Glemsford: Tributes paid to women’s rights champion

TRIBUTES have been paid to an international women’s rights campaigner who has lost her fight with cancer.

Cassandra Balchin died last month, several weeks after her 50th birthday. She was best known for her work in highlighting the oppression suffered by women in developing countries.

Daughter of novelist and screenwriter Nigel Balchin, Ms Balchin, spent part of her childhood in Glemsford and her mother Jane still lives in Lavenham. She was chair of the Muslim Women’s Network UK.

For many years she was a journalist based in Pakistan and part of the network Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML).

Her brother, Charles, said: “Cassandra fought hard for women’s rights in countries where women are considered second-class citizens. She was an intellectual who took on governments and wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

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Ms Balchin moved to Lahore in Pakistan with her husband in the early 1990s and although she loved the warmth and kindness of the people there, she realised there were things that needed changing.

Mr Balchin added: “She spent 15 years in Pakistan and on her return dedicated her time to travelling and speaking at women’s right conferences around the world. She was due to take up a post with the United Nations but her ill-health prevented it.

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“I’m absolutely proud of what Cassandra achieved. At her funeral a number of women came up to me and said they had been able to free themselves from abusive relationships because of her work. “

The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) said Ms Balchin’s death was “a great loss for feminist and women’s movements all over the world”. A spokesman added: “Cassandra’s immense contributions in building our knowledge and understanding of religious fundamentalisms and women’s rights has been a central contribution to our strategies and actions and those of many others around the world. “

A tribute posted by the Muslim Women’s Network, UK reads: “Cassandra was a great women’s rights activist and worked tirelessly on advancing the rights of Muslim women.

“No words can adequately express our sadness at Cass’s death or our gratitude for the honour and privilege to work with her.”

She is survived by sons Raul, 22, and Dani, 17.

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