When will we start recognising our Women of Impact like the West does?

Published: April 24, 2015

Out of the 50 women given the honour, education activist Malala Yousafzai and film maker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy have bagged the 36th and 48th positions respectively.

Pakistani women have done us proud again by securing a place in New York Time’s Women of Impact list 2015. The list honours outstanding women from around the world. It is diverse and interesting, bringing home the point that these individuals have managed to carve a place for themselves by standing up for the cause of women and other marginalised factions of society.

Out of the 50 women given the honour, education activist Malala Yousafzai and film maker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy have bagged the 36th and 48th positions respectively, and we all know that honours and recognitions are not new to them. Both ladies have devoted their lives to women’s rights and the rights of other vulnerable segments of Pakistan. There are many things to be lauded and admired about them but I appreciate them for the enduring struggles.

No prize, award or criticism is big enough to thwart their mission; they are always on the go!

Resilience is the leitmotif in both journeys. Malala received immense fame and respect but instead of basking in the glory, she employed her success for the cause which has always been close to her heart – education for girls. Malala’s organisation, Malala Fund has been actively working for women’s education ever since. The 17-year-old is also inspiring for her refreshing wit and humour which clearly indicates that the horrid events of her life have not been able to mar her lively nature.

Some of the women on NYT’s list have been unpopular in their own country, yet they stood firm by their cause. Malala and Sharmeen both have faced stinging criticism, hatred, mocking and trolling by their own people. Malala has often been maligned as foreign agent and the whole shooting ordeal has been belittled as staged. Despite all this hatred, Malala has continued her work for women’s education. Her strong bond with her father has also helped in rehashing the conventional patriarchal power structure in Pakistan. Ziauddin Yousafzai struck the right chord when he said,

“My daughter is strong because I did not clip her wings.”

It’s the core of women’s rights issues that they must not feel opposition and hostility in their house. Only then they can fight the hostility outside.

Sharmeen also shares a special bond with her father as she said in her Emmy-acceptance speech. Her work is poignant, prolific and ground-breaking in Pakistani cinema, culture and women’s rights. “Saving Face” was important not only as a cinematic experience but also because it shed light on some heinous yet underrated crimes against women. I came across Sharmeen’s TED Talk about how suicide bombers are trained in Taliban-run madrassas in Pakistan – her work was bold, detailed and interesting. She clearly loves her work and strives for it, despite every hurdle.

Like Malala, Sharmeen too has been criticised for “doing dirty laundry in public”. She has been blamed for exploiting Pakistan’s vulnerable aspect to achieve fame. Yet, she fearlessly continues with her work. Her latest documentary Song of Lahore – which celebrates neglected Sufi musicians – was hailed with standing ovation at the Tribeca Film Festival last month. This is Sharmeen’s yet another wonderful idea, another brilliant production.

We all feel the dearth of local yet original educational (and entertaining) animations for our children and that’s exactly what Sharmeen’s new project, 3 Bahadur is all about.

Both Malala and Sharmeen truly deserve the spot, not just among women who created an impact and changed the world for the better but also for being awe-inspiring human beings. We look up to them, we relate to them and they are our voice in this gagged society.

As Sharmeen said in her “Women in the World Summit” speech,

“Very often, we see women in my part of the world as victims. I hope by putting my camera out there, I am creating heroes in my part of the world for the next generation. I need my daughters to have heroes in Pakistan.”

Fatima Majeed

Fatima Majeed

An avid reader, freelance writer and home-maker.

