The Sound Kitchen

All about Pakistan's Aware Girls

Audio 22:34
Sound Kitchen Podcast
Sound Kitchen Podcast RFI

This week on The Sound Kitchen, you’ll hear the answer to the question about the women’s rights organization founded in 2002 by Gulalai and Saba Ismail in Pakistan. There’s the Listener Mailbag, great music, and of course, the new quiz question. Just click on the arrow in the photo above and enjoy!


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This week’s quiz: On 3 August, I asked you a question about Gulalai Ismail, a feminist and peace activist from Pakistan. You were to write in with the name of the organization she founded with her sister Saba in 2002.

The answer is: Aware Girls. The organization works for women’s equality and peace in Pakistan, mainly in the northwest and tribal areas of the country. Aware Girls works to strengthen the leadership capacity of young women and girls, so that they can be agents for social change in their communities.  Gulalai, an ethnic Pashtun, was only 16 years old when she founded the organization (she’s now in her early 30’s), and she’s worked tirelessly since then: she and her sister and the other young women who work with them have trained thousands of other women about their rights and on peace building, on how to run for and to hold electoral office, and they work with “at risk” youths to keep them from extremism.

Gulalai Ismail got sidewise with the Pakistani government this year: Pakistan’s security services accused Ms Ismail of several serious offenses - including sedition, financing terrorism and defaming state institutions. Why?

Last January, she aired allegations, on Facebook and Twitter, that government soldiers had raped or sexually abused many Pashtun women. She also joined protests led by an ethnic Pashtun rights protest movement known as PTM.  PTM has called the Pakistani security forces to account for extrajudicial killings and other injustices. Pakistan’s military has tried to crush PTM.

In August, when I asked you the question about her, no one had seen her in two months, although the authorities had raided - more than once - her family’s home, taking away computers, mobile phones – and the family’s driver, who was drugged and severely beaten.

Gulalai Ismail’s father – who is very proud of his daughter’s activism – warned her not to speak up about the rape allegations against the army; he knew it was extremely dangerous to provoke the military.

He told the New York Times: “But she got very harsh with me and said, ‘I am a human-rights activist, I have to stand with them.’”

After four months in hiding, The New York Times reported this week that Gulalai Ismail is out of Pakistan and in the U-S, where she is seeking political asylum. She is safe, but terribly worried about the fate of her parents.

The winners are: Three listeners from Pakistan: Shahzad Shabbir, the president of the Pak France International Listeners Club in District Sahiwal; Mehran Khan Laghari from Sindh, and from District Chiniot, Razia Khalid, a member of the RFI Seven Stars Listeners Club. Moving over to India, Mousumi Khatun from the RFI International DX Radio Listeners Club in Murshidabad, and RFI Listeners Club member Jayanta Chakrabarty from New Delhi.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: Traditional Pakistani Pashto music for rubab; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C major, performed by Tamara Coha Mandić, flute, Diana Grubišić Ćiković, harp, and the Croatian chamber orchestra conducted by Igor Tatarević, and “Precious Memories” by JBF Wright, sung by Aretha Franklin and the Reverend James Cleveland, with the Southern California Community Choir.

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This week’s question ... You'll have to listen to the show to participate. You have until 11 November to enter this week's quiz; the winners will be announced on the 16 November podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address in with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:


Susan Owensby
RFI – The Sound Kitchen
80, rue Camille Desmoulins
92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux


By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then 33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here

To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or to form your own official RFI Club, click here


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