7th Year of Fighting Honor Killings - My Thoughts
I am constantly at peace, although work still surrounds like it always did...but that was then and now is something else. A lot has passed, a lot has happened but one thing that hasn’t changed throughout the past 7 years is the burning desire within me to fight. My modes of fighting have changed, I have learnt to strategize and more importantly I have learnt to share, the responsibilities and that desire of making change happen. Sitting here, right now I remember that day...
On my right sat some more speakers, we talked, we shared and that great event called the launch of national WE CAN Campaign against honor killing carried on. Time came and I was called to the stage to read my poem that I had written for a woman who was killed in the name of honor without having to know her mistake. With the pride of a 17 year old, I stepped on the stage; chin high glanced over the crowd of 700 who only saw a frail little girl trying to come in between a centuries old tradition.
I started to read from my poem, first sentence, second sentence... my heart started to beat faster and faster until it felt heavy, a sob fought through my chest and with more words that came out I was crying and reading, crying and reading until I finished the poem where that woman asks the reason of her death before breathing her last... I didn’t care if most of the people had joined me in my tears, I didn’t care if my sobs could be heard through the hall but I cried because I felt helpless, I still cry now... but now it’s because I know there are ways to stop this but we have been late in acting on those ways....
Those days in 2006 were the first and painful steps... although yes, in those times of my energetic childishness I never thought of them as painful - I questioned every opposition strongly with a great big WHY? Because weren’t everyone as desperate to end a custom that took the life of a living person?
The answers came to me soon in the coming years, along with lessons I would never forget. Launching a campaign against the crime of Honor Killing was the best idea I had but at those times when I didn’t exactly knew what the consequences would be... I saw things changing within a year... not in anything else but in the attitudes of people in my community towards me, I would question that and no one described. I was told by my own father to hide myself…and when riding around my own hometown I should have the window covers of the car on. I did perfectly as told... but then they tell me to leave. My father wanted me to stop everything like a coward and run back to where it was safe.
I did escape without having to know much, but I can never forget how it felt. It was said that un-Islamic teachings are being spread around by our work, we are bringing the men and women together to help them go against Islam and that not being enough... I remember another big jolt in my life.
I know I haven’t grown as much to stand up as a fully aware person, but I know what happened in that time... I was being accused of things that I didn’t even know how to do... I remember fear running up and down my stomach and anxiety of blaming myself for nothing. I never knew people were taking advantage of my age and the opposition that had already made me and my team weak. My heart breaks to remember the sadness I saw in my parents eyes, I knew that very moment I had to stand up again, for myself, for my work and for those women who were even more weaker then I was.
It took such a long time... to recover, to stand up again and to claim my space where I belonged. This time I was taking small, slow and steady steps. I was being conscious of having to defend myself and my beliefs. I did three things. I built up myself, I built up my team and we built up our strategy.
This Strategy was Sughar. A word used from decades in almost all languages used in Pakistan for a woman who is skilled and confident. If a word like that existed, I knew that its true meaning did too. All those women who are under the threat of doing the slightest mistake and losing their lives for nothing are actually the ones strongest. All the women are Sughar, but there was a need to bring that out. A great need to show and prove to women that within them there is a person who can stand up for themselves, who can decide for her life and who can choose right from wrong.
I remember just a few years back, when we went back to start again. All eyes on us. We were expected of being wrong again. But not this time, we talked to the leaders, to the same old communities and started on a plan to build strong the traditions that made our lives colorful. The response, my team and I couldn’t believe was 80 percent in a yes from everyone...how easy was it to start again! How easy was it to sit among those whom we wanted to change and how easy was it to get access back to the lives of women and change their lives once and for all.
Sughar started doing that... my team became my pride and the work that kept expanding became an indication that yes, now all was working. Indirectly still we were changing things, slowly and gradually. When Sughar Centers started to be established in villages and women started to join every day, we took it as our responsibility to not only support them economically but to make them fully aware that time has come when they could do a lot more than they thought they could. I have many beautiful memories from this all and many good times when I cried not because I felt helpless or other but because I was so proud. This was like not us taking action but the communities themselves taking charge of reaching out to the dream we once saw. I remember something very well again…
They all sat in front of me, women from 10 villages in Sindh after our successful expansion in this province to be trained as trainers and to launch Sughar Centers in their villages. I only had to take a glance once, because next time my eyes couldn’t focus because of the tears, I cried and cried for the pride that jumped through me. I was thankful to everyone and I am still thankful, to my team, to those women, to every single one of you because this is working. We see the slow but visible change and Oh My God it is there.
A Lot of Gratitude Fills My Heart and Soul Because You Care.