“As a woman, you don’t even realize that you have rights and that your rights are protected by the constitution.” – Nighat Dad (Lawyer, Activist and Founder of Digital Rights Foundation)
Happy Women’s Day!
It goes without saying, this feature might just be a tad bit special. A part of our Women’s day dedicated article, shining a spotlight on women in different industries. This one goes back in time to focus on female activism. The activists/Influencers without whom, our mothers, our daughters and we would not be living life the way we do now if there hadn’t been all these waves of feminism and women activism throughout these past 100 odd years.
These women have led us here by lending to causes ranging from seeking legal rights, political, economic, personal freedom and equal opportunity.
We weren’t just able to trail blaze instantly but have had to steady the trail before setting out to blaze it and side by side, uplifting women who need their support on their way. As Gloria Steinam (American feminist, political activist and journalist) said, “the story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
While there are several notable women who have continued to work selflessly for the rights of women in Pakistan, today we talk about our top 3. Call them activists, influencers or women who speak their heart out, but one thing’s for certain, they certainly rule ours, what about yours?
The nation knows her as the “The Iron Lady” but we doubt most know the real reason. She smilingly revealed in an interview how, “doctors have put a lot of titanium in my arm and in my back to fix it” and that’s how the name came about.
Muniba Mazari is Pakistan’s first UN National Ambassador who became wheelchair bound at the very young age of 21, following an unfortunate accident resulting in a spinal cord injury. After her ordeal of over 2 months in a hospital and then 2 years of being bed-ridden, when she eventually sat in a wheelchair she decided to rise in life rather than cry. Also an artist, what kept her going through this trial was her love for painting.
Her Ted Talk at the Tedx event in 2014 thrust her into the public eye. In June, 2019 Muniba was appointed by the then Prime Minister, Imran Khan to become part of Pakistan’s first ever National Youth Council. She was even added to the Forbes 2016 list of “30 under 30”
“Being a woman has its challenges. Being in a wheelchair is the cherry on top,”– Muniba Mazari
She aims to make the infrastructure more accessible for people and specially women with disabilities. While globally, countries have now developed their communities to be highly accessible, Pakistan lags majorly. She further makes it a point to remind us to see it as not asking for a favor but as our right.
Lawyer, Activist and Founder of Digital Rights Foundation, she is the first to start the Cyber Harassment Helpline, our country’s only, toll-free helpline for victims of online harassment and violence.
She helps educate women and provides instruments to defend their space online. While emerging from a conservative, small town in Punjab she had the support of her feminist and rebellious father who she says she is inspired by. However, what propelled her into working for this cause was her own experience in the court room. She fought for the custody of her 6 month old son and rose from the ashes like a phoenix.
“As a woman, you don’t even realize that you have rights and that your rights are protected by the constitution.” – Nighat Dad
During the days of Orkut, women would share instances of being stalked and on the receiving end of unwanted messages which led Nighat to work for women in online spaces. She went on to study Internet governance to establish DRF, addressing issues of digital rights and online violence against women. In 2016, Nighat Dad won the Human Rights Tulip award, awarded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The prize money from which helped her set up the Cyber Harassment Helpline.
Hadiqa Kiani, who has paved the way for female singers in the country, is the Pride of Pakistan. Not afraid to shy away from a challenge, she stepped forward, contributing to causes that needed her support. Singer turned activist, she started “Vaseela e Rah” in August last year to provide aid and rehabilitation for the flood victims in Pakistan. She used her media influence, network and even her personal funds for the local and international collection process.
When talking about her journey into activism and philanthropy she said, “I think this is God’s calling”. From proving her mettle in the music industry with back to back hits, to performing internationally and acting in hit dramas, she has forged the path for girls of the future.
Hadiqa has very meticulously selected roles conveying strong and varied messages for women like she did in Dobara about a middle aged woman, wanting to marry after becoming a widow – she put a dent in normalizing that conversation. In Raqeeb Se as Sakina, she is shown discovering her self-worth and on her way to self-empowerment. With her philanthropy project Vaseela e Rah, she focused on creating maternity centers for affected women and providing birth and after-care for women in need.
We have seen progress, changes, newer movements in terms of empowering women, opening avenues for them and setting them up for success however there’s still a long way to go. We hope more of us can follow in the steps of these great women who possess inexplicable strength.
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