Interview at Ashoka ChangemakeHERs

Khalida Brohi is a youth activist and social entrepreneur leading the Sughar Program in Pakistan that aims towards ending the custom of honor killing by promoting the beautiful traditions and by providing socio-economic empowerment to tribal women. At the age of 22 Khalida is a dedicated entrepreneur and winner of the Young Champion Award by University of Singapore, an Unreasonable Institute Fellow and the winner of the fellowship award of YouthActionNet®.

1.      Who are your favorite changemakers from history?
Two very amazing people are the main source of my inspiration, the best changemakers of all times; my mother and my father.

In a society where I live, life for a girl is a continues struggle and especially a girl who chooses to do something “different” has to fight the hardest, with a lot of prices to pay. For me most of my struggles were done by my parents who fought each societal constraints of freeing a girl and brought me to where I am today.  

My Mother belonging to a very small rural village of Balochistan in Pakistan was exchanged into marriage for the bride of her uncle in a very young age. That time of her life when she could be playing with her dolls, she spent in running around a big house making sure the chores are done in time and making sure she is fulfilling her duties as a daughter-in-law. My mother who had never been to a school herself was the one who demanded to my father that she wants her children to get education, those were the days the fate of us 6 sisters was being written when my mother chose for us to get the freedom she never got. Growing up herself my mother dedicated her life towards making sure that not even the slightest shadow of what she faced in her life should fall upon us.

My father, who is the son of a small farmer was a visionary person, right from his very childhood days he had began to sketch his life in a new design even when those shapes didn’t seem reasonable at that time of his life, but he believed that one day things would be different, very different. When he got married to my mother, he too was against the wedding as he was still a school student and in those young days he had seen so many dreams for his life that he had to sacrifice. But refusing to give up he began planning a future where we all were part of his dreams once seen, and one day when he returned from school, he brought books for my mother too and from that day on my mother got her education from my dad.  

2.      What are the three qualities that make a changemaker successful?

Passion, Belief and Persistence, these are the three things that in my opinion are the key to the door of success.
Being passionate towards the issue and the mission is actually the first step taken for a changemaker, it is when you really FEEL the burning need of what you want to do and what you have to achieve at a certain time. To be passionate is when you are exactly feeling the pain that others feel and you are desperate to try your hardest for helping out in any way that you can.

Belief comes second when you know that you will achieve your target because you have come to realize that there is nothing in this world that cannot be achieved. To believe is when you can close your eyes and see the results right there, in front of you and your soul gets ready to achieve those results because every possibility has grown in size and every barrier have shrunk to a droplet.  

Persistence is the fact that to achieve your goals, you HAVE TO keep moving, keep trying and struggling and doing the best that you can, not forgetting once you have chosen where you want to go everything around you also directs itself towards making sure you get there.

3.      What has made you successful in your work? What specific strategies or tactics did you employ?

There are no tricks or secrets that we at Sughar employed, but we always kept the following things in our mind on our journey;

Using setbacks to grow and learn:
Standing up against an issue like honor killing tends to be very challenging at times, this crime being part of the cultural code of honor is also provided the respect among other traditions in most of the tribal areas of Pakistan. Beginning new at the age of 16, I had never realized if there was ever anything called “risk” or “opposition” which did occur back in early 2008 when after a year’s successful campaigning against honor killings, the tribal leaders in my community stood up against me and their opposition that slowly turned rough led us to end all of our initiatives and in fact for me to leave my hometown to flee to Karachi.

That is the time my team and I had to experience failure in its toughest form, but that failure also became the founding structure of our knowledge that setbacks are to be expected in our work, big time, but we always have to be ready to use those setbacks to stand up again. That time too, within 6 months Sughar came into shape and this time we went back to the tribal communities with new strategies to promote the beautiful traditions to end honor killing, success was just waiting for us there!

People are the best resource:
Second most important thing that I have kept in my mind is that every person, every human being in this world has an ability to offer, a fine experience to share and respecting that I have always put my best trust in people and in return got the best support that they could offer. An enterprise when needs various kinds of resources also runs short of these resources sooner or later because some of these might rust away, break down or just stop working, but the main resource that we have in form of people would never stop giving their time and energy once you have conveyed to them the real need to achieve the goals.  

4.      Knowing what you do now, what one thing would you have done differently in your life?
My friends often tell me that there is a big slice of your life that you vanished by your own self, without experiencing a bit of it. That is the enjoyments of being young and the good days of qualitative family life. They are true, I have mostly been away when mom was serving hot milk each night to my siblings before tucking them away in bed or when all of them sat watching movies or even talking over tea in the afternoons….I could have tried much harder to find good amount of time to spend with my family and friends.

5.      What is your superpower?
My superpower is my ability to see the miracle in everything. To see the possibility that lays within the roaring of the rain and to the huge waves of the sea. This very ability have led me to see the positive in the opposition that have majorly stood up in my work due to my being a girl and due to my belonging to the traditions that I oppose. Each time a setback occurred, I was ready to see what positive could be obtained from it, and truly I was never disappointed.

6.      What one superpower would you want to have?
A way to make people understand that every human being deserves the very same that you deserve and if you can’t even offer the smallest of your possessions try only to offer love, which comes free and grows when distributed.

7.      What advice would you have now for your former 15-year old self?
I had always been a person with heaps of questions, why this certain thing happens like that? Why not the other way? What exactly this certain thing means? How can we change this thing? …and so on. I spent most of my time thinking (though I always did some poetry and drew sketches before I took off with my busy life) but thinking was the main part…therefore I would like to advice my former 15 year old self to take it easy and let things be unknown, because that way we can enjoy the beauty of the stars without knowing that these shiny stars hanging in the sky aren’t really shinny in the first place. 

8.      How do you know when is the right time to act?
Believe me, the right time has passed long ago because issues didn’t wait for time to come but hit hard earlier when some of us were still deciding on whether or not to tackle them. But the good news is, we still have a second chance and that is NOW, now is the good time to act, and act fast!

9.      What are key elements individuals should keep in mind as they grow as a social entrepreneur?
Becoming a social entrepreneur means you have to dedicate your time, abilities and a whole part of your life on doing the best thing for the society. But the main thing that social entrepreneurs tend to forget is that in the midst of trying so hard to make life easier for others and to fight injustice they forget that there is a person they are personally doing injustice to, and that is their own self. Do keep moving ahead concentrating on the mission but remember that there inside you is a person that needs looking-after to, that wants your time and concentration because life is about what best you got to offer to people around you but also to the person WITHIN you.

10.  What issue do you think future women will be working on in 50 years?
I have high hopes! Most of the issues that we are fighting today will be a talk of the past in 50 years and women mainly would be involved in activities that aim towards searching for more and more of best options to make this society even a wonderful place to live!

11.  What have you learned from younger generations?
I have always noticed when small kids have a fight and that moment is the worst when some of them come crying back home with red and wet faces and eyes drowning in the sea of tears. But right about in 15 minutes or less, they are playing again, WITH THE EMEMIES! That’s a big lesson that kids have taught me, to forgive and forget and start new as soon as you want to have fun!

12.  What does a woman of the future look like?
The future woman is a Sughar (in local language means skilled and confident) woman who knows where she is stepping to and what she wants from life and from people around her and she is aware that in the past there have been women fighting for the rights that she is enjoying therefore she would be grateful and willing to contribute on her behalf whatever is needed of her.

Khalida BrohiComment