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Sameena Azhar Receives Grant Funding to Study Gender-Based Violence Against Khwaja Sira in Pakistan


Fordham GSS Assistant Professor Sameena Azhar, Ph.D., has received a grant of $15,000 to conduct a study that will estimate the prevalence and types of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) against khwaja sira individuals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan (KP) and to examine the profound impact of these experiences on their mental health.

The American Institute of Pakistan Studies funds the grant. The research team will use purposive sampling to survey 500 khwaja sira in KP regarding their experiences with GBV and report on the results.

Purposive sampling is intentional selection of informants based on their ability to elucidate a specific theme, concept, or phenomenon.

–Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research

The Need

According to the grant proposal’s abstract, issues surrounding gender-based violence (GBV) have come to the forefront of global discussions after the COVID-19 pandemic. While international guidelines for GBV intervention have largely been drawn from evidence in Western industrialized contexts, there’s a growing recognition that these guidelines need to be more inclusive, particularly concerning violence against individuals outside the traditional gender binary.

Who are the Khwaja Sira

Khwaja sira, people who identify as a third gender, have a rich and diverse history across South Asian cultures, dating back millennia. Despite their longstanding presence in society, khwaja sira individuals continue to face intersecting forms of violence, often overlooked by mainstream discourse. According to a Human Rights Watch report, in 2016 alone, Pakistan witnessed 479 attacks and 68 murders of third gender people. Shockingly, these statistics are likely underestimated, given that many cases of violence against khwaja sira go unreported.

Within Pakistan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province has remained a neglected area for social intervention and research on GBV. Recognizing the urgent need to address this issue, Azhar’s project has set out to make a difference.

Thank you for all your great work, Dr. Azhar!


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