Sameena Nazir is the founding president of Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA), a women’s rights NGO working for the promotion and protection of human rights in rural areas of Pakistan since 2007. As an international development professional, she brings over 25 years of experience in designing and implementing rights-based programs on women’s empowerment, sustainable development, leadership skills and community resilience. She specializes in linking public policy with grassroots issues to design strategy solutions.
Sameena’s work contributes to the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Her current projects include advocacy for the “Right to Legal Identity” for rural women and minorities in Pakistan (SDG 16) and the “Right to Freedom of Movement” for Afghan refugees transiting through Pakistan after August 2021. Her in-depth understanding of gender issues and sustainable development processes has roots in her own life as a community activist that motivated her to start a community school and an organic agriculture farm in her native village in Chakwal, Pakistan as a teaching model for food security, community seed bank for rural women and small farmers.
Sameena is a recipient of the Benazir Bhutto Human Rights Defenders Award (2010) and InterAction Humanitarian Award (2009). She serves as Syndicate Member of University of Chakwal in Pakistan and as Pakistan Section president for Geneva based Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF). Since 1998, Sameena has led on-the-ground humanitarian and legal literacy projects for women and children in Afghanistan, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Pakistan and Yemen. She has directed a regional comparative study on women’s economic, social and political rights in 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa published in 2005 and available here. Sameena has worked at several international organizations including Networks of Change, USA (2016-2018), National Endowment for Democracy (2017), Freedom House (2003-2006) and International Human Rights Law Group in Washington DC (1998-2003). She started her career as a journalist in 1990 with Islamabad based daily The Muslim. Her landmark reporting on a custodial rape case (Bani police station 1992) led to the first ever rape conviction of a police officer in Rawalpindi.
Sameena is a master trainer on Gender and Social Cohesion. She has moderated meetings at all levels and made presentations at national and international forums including at the United Nations in New York, Geneva and at the World Economic Forum and universities across the globe. She completed a Master’s in International Agriculture & Rural Development from Cornell University. She also has an English and Law degree from the Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan.