Featured Storyteller

PAKISTAN: I Am a Fighter

Laiba Zainab
Posted November 22, 2019 from Pakistan

Vlogger and journalist Laiba Zainab has been blackmailed, harassed, and threatened for daring to stand up for women’s rights in Pakistan. She refuses to be silenced.

“Within three days of publishing the vlog, I received death threats.

I am a woman who lives in Pakistan. This year, I turned 23, 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. No one in this universe can invalidate my experiences as a woman living in a society deeply rooted in patriarchy. 

Today, people know me as a strong, bold, and blunt journalist, but this wasn’t always the case. The path was never easy, and it still is difficult because many people living in our subcontinent don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a woman who gives voice to not only her suffering, but to the suffering of others as well.

When I was in 8th grade, I wanted to be an RJ (radio jockey). I still remember how I used to practice my opening lines at school before my first class began. Back then though, I chose the sciences and did my intermediate in pre-med. It was my family who wanted me to be a doctor, not me. After failing the entrance exam twice, I somehow convinced them to let me 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.

My family had a hard time accepting my choice, as most of them were doctors. As the saying goes, “Doctor k bachon ko Doctor bn’na chahiye”: kids of doctors should become doctors. My mother and my sister, however, stood by me and gave me the strength to pursue my dreams. I joined a performing arts organization called “Makhotay” and started performing theater on social issues. This was radical because, in our part of the world, women who perform theater are not considered “respectful”. According to societal norms, “Women belonging to good families don’t indulge in such activities.” 

I broke another taboo when I started my journey in the NGO sector. Society also says, “You know, good women don’t work in NGOs either.” These common norms in our society spurred on 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 say, should not, and cannot define me at all.

In my 7th semester I started a job as a junior reporter for 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 those working as my seniors had a hard time digesting it. In my first month there, I got a complaint from my head office 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 either”. 

I was heartbroken, but I am thankful to my former boss. Jamshaid Rizwani 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. After that, I never stopped. One day, he told me that I am one of those reporters who reports on everything with confidence, one of those reporters who is not afraid of any place or any crowd. Getting this compliment from a person who is an institute himself meant a lot to me and made me feel so proud. It still gives me goosebumps.

But, in this country, a woman’s achievements come with a price: My bold and blunt nature has resulted in attempts at character assassination by some of my colleagues and even their family members. I used to work for a Ramzan Transmission from 2pm until 5am. A lot of people took issue with the fact that “a girl stays in the office all night long”. It was unheard of in the media market in Multan. The wife of a fellow reporter who worked on another channel even ridiculed me. According to her, good women shouldn’t work all night. 

To be honest, I didn’t let that incident impact my work or my thought process. I wanted to prove myself, not only for my own satisfaction, but to pave the path for the women who have joined the station after me. 

The backlash against me intensified after 2018’s Aurat March, a protest organized in observance of International Women’s Day. Four days after the event, I made my first vlog. At that time, no other woman in South Punjab was vlogging. 

The Aurat March was a demonstration against patriarchy, and there women voiced their sufferings. One poster declared that men should “Khana Khud Garam Kar Lo”—or “warm their own food.” There was backlash on social media, and that backlash became the topic 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 from men, but from women as well. 

There were a lot of people who appreciated my effort, but the backlash was unbearable, AND I was not prepared for it. After a few days, I regained some strength. I am thankful to my loved ones who stood by me at that time. 

After this year’s Aurat March, I faced similar backlash. This time, however, I was expecting the abuse, and I had more strength to fight back. The abusive behavior of social media users actually gave 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, and mentally, physically, and verbally harassed. I am 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 as this society defines her. I know who I am, and I am proud of myself.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could receive added visibility, or even be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 54

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Spiritedsoul
Nov 22, 2019
Nov 22, 2019

You are a beacon of hope. I admire you. Please keep doing what you are doing.
Hugs,
Jess.

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you so much

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 22, 2019
Nov 22, 2019

Congratulations on this award for your story, so well deserved. You are truly an inspiration in courage mixed with such determination to live your life though your deepest callings. "I don’t believe in the characteristics of a good woman as this society defines her. I know who I am, and I am proud of myself". You are a brilliant change maker.

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

I am honoured

kibu
Nov 22, 2019
Nov 22, 2019

You are an incredible fighter Laiba. I'm impressed by your strength and tenacity. Thank you for such a well written account of a harrowing experience.

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you so much

maeann
Nov 22, 2019
Nov 22, 2019

Hi Laiba,

Congratulations!!!

Your story inspired me. Every day there is a fight but thank you for keep fighting for what you believe. I
I stand with you!

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

and I stand with you

Anita Shrestha
Nov 22, 2019
Nov 22, 2019

Thank you for sharing

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

thank you or linking

Lisbeth
Nov 23, 2019
Nov 23, 2019

Congratulations on your featured story award. Keep up the fight for your fellow women. We are all so proud of you.
I hope you have a great weekend and do take good care of yourself.
Kind regards

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

I am loving this sisterhood

Lisbeth
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Splendid! :-)

Zohra Elias
Nov 23, 2019
Nov 23, 2019

Hello Laiba,
Congratulations !
What an amazing job of resilience that you are doing, keep on going !

You have my support, cheers from Algeria.

Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us.

