The first-ever Burns Unit for Women in Pakistan: a project on hold

la première unité pour grand(e)s brûlé(e)s au Pakistan: un projet en attente (VF, plus bas)

In 2004, we embarked on a particularly poignant project: helping to set up the first-ever Burns Unit the Mayo Hospital, a public institution in Lahore, Pakistan. .AGHS, a women's organisation and legal aid cell since 1980 has brought the urgency of such a project to our attention. The torching of women is on the increase, like in India, yet nothing has ever been done specifically in the hospitals. Building such a unit would naturally benefit the women and also draw attention to their plight- something which families are careful to conceal as is revealed by the case study below. AGHS, defends women by reporting such cases, protecting them legally and providing help through a shelter. Their report below of a recent case study dated October 2003 gives you an idea of this kind of appalling event which happens on an everyday basis in the country. Scroll down to see a letter from the Mayo Clinic with a list of requests as sent to Mrs Asma Jahangir, the renowned Women's Rights Lawyer from AGHS with whom we are fortunate enough to be working on this project

Case # 1 (October 2003):

Victim’s name: Samina w/o Jawed Aslam
Age: 20
Date of Instance: 5th October 2003
Place of Instance: 166-1 Aibak Block, New Garden Town, Lahore
Method of burning: Acid
Children of the Victim: One newborn daughter
Name of Perpetrators: Jawed, Aslam and Manzooran Bibi
Relationship with the victim: Husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law

Samina had passed away when our activist met her family at the Mayo Hospital. Her family was very upset and her father was abusing her husband and her in-laws for having killed his daughter. Samina’s mother told our activist that her husband, Chiraghdin, had married their daughter off to a friend’s son, Jawed, around a year and a half ago. Not too long after the wedding, Jawed and his family started badmouthing and abusing Samina for having brought in too little dowry. The quarrels became more pronounced and frequent with time and the girl soon left for her own home in terror. She told her parents that she could not bear living there any more. However, her parents convinced her to give the marriage another chance and so she went back to her husband and his family. During this time it was found that Samina was pregnant. Her husband threatened her that if she gave birth to a daughter he would make her sorry for it. When the baby was born it turned out that it was a daughter. Jawed and his family did not allow the poor girl to even hold her newborn daughter for a while; they snatched the baby and gave it to a servant at their house to take away. A few nights later they began to abuse Samina for bringing in little dowry and for having given birth to a girl. They then forced her to swallow acid. She was brought to the hospital in a terrible condition and died only a few hours after she had been brought in. Her husband had made a cunning move and had taken her death certificate from the doctors who had been attending the girl. When the victim’s brother found this out he raised a great hue and cry and the doctors had to make another death certificate to give to him. Samina’s family want to file a case but apparently the Police was not registering an FIR because the culprit belonged to an influential family.

We have been in touch and met with Shahnaz Bokhari who runs the outspoken Progressive Women's Association in Pakistan, which she founded in 1986.


In brief, we need everything as we are tackling this from scratch! Here is the list of equipment needed by the Mayo Hospital, as communicated by its director, Professor Muhammad Arshaad Cheema:

2 electrical dermatomes 6 non-invasive blood pressure monitors 2 electrical defibrilators 2 cardiac monitors I BCG machine 6 ventilators 2 dyalisis machines I video gastroscope and one video colonscope I portable X-ray machine.
Not being doctors, we do not know if this equipment is appropriate or sufficcient.

We need every kind of contribution: financial, and equipment.- please contact with suggestions and offers

This project is particularly important to raise awareness on the predicament of women's lives in that part of the world. Contributing to the first-ever Burns Unit in Pakistan is the major step to making the world a safer place for women all over.

For more details on the situation, see articles on GSN (Global Sister Network), surely the world's best list for worldwide articles of interest to women:

Succint online bibliography;

Alavi, Hamza (1991) ‘Pakistani Women in a Changing SocietyÂ’ in Hastings, Donnan & Pnina Werbner (eds.)  Economy and Culture in Pakistan, London 

Country Information and Policy Unit (April 2001) Pakistan Assessment, London, Home Office; available at 

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (2001) State of Human Rights in 2000: Report Highlights; 

An excellent article on the subject:


Temporary conclusion on August 15 2005

However, today, we have come to the temporary conclusion that a small NGO like ours can not tackle such an enormous project without help feedback and cooperation from a Pakistani organization which is committed to action as well as words. Unfortunately when you come from the West, many people imagine you have vast budgets to pay local staff and indeed take total responsability for projects. Working in a voluntary, unpaid capacity appears to be unimaginable in most cases. One reason may be that, unlike India, there is not large and vocal middle-class with a tradition for political and social activism. This is very much a tribal, in many ways feudal society, where humanitarian work is often perceived like Vistorian charity work indulged in by some of the more morally-minded upper classes. This is has also sometimes our problem trying to bring help to Pakistani people. We refuse to engage in some kind of humanitarian colonialism: any project has to be run by local people according to their vision of their needs- we can bring advice, our own expertise and some money, no more.

But because of the urgency of the situation, we have decided to leave this section up on our site, in case someone wishes to discuss a project with us.


Une unité pour Grand (e)s Brûlé(e)s au Pakistan,

En 2004, nous avions lancé un projet d'envergure: la création de la première unité pour Grand (e)s Brûlé(e)s au Pakistan, à l'hôpital Mayo à Lahore.
La violence contre les femmes par le feu et l'acide est repandue au Pakistan comme en Inde, mais néanmoins il n'existe à ce jour aucun service spécialisé pour soigner les victimes d'un type de crime que les médias locales et les juges préfèrent ignorer. Ce projet servira à attirer l'attention sur ce drame quotidien dans la vie des femmes du sous-continent dont les ramifications concernent les femmes du monde entier. Cette unité sera réalisé en conjonction avec AGHS, une extraordinaire association d'avocates qui vient en aide, depuis 1980, aux femmes battues au Pakistan

Pour plus de détails, ainsi qu'une liste de besoins urgents, établie par l'Hôpital Mayo, voir ci-dessous. Il s'agit d'une lettre à la très célèbre avocate et défenseur des Droits de la Femme au Pakistan, Asma Jahangir avec qui nous avons été en contact . Nous avons également recontré Mme Shahnaz Bokhari qui dirige le PWA Progressive Women's Association, qu'elle a fondé en 1986.

Conclusion temporaire, le 15 août 2005

Nous sommes obligées d'accepter le fait qu'une toute petite organisation comme la notre n'est pas en mesure de mettre en place un projet de cette envergure sans le soutien actif de partenaires pakistanais. Malheureusement, au Pakistan, beaucoup s'imaginent que nous avons de vastes budgets pouvant payer des salaires importants aux personnes qui nous aideraient sur place. La notion d'engagement et de volontariat paraît difficile à comprendre, voire incompréhensible. Il se peut que l'absence d'une classe moyenne politisée et revendicatrice, contrairement à l'Inde, y soit pour quelque chose, cette société reste largement féodale et tribale. Le travail humanitaire s'inscrit encore dans le non dans la coopération. Nous refusons le colonialisme humanitaire, tout projet doit être réalisé par ses destinataries, selon leur vision de leurs problèmes. Nous pouvons apporter des conseils, un point de vue, une anlyse personnelle, une partie des financements, mais jamais la prise en charge totale.

En vue de l'importance de ce problème véritablement tragique, nous avons laissé cette rubrique sur ce site, et sommes prêtes à en discuter avec tous ceux qui s'y intéresseraient.