Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pakistani Women Icons - A tribute to Malala Yousazai and Asma Jehangir

By Shad Begum[1]

The women empowerment movement in Pakistan must be proud as some of the world’s most prestigious awards: Oscar, Ammy, Nobel, Right Livelihood Award, Democracy Award and including my own international women of courage award are grabbed by Pakistani women recently. Amidst the troublesome noise of terrorist incidents, Pakistan has genuine reasons to keep its head high in the comity of nations for the spectacular achievements of her women.

Asma Jehangir has been jointly selected with other four human rights defenders for the Swedish 2014 Right Livelihood Award, also known as ‘alternate Nobel Prize’.  Asma is a beacon of light for human rights activists and defenders through Pakistan and beyond. She has been honored for “defending, protecting, and promoting human rights in Pakistan and more widely, often in a very difficult and complex situations and at great personal risk.” The Stockhom-based Livelihood Award Foundation annually awards human rights defenders from around the world “to honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers the most urgent challenges facing us today.” The Award will be formally handed over to the recipients in the Swedish parliament on December 1, 2014. Congratulations Asma Jehangir ! You really deserved this award, even more honours, for the outstanding contributions to the human rights movement in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai has captured the imagination of a large population of the planet by her innocent down-to-earth statements and single-minded struggle to promote the rights of children to education even at a very personal cost. Religious extremists, in their naivety, thought they can silence a voice and strike terror in the hearts of others through a bullet but it shook the conscience of the world when Malala was shot by a few misguided youth in Swat. The people of Swat, indeed of entire Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan, are jubilant to see their dearest Malala getting on the international scene once again for a coveted prize. She becomes the second Pakistani after Dr. Abdus Salam to bring laurels to Pakistan – that too becoming the first-ever teenager to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala has become a symbol of children’s rights, especially of their right to education, around the world. She represents the most marginalized, unheard, and under-developed children of the third world countries. She is a ray of hope for an entire generation of young people in Pakistan and beyond.

The joint Nobel Peace Award by an Indian and Pakistani is an added significance for the people of the nuclear-armed Pakistan and India, and especially the two governments to pay special attention to peace efforts in the face of un-resolved conflicts.  We hope that Nobel Peace Award for Malala and Kailash will strengthen the voices for peace in the South Asian region, which is faced by daunting challenges in terms of extreme poverty, under-nourishment, and over-population that threaten the stability of the region and the entire world.

It is rather unfortunate that Malala, a proud Pakistani girl, that brought many honours to Pakistan is made target by certain narrow-minded bigots in Pakistan as if every Pakistani citizen has to get an a certificate of patriotism and loyalty from a certain group of people who see conspiracy behind the promotion of Malala and her recognition at the international scene. We believe that despite these odd voices, the majority of Pakistanis feel proud of her daughter Malala and stand behind her to counter every effort that undermines the struggle of Malala Yousafzai. Long live Malala. Our heads stand high because of your struggle. Keep it up our heroine.


[1] Shad Begum is a human rights activist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and a recipient of international women of courage awards.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Male Chauvinism

By Shad Begum[1]

You are apologetic, defenceless and a weak creature. You are not supposed to condemn, criticize or argue. Obedience is the hallmark of your ideal character. You have no separate identity. You are known to others by the identity of your men – your father, brothers, or husband. You want to please all of them and struggle to meet their expectations.

Whether in the name of a self-defined religion or culture, you are supposed to liquidate your rights. Islam enjoins equal opportunities for men and women but we practice it partially in favour of men. Whether education, property or employment rights, your preferences are defined by others.

If you are assertive, argumentative and outspoken, then you are a threat to the male-defined cultural norms. Your mobility is an issue. You cannot visit a doctor or a market place for genuine needs without your men, even if you have no men left in your household, and even when you are the sole bread-earner for your children. You are a threat to the male-defined values of honour.

You are not allowed to work outside home. Occasionally, you may work but the choice of your career is pre-defined. You are harassed, stigmatized and discouraged in work places. You have nothing to do with public life. Men can decide for you better. You must trust even if it seems unjust.

You deserve sympathy when you feel hurt by others. You don’t need understanding by others.

You can’t enforce your constitutional and legal rights. You can’t visit a court to seek justice because justice is a male-business.

Your heart is filled with pain and anguish but you can’t speak. You are not supposed to complain.

You are precious because you can produce children. The level of your respect is determined by the sex of the children that you produce.

The dignity of your person is subordinate to that of your men.

You are a woman born and raised in a society of macho men – a society that romanticize physical aggression and male-dominancy. You are left alone to take your sufferings to the Creator of the Universe. Your prayers will be answered – for sure.




[1] Shad Begum is a human rights activist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and a recipient of international women of courage awards.