Pakistani Showbiz Magazine

Women’s Day: Movers and shakers share their thoughts

28

International Women’s Day 2015 is upon us — and we asked influencers across film, TV, music and activism to tell us their thoughts. Here are some keen thoughts on the status and value of women in Pakistan:

Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

Which women do you look up to and why?

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (SOC): I am inspired by most of the women that I have made films on. Their stories of survival, persistence and courage instill a sense of hope within me. This is why it was very important for me to make a show like Aghaz-e-Safar for Pakistanis.Local news channels remind us 24/7 about how our system fails. But I want to remind people that there are times when our system works or when people, despite the system, work to make a difference. By showing positive stories from some of the darkest places in Pakistan, I want to inspire Pakistanis to own up to their issues and become change makers in their communities.

I was very inspired by the story of Zakia, a woman who was attacked by her husband when she asked him for a divorce. Zakia took the brave step of pressing charges against her husband and took the risk of moving out of his home with her daughter and son. Aided by her children, Zakia underwent treatment and fought her court case simultaneously. Her resolve when facing such unimaginable circumstances motivated me both as a filmmaker and as a mother. I feel lucky to have met Zakia, and am grateful that I had the opportunity to be with her as she moved through some of the most trying times of her life with poise and ease.

Humaira Bachal is another woman I look up to because she is unstoppable; she is clear about her goal and is focused in its pursuit. She fought for her right to an education, and is now fighting for the rights of others. Her story gives me hope for Pakistan, and her courage and resilience bolsters and reminds me of the fact that there is still an insurmountable of good in this country, and it must be protected and celebrated.

Then there was Naseem Munir, a lady health worker who ran polio drives in some of Pakistan’s most dangerous areas. Having spent time with Naseem, I can assure you that she was a very inspirational woman and despite receiving numerous death threats she was determined to make Pakistan a polio-free country. It is both tragic and ironic that in the end she was killed in a domestic violence incident.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

SOC: When I think of a Pakistani woman, I think of one of the most powerful demonstrations of courage and a force that is often underestimated. She is one who never loses faith – her real power lies within her strength and resilience during difficult times.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

SOC: I fear that a healthy and necessary conversation about gender will get swallowed by what is often posed as, ‘more important and more pressing’, matters. Conversations in Pakistan, whether they are occurring in the drawing room or in the parliament, are almost exclusively about the political turmoil in the country. We are a nation that is currently fighting a number of civil insurgencies, in addition to dealing with rising levels of bigotry and intolerance. In the past, nations that have gone through similar bouts of unrest such as Afghanistan and Iraq, have bartered the issue of women’s rights for what was posed as the greater political good. I fear that the same will happen in Pakistan.

I believe that campaigning for women and girls rights must be tackled through multiple avenues; grass roots movements must be sustained hand in hand with larger scale initiatives such as lobbying for legislation and changes in national policy.

Women’s issues are civil rights issues, and men and women stand to benefit from female empowerment equally. It is supremely important to have women in the highest levels of government, so that our voices and needs are addressed in legislation and policymaking. Women bring a set of diverse experiences and points of view to the table, and their input will significantly impact the way governments and nations address female empowerment.

Blogger and activist Sana Saleem

Sana Saleem.
Sana Saleem.

Which women do you look up to and why?

Sana Saleem (SS): I look up to Fatima Jinnah. She is more than what history books tell us. She stood by Jinnah which is what I admire most about her. I also think she is a symbolic figure. She did so much for women and was a leading female figure. Second, I look up to Mukhtar Mai. I admire her because it isn’t easy to stand up against societal norms and the culture of silence and shame that surrounds rape survivors.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

SS: They are outspoken fighters. They are very courageous. Most women are involved in political movements and many also are running them.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

SS: I think it’s the patriarchal mindset. Women go to universities and work but society sees it as a hobby and not their career. I believe that should change. Apart from that, we should raise our children in a different way and not like our parents did. if we want women to have equal rights we should teach our children, both girls and boys, that they have equal rights.

Actor Adnan Siddiqui:

Adnan Siddiqui.
Adnan Siddiqui.

Which women do you look up to and why?

Adnan Siddiqui (AS): I would say my mother — but rather all mothers in general because they work 24/7 without any break or salary. Homemakers do not complain even when they face hardships and keep doing their job unconditionally — that is just amazing.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

AS: Pakistani women are the most attractive and here attraction does not refer to looks rather it refers to their dignity, elegance and upholding values.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

AS: The basic problem lies in education — we need to start with the grassroots, especially remote areas — it’s not solely about women getting education rather it is men who should be taught to respect and honour women and realise the need to educate them. Men should be educated in a way that they are able to comprehend the importance of women. As far as urban centres are concerned, working women are simply amazing because they not only work, they also educate the children. Those who stand against it, it’s only their jahilpan, nothing else. Women and men need to work s shoulder to build economy as well as this country. We just saw our first female fighter pilot and she participated in the recent operation as well so yes women can definitely bring a change in society.

Activist Jibran Nasir:

Which women do you look up to and why?

