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'Between Speech and Breath' - by Shaheen Sultan Dhanji

My oil and charcoal painting 'Between Speech and Breath' is about boundaries faced by young girls and women living in patriarchal and parochial society filled with dark shadows of blood and death, struggle and resistance - echoing the pains and conflicts associated with loss of self-identity as a woman. She, who is, a child at age eleven is given away to a man thrice her age (known in South Asia and Central Asia as jirga /karo kari system - child bride) in marriage, it is when two parties are in conflict and a girl is given away to settle a score amongst the two men in dispute. An eleven year old is sacrificed to a forty-four year old man -- where is justice for her? Are we just spectators to know of her story and then shut our blinds in our luxurious homes and forget that a young girl is raped each night - it is not a marriage, but, her body sacrificed thousand times more as a child-bride! Yesterday she was an innocent girl who may not have even experienced menstrual cycle as yet; the next day she is wiping blood from the bed sheets, alone. Did she wash her rapist' sins, or, does she feel it is her 'duty' as his wife to keep washing the blood stains?!

How many young girls and women - massacres to survive? Who could speak across such spaces - between speech and breath?
- Shaheen Sultan Dhanji

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Sharontina's picture


A painful yet grave truth.

No words dear...........

Merlin Sharontina

SSD's picture


Oops re-send by mistake :p.

SSD's picture

Thank you !

True, my friend !

No words....angst is too much for any language to suffice the mute tongues of injustice.

Thanks for visiting.

Nusrat Ara's picture

What I have come to believe

What I have come to believe there is too much to be done and the first step is speaking out.



nusrat1977's picture


Shaheen Dear, your painting 'Between speech and breath' echoes not only the pains of those young girls but to me, it also unveils pains of all those women who are living through various forms of massacres under the veil of 'duty of woman'...
Keep expressing so beautifully!
Love and regards

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. ..........Hellen Keller

SSD's picture

am humbled

Dear Nusrat,

I don;t know how I missed not replying earlier -- howsoever, am rather humbled that you found my painting to speak directly to your heart.

And, thanks for sharing Hellen Keller's quote !
Hope you are doing well, dear dost.

LauraB's picture


Dear Shaheen,

I applaud your work and your post. The image draws you in with your eyes spinning, figuring - what is this? Are these two separate people? Are they one from different vantage points? Why the wire hand clawing through the throat? It's arresting, captivating, disturbing, yet beautiful in its harshness.

As I was looking at your image, my husband walked into the room and commented, "What is that? I really like that!" Then ensued a conversation about your post and the piece. These posts can bring husband and wife in Portland, Oregon to speak about a piece of art about a girl being married to a man who really should never be her husband.

World Pulse propels us toward dialogue, investigation, and thoughtfulness.

You are very talented and I am so glad to have viewed your artwork.



SSD's picture

Thank you!

Dear Laura,

My goodness! I have no idea how I missed your comment and saw it right now, thus, my sincere apology for responding very, very late. Nevertheless, I am truly humbled that both you and your spouse reflected upon my painting -- 'tis through such minds like yours which ignites creative, intellectual and political dialogue - where we can expand, grow and evolve as humans.

Thank you very much, my friend, for visiting and leaving your imprints for me to further ponder....!

CoachMarcie's picture


I'm not sure there is too much I can say other than what a truth teller you are. A sad reality beautifully written. Can't want to hear more.

Coach Marcie


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