Abuse and Flood Survivors Speak Out on Gawaahi.com

Artwor Abro Khuda Bux

Digital storytellers, speak out: Recently launched Gawaahi.com dedicates its web space to sharing tales of abuse and survival in Pakistan that are oft underexposed by mainstream media. The Web site compiles testimonies of survivors, narratives of empowered Pakistanis and the work of local artists to embolden survivors, facilitate dialogue and inspire change.

Gawaahi.com spawned from the brainchildren of journalists Sana Saleem and Naveen Naqvi. The co-founders’ individual trips to Islamabad and Germany to attend conferences on digital storytelling and global media got their wheels turning; the idea of crowd-sourced Web sites struck the women’s fancy, and thus, Gawaahi.com was born.

Photo: FurSid

To get the ball rolling, Naqvi says that participants of a Feminist Tech Exchange Workshop volunteered to share their stories first.

“Since the site has gone up, we have found that each submission inspires and encourages more survivors to share their stories,” says Naqvi. “This is precisely what we had hoped for, and it is very gratifying to see it happen.”

The stomping ground for citizen journalists and survivors is just months old, but it is already attempting to forge a path for unheard voices across Pakistan. One video documents a campaign against blasphemy laws. Another highlights the strength and courage of Zainab, a two-time survivor of acid attacks in a documentary clip for the Acid Survivors Foundation. A piece by contributor Adrees Latif details the challenges many still face 10 months after the country’s disastrous floods. And a photograph from northern Pakistan that shows an image of Buddha etched into a rock draws attention to the nation’s pluralistic heritage – a crucial story, says Naqvi, for Pakistanis and the world alike.

Artwork: Zaina Anwar

The Web site also features work from artists such as Zaina Anwar. Her intricate painting of a woman graces the homepage in an homage to ‘speaking out’, and her subsequent poetry about abuse was inspired by the stories on Gawaahi.com. Sami Chohan’s series of drawings on resistance and Abro Khuda Bux’s illustrations of women also provoke critical thought on identity in Pakistan today.

The Web site also offers ways out to victims living with abuse. In the ‘What you can do’ section, there are contact numbers, addresses, and emails for NGOs and human rights lawyers that work to help fight these issues. In the future, Naqvi says they are looking at producing a version of the site in Urdu.

To share your story, or to read others, visit www.gawaahi.com.