Jibran Nasir. (JN): That’s such a tough question — there are so many admirable women! Currently, I would have to say it’s Malala Yousufzai. I may have death threats looming over me but she’s literally taken a bullet to her head for a cause! She owns her Pakistani Pashtun identity and fights for equality in the most courageous manner. Also, I respect every single rape victim in this country. In a nation where the system doesn’t help you when your rights are violated, to continue on in the face of all that backlash, they’re heroes.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

JN: Resolve, perseverance and courage.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

JN: Lack of respect for women. We keep them behind veils physically but deep down, we don’t respect them. We believe that a woman’s respect is the honour of her husband or her father. Why? Her respect is her honour, she has her own identity, she’s independent. Plus, in our society, we have this sick thinking that if a woman is successful, she’s used something other than her brain to get that success. We belittle them and undermine them, which is pathetic. We also have zero respect for sex workers. Sex workers don’t seem to have the sympathy of any segment of society, whether conservative or liberal.

Veteran actor Javed Shiekh:

Javed Skiekh.
Javed Skiekh.

Which women do you look up to and why?

Javed Sheikh (JS): I look up to women like Angelina Jolie as she is not only beautiful, tall and a pretty face, but her work for humanity is what inspires me. She has adopted kids and given them home and shelter. Women should be more like her.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

JS: They are bright intelligent women and also pretty. I think they can do a lot if they are given the chance to.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

JS: We should let them exercise their rights. We should give more opportunities to women as they are very intelligent and bright.

Musician Zoe Viccaji:

Zoe Viccaji.
Zoe Viccaji.

Which women do you look up to and why?

Zoe Viccaji (ZV): My grandmother was the first person I remember feeling inspired by. She went through some very hard times both growing up and in her adult life while coming out strong, independent and bubbly at the end of it all.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

ZV: I think of all the women around me who have fought for themselves and worked hard to find their place in our world. But I also think of all the victim to tradition and social pressures and the helplessness that they feel in all of it. But I also think of all the women who are victim to tradition and the helplessness they feel in all of it.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

ZV: Accepting unfair treatment and being too submissive. There should be a balance when it comes to compromise but i think we need to be more clear in our heads about what feels right and what feels wrong- and stand up for it. Easier said than done, and a tiny bit vague perhaps but this is what comes to mind.

Actor Faisal Qureshi:

Which women do you look up to and why?

Faisal Qureshi (FQ): There are a lot of women that I look up to, but one who I would specially like to mention is of course my dear mother Afshan Quraishi. She is the perfect representation of what an ideal woman should be like. The way she has balanced her professional and personal lives without compromising on either is truly commendable.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

FQ: I think of a woman who is strong and determined with strong family values. Our women are natural multitaskers and capable of achieving anything with their will power.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

FQ: The attitude by a few in our society towards women that needs to be changed is that they are less capable than men. They have every right to do as they please, as men do. They should not be objectified.

Author Rafia Zakaria

Rafia Zakaria
Rafia Zakaria

Which women do you look up to and why?

Rafia Zakaria (RZ): My heroines are authors Ismat Chughtai and Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain, they had the courage to tell the truth in tumultuous times. Ismat Chughtai exposed the inner lives of women, Rokeya had the guts to imagine a world without men, while living in one dominated by them.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

RZ: The mothers of the murdered schoolchildren of Peshawar; the agony of sending a child to school that never returns; of having to retrieve a child’s body, there can be no greater tragedy, no image that is more indelible.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

RZ: The most harmful attitude among women is that they are socialized to hate each other, judge each other and treat each other as enemies, this means that they become agents of their own subjugation. If this changed, women would be able to unite and fight with greater strength.

Actor Adnan Malik

Adnan Malik
Adnan Malik

Which women do you look up to and why?

Adnan Malik (AM): I look up to all women because mothering is not an easy job. We are all products of our mothers and become who we are because of them. I think motherhood is highly under valued.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

AM: Strong, resilient, nurturing, patient,slightly confused and often controlling.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

AM: In our misogynist societies women are looked as objects of sexual desire before anything else. I think the power imbalance stems from there. Rather than valuing the strength and patience of women, men generally subverts this to maintain some kind of upper hand.

Model and actress Ayesha Omar

Ayesha Omar
Ayesha Omar

Which women do you look up to and why?

Ayesha Omar (AO): I look up to a lot of women. Most importantly, I look up to my mother. She is a single parent. She raised me and my brother all by herself and she had to give up everything to do that. Then I look up to Hina Dilpazeer. She is an amazing person and actor. I also look up to Atika Odho. She encourages and supports all the actresses. Also Bushra Ansari, Samina Pirzada, Sania Saeed and Manya Wasti. They are all great actresses and bring reality into their work.

When you think ‘Pakistani woman’ what’s the image that comes to mind?

AO: They are all fighters, putting up against all odds. They are progressing especially because they are living in a male dominant society. They are constantly judged and has to face chauvinism and discrimination everywhere.

What attitudes today are the most harmful for women’s well being and success?

AO: The attitude that women don’t need education because she eventually has to raise kids. That should stop as she should be educated to raise her kids better. It is her responsibility that she educates herself for her children’s upbringing. Then the attitude that women need less healthcare and no time off from work. Also, how they should not work at all and stay home. I think the political and religious leaders both should spread awareness in order to change these attitudes.

Leave A Reply