, commitment, and devotion of the members to the network's goals and objectives. The logo of a silver ribbon was selected in July 2006 on the occasion of the second national FAD workshop to portray the elements of simplicity, austerity, and courage against ills of dowry on demand. FADAN offers an "advocacy bag" for sale in an effort to raise awareness and inspire participation in the network.

Development Issues: 

Women, Gender, Youth, Rights.

Key Points: 

SACHET's position on the issue of dowry is based on the conviction that demand of dowry is an offence. Further, dowry itself is a form of violence - not only against women but men also - and is a public health issue. In addition, according to SACHET, courts should take "Suo Moto" ("on its own motion") against deaths of married girls (especially newlyweds) under unexplained circumstances such as stove death. Click here to read the FAD resolution online.

According to organisers, "FAD has generated an ongoing discourse in mainstream print and electronic media on the issues of Dowry. It has revived the issue of 'accidental stove deaths' in the development sector. A renowned NGO [non-governmental organisation] Family Planning Association of Pakistan has launched a project with the assistance of EU [the European Union] on the issue of burning of women. University students and young leaders in development are paying attention to dowry violence as evidenced by a number of mid term research papers and thesis produced on this issue in the last two years in Pakistan....The country gender assessment report 2005 launched by World Bank in 2006 acknowledges the impact of FAD in Pakistani society. The institutionalization of FAD in the form of FADAN (Fight against Dowry Advocacy Network) is itself an impact indicator."


FAD page on the SACHET website; and emails from the AGEHI Resource Center to The Communication Initiative on May 27 2003, April 3 2008, and September 20 2008.