”Fear is just a line in your head. You can

choose what side of that line you want to be

on … you can’t let fear control you.”

-Sabeen Mahmud

Women’s Action Forum (WAF), or Khawateen Mahaz-e-Amal is an inclusive, and intersectional women’s rights organisation Pakistan founded in Karachi in September, 1981. Within a short timespan, WAF chapters were opened across Pakistan. Soon, it established itself as a democratic body agitating for women rights, and secularism.

WAF was formed as a way to respond to the Hudood Ordinances introduced by Zia-ul-Haq, and to strengthen the position of women in Pakistani society. They believed that the dictator’s regime was targeting women, and denying them channels of expression. It played a huge role in rebelling against the authoritarian rule of the time and became the face of feminism in the 1980s with picketing, processions, rallies, signature campaigns, consciousness-raising, telegrams, and writing letters as their forms of protest. On February 12th, 1983, members of WAF, and other organisations gathered at Regal Chowk to contest the regime, but were met with violence. The day is now memorialised as National Women’s Day in Pakistan.

Some prominent members of WAF have included Anis Haroon, Lala Rukh, Zohra Yusuf, Farida Shaheed, Amar Sindhu, Hilda Saeed, etc. Asma Jahangir, and Sabeen Mahmud were active supporters. WAF operates alongside feminist organisations defining the third wave of feminism in Pakistan.