I am a fighter

Laiba Zainab
Posted November 12, 2019 from Pakistan
A fighter who started loving herself recently
#IStandWithHer

I am a woman who lives in Pakistan. I turned 23 this year, and the past few years have been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. I have seen good, bad and worse times in my life, and no one in this universe can invalidate my experience as a woman living in a society deeply rooted in patriarchy. Today, people see me as a strong, bold and blunt journalist but this wasn’t always the case. This path was never easy. It still is difficult because people living in our subcontinent still don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a woman who can give a voice to not only her sufferings, but to the suffering of others as well.

I was in 8th grade when I wanted to be an RJ (radio jockey). I still remember how I used to practice my opening lines in school before my first class started. Back then, I chose sciences and did my intermediate in pre-medical. I guess I never wanted to be a doctor because that was never my dream job. I wasted one year of my life because I was supposed to re-appear in medical college entrance test exam as my family wanted me to be a doctor. After failing in the entrance exam twice, I somehow convinced them to try my luck in a field I was interested in. I took admission in BS Communication Studies in Bahauddin Zakriya University Multan, one of the largest public sector universities in South Punjab. This was a turning point in my life.

It was not easy for my family to accept it because most of them were doctors, and as the notion goes, “Doctor k bachon ko Doctor bn’na chahiye,” kids of doctors should become doctors. My mother and my sister stood by me and gave me the strength to pursue my dreams. I joined “Makhotay”, a performing arts organisation, and started performing theatre on social issues. Women performing theatre in our part of the world are not considered “respectful” because according to the societal norms, “Women belonging to good families don’t indulge in such activities.” Then, I started my journey in NGO sector, breaking another taboo because, “You know, good women don’t work in NGOs either.” These common notions in our society kept pushing my rebellious soul and I never gave up. There were numerous times when my loved ones let me down, insulted me, shattered my soul and made me believe that I was not a good woman... but then I thought, who really needs a certificate from them? “Log Kya Kahein Gay”, what people would say, should not, and can not define me at all.

I was in my 7th semester when I started my job as a junior reporter in a national broadcast channel. I was never convinced by the idea that women ‘should be confined to soft stories only’. Breaking this unwritten law was not easy at all, and was not easily digestible for people working as my seniors. I got a complaint from my head office in first month of my job that there are very few female reporters associated with the media house and I don’t “talk like a female” and “don’t report like them too”. I was heart broken, but I am thankful to my former boss Jamshaid Rizwani who told me that I am not supposed to conform to anyone’s standards, that I should be myself and report the way I want to. I never stopped after that. I felt proud of myself when one day he said that I am one of those reporters who report on everything with confidence and are not afraid of any place or any type of crowd. Getting this compliment from a person who is an institute in himself meant a lot, and still gives me goosebumps.

But, the achievements of a woman in this country come with a price. My bold and blunt nature resulted in attempts of character assassination by some of my colleagues and even their family members. I still remember that I used to work for a Ramzan transmission from around 2pm till 5am, and it was an issue for a lot of people that “A girls stays in office all night long” because that was unheard of in the media market in Multan. The wife of a fellow reporter who worked in another channel even ridiculed me by pointing out that women in our office worked all night, which according to her good women shouldn’t. To be honest, I didn’t let that incident impact my work or my thought process because I wanted to prove myself, which was not only for my own satisfaction, but I am happy to say that it paved the path for women who joined after me too.

I made my first vlog exactly 4 days after Aurat March last year. There was no other woman in South Punjab who was vlog-ing at that time. It was about “Khana Khud Garam Kar Lo”, warm your own food. The march was against patriarchy, and women voiced their sufferings. There was a lot of backlash on a poster which said “Khana Khud Garam Kar Lo” and that backlash on social media became the reason of my first vlog. I had no idea that it would go viral. Within three days of publishing the vlog, I received death threats, rape threats, abuses, and character assassination not only by men, but women as well. There were a lot of people who appreciated this effort, but the backlash was unbearable. I was not prepared for it. But after a few days, I started gaining strength and I am thankful to my loved ones who stood by me at that time. I have faced the same backlash after this year’s Aurat March, but this time I feel like I was almost expecting the backlash, and I had more strength to fight back as compared to last year. I believe that now this abusive behaviour by social media users is giving me more strength to fight back against patriarchy. Now, I am associated with a digital platform and my vlogs there are my voice against patriarchy and the oppression that comes with it.

