Barely Existing

Rukhsana Shama
Posted December 23, 2009 from Pakistan

Sultan Bibi was shyly talking about her marriage and smiling heartily, when from nowhere a boy around 15 years of age came, with a rope in his hand, he slapped her and started dragging her towards the door, spitting abuses in pushto.

This is a scene of one of the villages of Buner, a district of NWFP, Pakistan and speaks lots about the condition of women rights in the area.

Sultan Bibi is a girl of around 17 years of age and was attending a meeting of informal women’s group, when the incident happened. The informal women’s groups have been formed after three years of extensive intervention by a development organization in the area. The contribution of social organizers Aqeela and Ayesha are laudable who continued to work despite hostile and rigid situation in the area.

It is very difficult to work on women rights in the area, which is governed by strict norms, values and customs. Things in day to day life are being regulated by a culture which pushes women to periphery in all spheres of life.

Sultan Bibi was slapped, dragged and hurled abuses upon, just because she was present in a women only meeting, while a wrong message was sent to her home saying that photographs of women were being taken in the meeting. The violence by that 15 years old boy didn’t end here; beating his elder sister didn’t satisfy his male ego and honour. He hit his mother too, as she was the one who allowed her daughter to participate in the meeting.

Aqeela a development worker, while commenting on this said,

“It was extremely difficult to talk about women issues and gather women for discussion. These women are not allowed to come out of their homes without taking a male along. We faced a lot of resistance and we have seen such incidents taking place in front of our eyes quite a few times. Whenever I come across such incident during field activities it hurts me a lot and keeps me awake for nights, but at the same time these incidents have strengthened my courage and keep me working for emancipation of these women from these false cultural and traditional shackles.”

Aisha, another development worker further adds,

“It is still very difficult to talk about “Aurton key Huqooq” (Women’s Rights) in these women group’s meetings. These women cannot tell their families about the issues of discussion in these meetings, because they would never allow them to collectively gather and talk about their own rights. Moreover, some of the women themselves offer resistance to such discussion. We need to be very careful. ”.

These revelation and incidents of the likes of what happened to Sultan Bibi projects a very derogatory and bleak picture of the lives of the women in Buner.

The need of the hour is to put in concerted efforts on women rights and while recent IDP crisis (which effected the lives and livelihoods of Buner people and displaced them), one of the biggest human catastrophes of these times in the country, opens up doors of opportunity for all the humanitarian and rights based organizations to invest money on women’s rights as well along with other rehabilitation efforts. There is a dire need to try liberating the one half of the society and bring in socio-cultural change for the dignified existence of these barely existing lives.

Comments 3

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  • JaniceW
    Dec 23, 2009
    Dec 23, 2009

    Rukhsana, I so applaud the efforts of courageous women like you, who dare to speak out and in turn, educate us on the challenges and issues facing women in Pakistan every day. It is heartbreaking to think that just gathering to talk about women's rights is enough to become a victim of abuse and violence.

    You are intimidated into being silent and invisible yet when you are given a voice, you have the ability to start movements, reform laws and transform lives. I am so inspired by all the women who sat together that day to discuss what they can do to better the lives of all women in Pakistan.

    I look forward to reading more from you and wish you all the very best in your efforts to give voice to the many who have been oppressed into silence for too long. In spirited sisterhood, Janice

  • Jade Frank
    Dec 25, 2009
    Dec 25, 2009

    Hi Rukhsana,

    Thank you for illuminating the barriers women face in communities like Buner, Pakistan. I have learned so much from members in this online community, PulseWire, who share the situation for women in their own communities and cultures. I applaud and greatly admire these courageous women in Buner for recognizing their urgent situation and their determination to change it. They have already come a long distance. However, the opposition they face from society is, as Janice put it, heartbreaking. Without the opportunity to even assemble without men is a large barrier - especially when the consequences are physical and mental abuse.

    The urgent need for women's rights in this area is so very apparent, especially thanks to people like you who can break down the issue for an international audience and draw attention to the problem. Thank you for writing on behalf of the Buner women and sharing their struggle with us. Keep writing... we are listening!

    Warm regards, Jade

  • Rukhsana Shama
    Dec 27, 2009
    Dec 27, 2009

    Dear Jade and Janice, thanks for understanding the struggle of women in Buner, in particular, and women of Pakistan, in general. It is very apparent for us to work for our emancipation from false shackles. Although, the challenge as women, and as human, both, is great.