Since the recorded history of human endeavours, women are often told that they are talkative and hold opinions about everything ordinary. Despite of this widely held belief, it is the men who are hogging the limelight on all platforms of human history. Like many patriarchal and misogynists cultures, women public voices are neither encouraged nor accepted in the Pakhtun culture. However, recently women from the conflict-ridden areas of North West are speaking out, thus acknowledging a fact that their silence is death for them. Today we can see that enlightened Pakhtun women are now discarding their traditional role of being mute and meek.

Years of conflict in the North west have transformed both men and women lives in one way and another, the old structures and roles have changed forever. In camps for displaced people, a sizeable majority of women have come to realise the potential of their own strength. They have endured militants’ atrocities, survived military operations, dealing with relocation and are heading families without any male member in such camps. War has many manifestations, and the most important is that such extraordinary circumstances have created awareness amongst the affected people and led them to believe that their cultural, economic and political roles need to be changed. We have observed that amongst many voicing the need for change are the women academicians, women networks, writers, social media activists and some gender sensitive journalists from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. Ironically, Pakhtun voices of some very able women in the public spaces are paying price for transformation process in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Some are hounded on academic or any other related discussions and deeming them incompetent, others are maligned by scandalising and several are threatened while using cultural discourses. Moreover, the main objective is to silence women in spaces where they feel threatened. Misogyny can be a simple explanation for it.

We have thousand years of history and practice of silencing women voices. The mechanism of women suppression is embedded in our culture. In the online spaces, any wet behind the ear’s boy would tell mature, intelligent and determined woman to shut up and sit back home where you all belong. A very competent woman journalist verified twitter account was suspended when a group of men reported her on difference of opinion. In Pakhtun society, a woman with a public voice is something unacceptable to men who hold an opinion that “women should observe Purdah from even from a flying helicopter over their homes”. Such men are only accustomed to women with imprisoned tongues. We understand that in Pakhtun region, it will take time to accept the transformed and new role of women. The same is the current situation with our state, most of the negotiations at official capacity regarding Fata reforms and settlement; we come across men voices only. Women are excluded and silenced as it is thought to be a male’s domain and women have neither expertise nor interest. Consequently, women have no direct influence in identifying the priorities for reconstruction, which are a significant part of the FATA’s reforms and mainstreaming.

In case of FATA, the women issues are of very serious nature. They are victims of centuries old patriarchal customary muteness, combined with century old special status of area that put them in abject poverty too. In tribal areas, women are deliberately dehumanised and silenced. Even in the reform processes, some men in case of women still favour the oppressive patriarchal culture and implementation of customary practices. Such huge gender disparity and cultural repression have created an island of unheard, the erased, and the invisible entities. Hence, it is also very difficult for such Pakhtun men to believe that women from tribal areas exist and holds opinion about the ongoing changes in the region. Such vocal, intelligent and brave women are facing all such challenges with the hope that the post-war and reforms will encourage the state to create a space for them. One of such network that I am currently associated with is Khor (means sister), breaking the stereotype of being the muted women. They are giving voice to the voiceless, sharing stories from tribal areas. They are trying to defend women, children and their homes against all the odds. Above all, they have to face the wrath of such Pakhtun men and a reflection of their general disempowerment. History is witness to the fact that nations transformed into mobs when women are ignored in the reconstruction and rebuilding processes.

Public speaking or opinion on politics, economics is associated with masculinity and defining attributes of maleness. In ancient Rome, a woman with views on politics was not a woman by any definition. Similarly, a political parties like JUI and PKMAP are from ancient times, hence for them Pakhtun woman opinion by many counts is deemed useless and in the religious discourse un-Islamic. According to their political followers (mostly non-tribal men), woman opinion on politics and FATA cannot be good for the political stability and health of the region. I observed several times that such men label educated and competent women as illiterate.Such attitudes, assumptions and prejudices are not only hardwired into us but into our culture, our language and our history too. The nastier side of the internet have further rebranded such attitudes.

The beautiful side of such ugliness is that some of our Pakhtun women have decided to break the history of silence. They are supporting their own sectional interest, highlighting miseries and demanding due share, knowing that they are trampling on traditional men’s territory. They know that they will pay the price for it and accept such challenges. They understand that women with public voices are an uncomfortable zone for our men and some women too.

War has many manifestations, and the most important is that such extraordinary circumstances have created awareness amongst the affected people and led them to believe that their cultural, economic and political roles need to be changed.