I am a woman who was blackmailed, mentally, physically, and verbally harassed, a woman who complained about the incidents of harassment and faced the consequences, a woman who succeeded in setting new trends for other journalists, and a woman who is still struggling every day. For me, every new day is a new fight, but I gather my strength because in the end I have to win this battle - not only for myself, but for those who stood by me, and those who will join this path after me. I don’t believe in the characteristics of a good woman defined by this society because I know who I am and I am proud of myself.

This story was submitted in response to #IStandWithHer.

Comments 17

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Jill Langhus
Nov 13
Nov 13

Wow, Laiba!

I have to say I'm SO impressed by your post! You're so young, and so strong. I wish I had been this strong and determined at your age. Please keep it up. It seems like every time someone tells you it's not what's done, you challenge it. I love that about you. I have some of that in me, too; well, a lot actually:-) Please keep doing what you're doing. I'm so glad you joined the forum and are sharing your stories with us. You will, and are, inspiring so many others to live their truth!

Do you know Sister Zeph? She may be the one who told you about World Pulse. She's another Pakistani trailblazer. This is her profile/campaign page, if you would like to read more about her: https://www.worldpulse.com/user/17088/campaign

Looking forward to seeing more posts from you!

XX

Laiba Zainab
Nov 18
Nov 18

This coming from you means a lot. I am so glad that I found this platform and actually found a place where I could connect with amazing women around the world. This will keep my motivation to write alive.
I've just followed sister Zeph

Jill Langhus
Nov 20
Nov 20

Well, thank you:-) I'm humbled.

We're glad that you found it, too, dear!

Yay:-)

XX

maeann
Nov 13
Nov 13

Hi Laiba,

I join you with your path because you know where you going. You stand what you believe and I stand for you!

Laiba Zainab
Nov 18
Nov 18

Thank you so much. I stand with you

Maya Iwata
Nov 13
Nov 13

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your strength. How true that leading-edge women set the way for other women to follow. Thank you for your bravery and perseverance. I also appreciate that you had allies to support you on your very difficult journey, a supportive boss and supportive family members who recognized and appreciated your abilities. I hope you continue to share your stories on World Pulse and connect with the many women journalists who are also on World Pulse. :)

Laiba Zainab
Nov 18
Nov 18

I would love to share more

Lisbeth
Nov 13
Nov 13

Hi Laiba,
You are welcome to world pulse and congrats on your new posts. I honestly do stand with you! Keep up the courage.
Have a good day
Regards

Laiba Zainab
Nov 18
Nov 18

Thank you so much Lisbeth

Hello, Laiba,

Wow. I love that you are a "rebel" to other family's dreams for you, and you are "stubborn" in pursuing what you want to do. It's better to go through those pains than pleasing everyone then later suffer from depression. That has been my story.

Like what Jill wrote, I, too, am very impressed by your boldness, passion, and determination. Wow! You are making exploits and shaking systems in your country. Keep up the great work, but please keep safe.

More of your stories, please. Have a great day!

Laiba Zainab
Nov 18
Nov 18

I will keep sharing my self with you all

We'll be looking forward to it! Have a great weekend!

Anita Shrestha
Nov 14
Nov 14

Wow

Laiba Zainab
Nov 18
Nov 18

<3

Beth Lacey
Nov 15
Nov 15

Keep going. You are stronger than all your harassers

Laiba Zainab
Nov 18
Nov 18

More power to every woman who needs us <3

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 22
Nov 22

Dear Laiba,
You are an inspiration in strength and determination, with so much courage. What touches me deeply is the depth of your courage in what you faced, and the grace and conviction you face it all with. "...in the end I have to win this battle - not only for myself, but for those who stood by me, and those who will join this path after me..." You are such a strong leader, and a true leader as you open roads untravelled by women before, and always with your intention to open that road for sisters. May your wings stay strong and carry you safely wherever you go.