“Little did I know that my intimidation by senior officers in the UNDP had only just begun.”
Fouzia Saeed dreamed of bringing social change to the women of Pakistan and was thrilled to land her dream job at the world’s ethical compass and institutional tour de force: The United Nations.
As expected, the UN was a gathering place for passionate minds devoted to human rights and justice for all. Shockingly, at the UN mission in Pakistan it was also a breeding ground for powerful men who viewed women as sexual objects rather than professional equals.
Refusing her boss’s advances didn’t stop the harassment. Reporting him to superiors didn’t either. In her years-long struggle with torment and humiliation at the UN, Fouzia held strong, knowing her fight for women’s rights was the only thing that could keep her going. But how do you fight for others’ rights when you cannot even take hold of your own? Can you ever change a culture that views sexual harassment by a man as a woman’s crime?
Fouzia and a group of female colleagues, who similarly suffered in the workplace, gained the courage to risk their reputations. They filed a joint compliant and promptly found themselves under attack by their managers who aligned with the perpetrator in an effort to crush their case.
Working with Sharks follows eleven indestructible women and the case that sparked a national movement and culminated in the passage of legislation that made sexual harassment a crime in Pakistan in 2010. Inspirational and poignant, Working with Sharks encourages women in any part of the world to find their voice and stand up to sexual harassment.
Praise for Working with Sharks
“More subtle than a tale of feudal gang rape or honor killing, this victim’s account of sly sexual harassment in the Pakistani office of a U.N. agency makes your blood boil all the same. Told in unflinching detail, it exposes the casual impunity of abusive men… where even professional women can be treated as sexual prey, silenced by shame and thwarted by bureaucratic indifference. Brava to Fouzia Saeed for breaking the silence.”
—Pamela Constable, Washington Post Journalist and author of Playing With Fire – Pakistan at War With Itself
“As the former Minister for Women’s Development and a consistent advocate for women’s rights in Pakistan, I consider this book to be a compelling personal narrative. Fouzia’s life story, the challenges she encountered, and the tremendous achievements she helped to secure on behalf of women in Pakistan should serve as an inspiration to sustain our shared push for progress – not just to Pakistanis but to women around the world.” —The Honorable Sherry Rehman, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States
“In Working with Sharks, Fouzia Saeed tells a riveting story of her fight against the sexual harassment she endured at work in Pakistan. . . It is a lesson in how to effectively resist injustice. It is also an inspiring example of how an individual, using her political imagination and organizational talent, can turn a personal humiliation into a national movement for fundamental social change. Fouzia’s Saeed’s story will resonate with Americans who remember Rosa Parks and understand how a single woman, standing her ground, can change history.” —Carl Gershman, President of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy
“The author of Taboo on sex workers now challenges the taboo at her own work at the UN. Wherever there is male dominance, sexual harassment is likely to take place, and
the UN is no exception. Only through such individual and collective struggles, gender equality can be achieved.” —Chizuko Ueno, Professor of Sociology at the University of Tokyo, and a leading authority in women’s and gender issues in Japan.
“A riveting account of [Fouzia’s] courageous battle, along with several other women employees, against the United Nations system where the social and cultural morés are powerfully lined up against women who fight back. Her ambition to succeed in protecting human and women’s rights is demonstrated in her perseverance in pursuing a 10-year fight for national legislation against sexual harassment in Pakistan.” —William Milam, American diplomat, and a Senior Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC
“Fouzia has been a crusader for the rights of women for many decades now… Although a true account, this book reads like fiction. The case has been a precursor to a movement that led to the passage of the law against workplace sexual harassment in Pakistan and has positively influenced other South Asian countries.”
—Imtiaz Ali, Film director from India