The personal is political. The argument can be traced back to the second wave of feminism from the late 1960s. The crux of the argument is that there is a deep connection between personal experiences and larger social and political structures. To put it in simple words, an effort was made during second wave of feminism to impress upon women that discourse of women empowerment in the political realm can be inspired through participation on the part of the women through sharing their personal stories of how they are being short-changed in a patriarchal milieu with respect to their basic rights. The message was clear to all women. If they want to make themselves counted in a political system tainted with ruthless patriarchy, they should break the ice.

The latest debate in media about women empowerment, especially with respect to their safety against harassment in work places, getting inspiration from former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNA Ayesha Gualalai’s out of the blue resignation from the party because of receiving immoral texts from the party chief and other party members, is very much inspired from the-personal-is-political, a postulate of second wave of feminism. For feminism to thrive in Pakistan, we believe that there is a dire need that more and more personal stories of women marginalization make their way into the mainstream so that a nuanced discourse can be developed about grievances of women and a way can be found out how to break the glass ceiling.

Though Pakistan, at the moment, through Gulalai’s allegations, has been on the verge taking significant stride vis-à-vis paying heed to one of the basic problems women face day in day out while being in public that is harassment, and advocates of women empowerment across the board through support of media have been pressing the issue hard before the government for resolution, yet there is a catch to it.

Keeping in view the context in which this issue surfaced especially in the backdrop of former prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification in the wake of Panama leaks, the credibility of protagonist, Ayesha Gulalai, in the face of her back and forth stances in the media post-harassment allegations against the party chief, and, last but not the least, electronic media certain channels’ exaggeration with respect to the issue merely on the basis of allegations since the issue is yet to be decided by a parliamentary committee, is it safe bet for those believing in women empowerment in Pakistan to rely on Ayesha Gulalai’s allegations for stewarding feminist movement in Pakistan? How will this case, because of its dubious nature due to aforementioned reasons, impact overall trajectory of feminist movement in Pakistan?This should be a point of due consideration for all those stewarding the cause of women empowerment in Pakistan.

Ayesha Gulalai’s case is a political move and what makes this assertion more credible and less controversial is reflective from the over-reactive approach on the part of some media channels to highlight the issue under the cover of highly intellectual feminist discourse; though the former’s allegations have not been substantiated through evidences. Moreover, the role of media, at present, in highlighting the issue, becomes dubious in the face of so many other women who, though, face harassment in more heinous forms than Gulalai’s case yet they hardly get spotlight. In some media channels’ approach to highlight the issue of harassment in selective way, which vindicated that they were playing to the gallery for a political end, and sweeping under the carpet the lingering case of Ayesha Ahad , MNA Hamza Shahbaz Sharif's ex-wife, it dawns on any sane mind who has been studying objectively an out of the blue of unfolding of harassment discourse in the wake of Gulalai’s allegations that feminist discourse, at the moment provoked, has been hijacked by petty politics. Politicisation is what feminist discourse needs, but feminists need to be aware that their discourse is not used as a mean by some opportunists for their vested interests which, we are afraid, is at play at the moment.

Pakistan has a patriarchal milieu which hardly considers a woman as a subject. It goes without saying that women in Pakistan have been paying a very heavy price for that. If they dare to challenge these male chauvinistic norms, they are demonised. Pakistan has a long way to go for this tide of patriarchy to turn around in favor a system that is accommodative to all sexes. In this regard, feminists across Pakistan are worth appreciation who, though, are small in number, yet they take a stand for short-changed transactions with women and weave a narrative so that more and more people can subscribe to the cause they stand for.  This is actually an essence of the-personal-is-political. Pakistan needs vibrant feminists’ lot to inspire feminist discourse with more and more personal stories of women marginalisation.

But there is a word of caution for those sitting in the feminist camp or who believe in women empowerment. Though the journey along this road of advocating for women empowerment in Pakistan has been quite tedious and the discourse so far developed for women empowerment has been crafted through tiny steps on the part of so many advocates for this cause and many sacrifices, yet there is dire need that we inspire this discourse through more and more personal of women’s grievances. In doing so, advocates of women empowerment in Pakistan should make sure that they build a narrative in the spotlight through support of genuine stories of marginalization and in a holistic manner. They should be very much aware of who is in their ranks who has been using their discourse for petty political interests. They should know shenanigans on the part of media aimed at particular political interest. Why do we believe that this stocktaking is important is because any wrong choice for projecting feminist discourse in conservative milieu like ours can prove lethal and can push this discourse backward by reinforcing patriarchy as already so many in our society are skeptical with respect to women empowerment.