Nighat Dad named TIME's next generation leader

Published May 29, 2015
Malala Yousafzai also attended some of Dad’s workshops prior to being shot by the Taliban in 2012. - Photo courtesy Twitter
Malala Yousafzai also attended some of Dad’s workshops prior to being shot by the Taliban in 2012. - Photo courtesy Twitter

Pakistan's digital-rights advocate Nighat Dad has been named in the TIME’s list of next generation leaders, TIME magazine reported on Friday.

The list comprises six young innovators who are leading by example and inspiring others to have the courage to follow their convictions.

Nighat, a 34-year-old lawyer who used to practice criminal and family law, set up the Digital Rights Foundation in 2012, teaching thousands of Pakistanis to protect themselves from online harassment.

The not-for-profit organisation educates citizens, particularly young women, on how to respond to online harassment, and also campaigns against legislation that gives the government broad powers of Internet surveillance.

Nighat's foundation has also raised a voice against dissemination of personal information— collected by telecom firms regarding customers’ lives and habits— to foreign and domestic state agencies and businesses.

“We tell Internet users how to adjust their privacy settings, to make sure they have secure connections, change their passwords regularly and not to share unnecessary information,” says Nighat. “And women should come seek help if they are targeted and not feel ashamed.”

The problem of online harassment is global, and across the world young women are most at risk. A 2014 Pew survey found that 65% of Internet users aged 18 to 29 had been the target of online harassment, with young women suffering disproportionately high levels of online violence.

Twenty-six per cent of women aged 18 to 24 have reportedly been stalked online and 25% had suffered online sexual harassment. Federal Investigation Agency says it investigates hundreds of cases of online sexual harassment each year, with many more likely going unreported.

“Every new law has one or two provisions that are really about regulating Internet space in Pakistan,” says Nighat. “I explain laws in layman’s language to inform people what the government is trying to do.”

It is ambition she has shared with many others, including Nobel Peace Prize-winning women’s education activist Malala Yousafzai, 17, who attended some of Dad’s workshops prior to being shot by the Taliban in 2012.

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