KARACHI - Support from family and society can encourage women to excel in their lives and be successful, said inspirational ladies who have managed to be successful in their lives at a session of WOW Bites, organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) on the occasion of Women of the World (WOW) Festival at the Alliance Francaise, Karachi on Sunday.
Nida Mushtaq, an artist working with Fearless Collective Pakistan; Radha Bheel, human rights defender and Dalit and women rights activist; Ayesha Khan, Walled City Lahore; Mukhtaraan Mai, women rights activist; Nisha Rao, Gender Integration Alliance (GIA) were the main speakers.
Mukhtaraan Mai, the woman who faced gang rape in Muzaffargarh 15 years back said she belonged to a village where there was no concept of education. She said she faced a lot of violence in her life, but continued her struggle. “My first mission now is education,” she said adding that she is running three schools and 1100 students are studying, nine batches of students have passed matriculation exams.
Mai said she has opened up a shelter home, a mobile unit, a helpline for the victim women. “I faced a lot of opposition for welfare of women. A former President was against me and put me behind the bar for some time.” She said adding that she continued her struggle without fear.
First student transgender lawyer Nisha Rao said she faced a lot of discrimination in the society. “Even though my family is educated and it supported me, but they were putting a lot restrictions, so I preferred to live with my transgender community.” She said leaving the home was also because her family had started ignoring her.
Transgender community is facing livelihood challenges because majority are uneducated. She hoped that the law would be passed for provision of jobs to transgender communities in the government departments.
She asked the people to encourage transgender youth to get education so they live an honorable life. There should be shelter homes for transgender people, she recommended. Police do not receive our applications, so there should be special desk for transgenders to file their own complaints.
Nida Mushtaq from Fearless Collective Pakistan said she belongs from Mardan, KP. She said she was working for child rights with the United Nations in Colombo, but she was not satisfied of her job. She got inspiration from a work of an artist in India Shilo Shiv Suleman and contacted her to join. “We started working together and Shilo came to Pakistan and we jointly started painting. We made first mural in Lahore.”
“Our first public work was street paintings in which we asked people to paint with us,” she said we started painting fearless.
We also came to Lyari and ended up with a street show in Karachi. We worked with transgender community and were looking for spaces for fearless women.
Now our Collective is a group of seven women from different parts of the world, who have made 18 murals on different topics including refugees of Africa. When there is a violence you can replace it with beauty and love, she remarked.
Chairperson of Dalit Sujag Tahrik Ms. Radha Bheel said she belonged to Thar area where majority of population is scheduled caste. In Thar children die on daily basis and many women die without receiving medical support on their way to hospital. “I belong to the area where schools are there but most of them are closed.”
Bheel said that she had recently applied for opening up a school in her village, but the influential Wadera did not allow opening up of a school. The Sindh Education Foundation rejected my application for opening up school, despite the fact my organization is already running three schools.
She said she had been worked as a Hari, where Zamindars are still exploiting her family. She said Dalit Sujag Tahrik has been launched at national level to reclaim the rights of scheduled caste communities.
Dalit community is facing discrimination in the society. “We are not allowed to use common utensils in restaurants in rural areas.” People don’t give seat in bus due to our Ghaghra dress which identifies us as Dalit.
Ayesha Khan said she worked for Walled City Project Lahore. “I have worked for preservation of both tangible and intangible heritage.”
She said her family belongs to a Pathan Yousufzai clan, which belonged to Afghanistan but moved to Allahabad. Later, they migrated to Pakistan. She said her father was very supportive.
She said Walled City project has completed many products including Rangeela Rickshaw rides, repainting of Wazir Khan Mosque, restoration of Faqeer Khana Museum and others. Over 3 million visitors have visited during the last three years. She asked the people to visit the area whenever they go to Lahore.