OF ROLE MODELS!
It was an ordinary Saturday morning in a girls government school in Lahore.
I was one of the volunteers from my University to teach English to these 8th grade students.
The scene remains clearly etched in my memory.
I had asked each one of them to stand up and introduce themselves.
Student: “I want to be a teacher but my father won’t allow me to go to college”
Student : “He wants me to get married next year to my uncle’s son.”
I stare at this 13 year old kid lost for words who will be married at the grand old age of 14!
And I am supposed to teach her English?
This incident propelled my latent feminism to be transformed into raging activism in a mostly patriarchal, fundamentalist society.
Pakistan is a diverse and complex world comprising various sub cultures. Yet despite the differences one reality is shared - women are oppressed and exploited under the guise of religion ,tradition and mostly ignorance .
The revitalization of the broadcast media and the rapid advent of the digital age have been pivotal in promoting dialogue about women’s rights locally but we have a long way to go before there is real change.
Social media has been instrumental globally in lending a voice to all marginalized groups without censure or discrimination. The disadvantage is that singular fragmented voices can continue to be easily ignored and marginalized in this democratic cacophony.
Hence, the need for focused platforms where individual voices turn into a collective global movement.
Web 2.0 is one such forum, where women are free to raise their voice and be assured that they will be heard by like- minded, informed individuals to form a collective movement. Dialogue leads to acceptance which is the first step towards change. This sense of camaraderie and direction gives me hope and fuels my passion.
A global sense of unity and support is hugely empowering and affirming. For the first time, I don’t feel that I have to abridge my thoughts or be silent for fear of being judged. I feel I can talk about sexual abuse, physical insecurity and social isolation without feeling segregated by my feminine gaze.
On this platform, we are able to share deeply personal stories, concerns, and ideas with the assurance that they are being heard, understood and supported. This gives us courage and strength.
We learn the plights faced by women in different countries while celebrating women who have persevered and emerged victorious.
We exchange notes on the latest books or explore different forms of feminism.
We create films with collaborators or sometimes just dreams.
We discuss problems and explore solutions.
We share, learn and grow- TOGETHER.
Today I asked some of my female students about their thoughts on furthering the women's rights movement globally.
One young girl said to me “I think we need more role models”
I am sure she will find many here!