Sarah Asad

Pahchaan Protection And Help of Children Against Abuse and Neglect
Sarah Asad was born in 1980 in Lahore, Pakistan. She currently works as Executive Director of Pahchaan, an organization working on child protection issues. She was deeply moved by the injustice of juvenile delinquents languishing in prisons, who she had come across doing her dissertation on their nutritional status in 2000. She decided to change her career path from a nutritionist to social worker, and began working in the field of child rights as a consultant with UNICEF and other organizations. Sarah decided to set up an independent NGO called Pahchaan in 2005 with other volunteers ranging from fields as diverse as pediatrics, media, teaching, and business. Pahchaan gained credibility and popularity as a committed NGO through the untiring efforts it put into the relief operation for the massive earthquake that destroyed the northern areas of Pakistan in 2005.

The organization is focused on protecting street living and working children and other groups of most vulnerable kids. The Urdu word Pahchaan means identity, and the main idea is to give abused children a chance to live their childhood. At the time of establishing the organization, there was certainly a dire need for a specialized NGO working exclusively on child protection issues, instead of being a focus area in the overall field of child rights. Within three years, Pahchaan (non-government, non-profit) has set up four offices, comprising a staff of about 35 persons, and a sizeable group of volunteers. Pahchaan has helped up to 1,000 children through awareness, service delivery, and capacity building. Up to 5,000 service providers, doctors, teachers, parents, employers of child laborers, and other care givers have been sensitized on child protection issues.

On a routine basis, Pahchaan staff rescues children faced with sexual, physical and emotional abuse from streets, their workplaces, dumpsters, and adults torturing children. These children are usually injured (sometimes self inflicted), highly disturbed, unfed and malnourished, carrying infections, sexually exploited, and sometimes have gone without a full bath for many months. The dedication and professionalism put in by the staff into its tasks is reflected in the almost complete transformation that such children undergo through the psycho-social, medical, recreational, personalized support, healthy meals, spiritual healing and faith, decent sleeping space, storage and money banking facilities, contact establishment and tracing of families, and permanent rehabilitation provided. Most importantly, these children attain feelings of hope and self worth after their interaction with the organization; helping them to grasp onto a second chance at childhood.

Sarah has received ISPCAN’s (International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) first Presidential Award in Brisbane, Australia in 2004. She is a Fellow of Packard Foundation’s Leadership Development Mechanism and features in its international 2008 publication as one of two examples of leadership from Pakistan. Sarah is a member of Global Women’s Leadership Network (Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University) where she underwent a leadership training course in 2007. Sarah is one of six persons awarded Youth Icon of Pakistan by World Population Foundation in 2007. She is part of the team doing pioneering work of setting up child protection committees at a hospital level, which was awarded the ISPCAN Multidisciplinary Award at the biggest ever gathering on child protection in England at the ISPCAN Congress in York, England in 2006.