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Love from Pakistan

Jill Langhus
Nov 23, 2019
Nov 23, 2019

Hello Dear Laiba,

I'm so pleased that your story was selected for the current story award!! Congrats!! You deserve it so much for your bravery and hard work! May you inspire and empower so, so many more women and girls... quite possibly some men and boys, too:-) Keep up the great work!

XX

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you so much

Jill Langhus
Nov 27, 2019
Nov 27, 2019

You're welcome, dear!!

Aurora-Transformation
Nov 23, 2019
Nov 23, 2019

You are a hero! Inspiring hero!
Thank you for sharing your story with us. All love to you, keep fighting, you are a fighter.

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

I am honoured

Ekitah
Nov 23, 2019
Nov 23, 2019

Hello Laiba!
You are courageous. Thanks for sharing such an inspiring story. Just keep on fighting. Stay blessed.

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you so much

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Nov 24, 2019
Nov 24, 2019

Hello, dear brave Laiba,

Congratulations on winning as a Featured Storyteller! Keep speaking up! We stand with you. Have a great day.

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you so much

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

You're welcome, dear!

ANJ ANA
Nov 24, 2019
Nov 24, 2019

Dear Laiba,
Congratulations on being so brave, exemplary and unstoppable. I feel so proud, while reading your last line, that how much satisfy you are with yourself despite all the hardships you faced during your professional life. I know how hard it would be for you to change the norm right from your family to society. Keep your faith and continue your work, but also please pay attention to your security too. Be vigilant and careful, too for your self. You as a 'braveheart and change leader'' is much more important than anything for us. Keep shining and inspiring the world, my dear sister.
Love and regards,
anjana

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Well we always have to pay a price and I barely worry about my security but you are right I should be more vigilant

ANJ ANA
Nov 27, 2019
Nov 27, 2019

Thank you for taking my words. The cost of raising the voice against women/human rights and misogyny is very high for women all the time. So please pay attention for security and yourself too.

Asaad Ali
Nov 24, 2019
Nov 24, 2019

Congrats sister....
Your path was great and filful .

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you so much

Asaad Ali
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Welcome

Qurratulayn Khan
Nov 24, 2019
Nov 24, 2019

Hello Laiba,
what a strong faith exist in you , bravo girl, keep going no on can beat you in your way, and I totally agree with you about Behavior of our society, and pathetic norms.
stay strong:)

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you. This means a lot

Qurratulayn Khan
Dec 23, 2019
Dec 23, 2019

pleasure dear :)

Antonia Bih
Nov 25, 2019
Nov 25, 2019

Hello Laiba...
Your fight really deserves an award...
Keep fighting dear.... It's worth the fight

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you so much

Amarachi Okpala
Nov 25, 2019
Nov 25, 2019

Laiba, I admire your audacity, courage and strength.

MUKABA ZAWADI
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you for sharing your story

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

I am glad that you loved my story

Laiba Zainab
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you

Dr. M
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Hello my dear Laiba, no doubt your experiences are worst, I am glad you are a fighter.

Warmly,
Dr. Raana

linhvo
Nov 27, 2019
Nov 27, 2019

Please keep moving forward Laiba, great respect from Vietnam

Sumaira Ashraf Rajput
Nov 29, 2019
Nov 29, 2019

Proud of you my love

ARREY- ECHI
Nov 29, 2019
Nov 29, 2019

Congratulations, dear Laiba. This was a well deserved win. I admire you courage in the face of all the odds. Keep on keeping on.

Kat Haber
Nov 29, 2019
Nov 29, 2019

May you find that one day your fight no longer needs to be a fight, rather a model of how you brokethrough in love. I stand with you in courage, kindness, and compassion.

lizzymark
Nov 29, 2019
Nov 29, 2019

Hi dear,hope you are fine I admire your courage and its doing you great good more grace.congregation on your award.

Tarke Edith
Nov 29, 2019
Nov 29, 2019

Hello Laiba
Sister you are a fighter for all us .don't relent your elfort keep up .
Thank you very much dear for being so strong for the Pakistain women 's right .

narayani khadka
Dec 10, 2019
Dec 10, 2019

Dear Sister Laliba,
I dont think I can tell you how strong you are. Thnak you loads for sharing this powerful story. congratulations for being selected as a featured story teller. you deserve every bit of it. keep on inspiring.
Warm hugs
Narayani

Kadi_lokule
Dec 11, 2019
Dec 11, 2019

You are a powerhouse and i encourage you to keep going - it is you calling as you change mindstes. I come from a patriachial society too and we are struggling with many of the issues that you have mentioned. Keep going. We back you 100%

Andra Marasteanu
Dec 22, 2019
Dec 22, 2019

You are a fierce warrior, Laiba! You inspire and give strength and voice to women in Pakistan and not only! Thank you for what you do, for who you are!

bridggyella
Dec 23, 2019
Dec 23, 2019

Hi Laiba. It was worth the read. I must say you have he heart of a Lion. You inspire me.

efe
Jan 09
Jan 09

You are a courageous individual. Keep on being your authentic self

Chinyere Kalu
Jan 10
Jan 10

That is the spirit Sister! Women are not going to get an equal society except we step out. It will never be served to us except we work hard for it.Kudos once more! You are a Strong Breed.

SADRAG
Jan 18
Jan 18

Laiba, women like you are different and that is what one needs to be to make a difference.
Appreciate you for being different
We are not common who would fit into a set mold
We make our own molds!!
With you in your struggle.