Ms. Nigar Ahmad has worked tirelessly for nearly 25 years for the empowerment of Pakistani women, as Executive Director of the Aurat Publication and Information Service Foundation. Under her stewardship, the Aurat (woman) Foundation has taken up a range of causes, from mobilizing women candidates for national and local government elections to generating debate across the country about women’s political and economic empowerment and issues relating to peace and democracy.
An academic and a social activist, she was a brilliant student who came top of her Masters of Economics year in Punjab University and went on to study economics at Cambridge University. She was also a Commonwealth Scholar. While pursuing a career in academia she taught economics for 16 years at the faculty of the Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad and was drawn into the struggle of Pakistani women against the anti-women policies of the military dictatorship headed by Zia-ul-Haq.
She was a member of the Women’s Action Forum for two years (1983–1985) before founding Aurat Foundation together with Shahla Zia. Nigar has researched the work of women in the informal sector, and organized national conferences for peasant women, as well as radio programmes to educate them on health and agricultural issues. She campaigned for the need to generate correct information on women’s work during the fifth National Census in 1998.
Nigar has contributed to shaping policy debates on women’s empowerment through her close involvement with bodies such as the National Commission on the Status of Women. She was a co-author of the report on Women’s Development Programmes for Pakistan’s Eighth Five Year Plan, and played a similar role with respect to the Sixth Five Year Plan.
She was one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She is a nominee from Pakistan of the Global Sisterhood Network. As researcher, Nigar has extensively investigated the situation of grassroots women in Pakistan. She has also researched tenant-landlord struggles in Pakistan and co-authored a study on the life of rural women in Punjab.