I am every woman

Published: November 15, 2012

When a woman is beaten or denied her rights, someone needs to speak up for her or teach her to speak for herself. PHOTO: REUTERS

November 11, 2012 was the first day of my Thomson Reuters journalism training course in Barcelona. 

New continent. New world. New people.

16 hours – the time my journey from Karachi to Barcelona took.

16 hours ago was the Karachi, the Pakistan I am from.

Never a dull moment in my country. Especially in the newsroom. Even more so in my life.

I am surrounded by 10 other energetic, excited and interesting participants. Each a unique story. But the shoddy parts of Karachi, the humidity of that city I call home, and its problems and joys never leave me, even when I walk down beautiful pebbled streets of the picturesque Barcelona which is almost utopic in its serenity.

My facilitator is the amazing Mariane Pearl. The first exercise she gives us to write two paragraphs about what it means to me to write about women’s issues and what are my brief impressions after a chat with any two colleagues. Below are those two paragraphs.

I confess I have not grown up in circumstances of deprivation, gender bias or inequality. While my father had his roots in rural Pakistan, I grew up as a young urban Pakistani, given enough independence to be able to spread my wings. I had no idea for the longest time that women around the world go through the atrocities that I discovered as a journalist.

Naivety broke with journalism coming into my life and my first feature I wrote about the plight of women inmates in the Karachi Central Jail. That’s when it hit me that women’s lives are complex, interesting and often the greatest stories.

All I know is that I am a people-centred person – I love people. I want to know them, relate to them, empathise with them. My struggle remains whether I should be a journalist or a writer. I hope to be both. Because today as I sit down as one of 11 participants whom Reuters has graciously invited to Barcelona to teach us more about how to report women’s issues, my excitement is about stories!

Our first exercise involved me sitting with Saraswati Sundas from Bhutan and Alexis Angulo from Mexico – both vibrant young journalists. I cannot wait to talk more with them; blog about what all we shared. Our commonalities and our differences that make this world so beautiful.

Alexis is breaking my bubble when I state defiantly that Pakistan is THE most dangerous place in the world for journalists. That doesn’t seem like that big a deal when he tells me that Mexico is second on the list. He is a proponent of legalizing drugs in Mexico. He explains why. Mexico has lost a hundred thousand people to drug wars in the last six years.

Saraswati is talking about her modern urban friend who was not allowed to visit her parent’s home even when a death in the family happened by her UK-educated husband who beats her up. Human differences and commonalities! We bond. We relate.

I have recognised my trainer; it is Mariane Pearl, wife of Daniel Pearl.

Pakistan is where Daniel lost his life in the line of journalistic duty. Pakistan is where Mariane fought many battles. She knows Pakistan, I am thinking. She knows what it is like to report in a conflict zone….in a society polarised, yet with so much good coming out of its people, especially women.

My experiences of life have taught me that women need a voice

I am neither anti-men nor a radical feminist. I am a woman and proud to be one. But any vulnerable group needs to have its voice heard.

When a woman is beaten or denied her right of inheritance or when she doesn’t have the empowerment to earn or save her earnings, or when she isn’t given the chance to decide which form of contraception to use or at which age should she marry, someone needs to speak up for her or teach her to speak for herself.

I am her voice. And I am mine.

Read more by Farahnaz here, or follow her on Twitter @FarahnazZahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

The writer works as a Senior Sub-Editor at The Express Tribune, and has a focus on human rights, gender and peace-building. She blogs at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/ and tweets as @FarahnazZahidi (twitter.com/FarahnazZahidi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Javeria Petiwala

    One of the best articles I have read in a long time!
    The author is doing exceptional work in bringing these issues to light. Well done!Recommend

  • Komal

    Excellent!Recommend

  • Zofeen Ebrahim

    Kudos! Succinct, yet speaks volumes! Congratulations!Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    Hope you succeed in all your endeavours. Jo dar gaya woh mar gaya ! Good Luck !Recommend

  • Parvez

    Excellent subject and well written. Lets hope that when you shout your voice is heard.Recommend

  • Ayesha Amin

    I love how you write in such a crisp, yet humane manner. Truly makes the reader stop and think. And empathize. And corrective action begins with empathy. So you are truly touching and changing hearts here. Best of luck in all your endeavours! Recommend

  • T

    An awesome read.! :)Recommend

  • gp65

    Loved your article. You go girl.Recommend

  • FAZAL ABBAS

    you write it very well but this is not enogh to write. we need to be struggle and prove. mean need to be changed phisically discussion is not enough………Recommend

  • http://bushrashaikh.wordpress.com/ Bushra Shaikh

    Dear Farahnaz, You have written a wonderful piece. I am really inspired by the way you have portrayed down plus the vision that Women and other oppressed need to be heard. The barcelona was more accentuating for me, since i have been to this place and cherish wonderful memories attached with this place.Recommend

  • Farahnaz Zahidi

    Dear readers
    I am humbled that you like these lines I jotted down. They are from the heart! Thank you.Recommend

  • Cycloneous

    Dear author,

    This is a darn good article! Please, keep writing, people will fear your words more than they do bullets. We need to see more articles like this, it will change the world.Recommend

  • yousaf

    @Author::Please give my heart-felt condolences to your teacher for the sad loss of her husband.While reading your wonderful article I could sense that Mariane Pearl is a very brave woman.My regards to herRecommend

  • Huma

    great piece, and so well written…. good luck in all your endeavours.Recommend

  • ethicalman

    I hope you took your silver spoon with you..Zahidi…Recommend

  • Jenevy

    Women are our mothers,our girlfriends,our aunties our sisters and so on! they should not suffer as they do.To all men out there,plz stop hurting them (women),can’t you see how they beautify our word ? just picture how the world would be without women. Recommend