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

  • Fighter Man

    Every after 14 minutes, woman is raped in West, for your kind info. Recommend

  • The Guest Star

    While i agree with you that people should stop the hate on Malala, this is the first time i have heard anyone say anything bad about Sharmeen, rather many people dont even know who she is, could you please provide me with some credible links or articles that refer to her doing her ‘dirty laundry’ in public?Recommend

  • Gulsha Rauf

    And women of impact? please!! talk about Masarat Misbah ofDepilex Smileagain Foundation (Official Fan Page) she really is the woman of impact who is actually doing something great. She’s not winning oscars by showing people the scars we have as a nation,she’s practically doing something and bringing out good. And Malala, Her highness! “Woman of impact” who is implanted by the west to defame Pakistan! Come to Pakistan, live here, face everything and then become the woman of IMPACT making a positive and tangible impact on Pakistan!!Recommend

  • Mohsin

    Thanks God we don’t, as west uses a woman’s sexuality. More nude is a more better. Let these kind of impact women go to west. Don’t you want to clean Pakistan.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    We won’t until the West stop being biased and selective in who they want to represent for their propagandas. We are a liberal country full of peace and women empowerment. If we provide such a progressive environment to our locally empowered women, such as Iman Ali, Bushra Ansari, Mahnoor Baloch and list goes on and on, that dont need help of Western propaganda tools to attract attention to themselves, in fields such as drama, fashion, dance and now films, then one must be stupid enough to think that we wont like to provide our women education. There is something highly wrong with this narrow minded perception.

    One only needs to look at rising number of dance numbers performed by our actresses in Pakistani films. Oh whats that now? You didn’t hear about any of those actresses getting shot in the heard and or being a victim of acid attacks for dancing in films? God forbid, had something atrocious like that had happened, im sure people like you would have been ranting non stop on twitter about extremism and intolerance in Pakistan with that excuse of a filmmaker Sharmeen already jumping in the scene to make a soon to be an oscar nominee film in the making about the grave consequences pakistani actresses must accept for “dancing” in films. But for once if something goes by peacefully, absolutely zero acknowledge is given whatsoever. This is called double standards. Am I right now? Good, hope you are seeing the point on how easy it has become to deceive and manipulate vulnerable people’s perception to see Pakistan as a backward and extremist country.

    #YestoMahnoorBaloch #NotoMalalaRecommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    ET where is my comment?Recommend

  • Ali

    It is nice to see that you have pointed it out. However I hold a different view. Unfortunately the brain of our women is heavily obsessed by our social culture, norms, values, poverty, sensational media, gossips and family matters that they can’t hold an objective view. It is just like as if they can’t think out of the box. I would have praised them if I had seen an accomplishment like Emmy Noether, Marie Curie, to name a few who changed the course of history. I am more worried about the impact these news make on the minds of women.

    Malala courage at a very early age was worth praising as she stood against the impossible. On the other hand I don’t know why I have more respect for Aitzaz Hasan not because he is a boy but I can’t think of myself of doing the same at his age.

    In short my view can be understood easily if you have noticed the difference of was and is.Recommend

  • islooboy

    I would love to comment but et going to eat my comment again so i wont commentRecommend

  • siesmann

    would you take responsibility for Malala’s safety from your beloved TTP?Recommend

  • siesmann

    Stupidity has no limits.And who cares what you think?Recommend

  • siesmann

    read figures for your own country,and they are just the tip of iceberg.The degradations women suffer in your country are astronomicalRecommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    your irrelevant comment proves that.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    oh yeah what figures? u r hating on it for no reason.Recommend

  • Ali Zawaar

    I HATE MALALA!!!Recommend

  • siesmann

    Pakistan is one of the worst countries when it comes to respect of women or their person or their rights.Respect just does not consist in sexuality only.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    again its your opinion i dont agree no facts or figures given. just do not like your mentality towards Pakistanis.Recommend

  • siesmann
  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    well some of these sources are no longer available. probably the western forces who were afraid their propaganda might be exposed, deleted them in the nick of time.

    One article u shared mentioned only 6 stories out of a population of 18 crore. Dont generalise and dont be biased. These were 6 unfortunate women and it sounds like a lie because all my maids and drivers probably belong to such communities and they are very religious so I highly doubt that something like rape is something these people can think of doing. There needs to be further investigation whether or not rukhsana’s story is true. We all know how western NGOs are just looking to find helpless malals and bring them in the spotlight to paint a negative picture of pakistan.

    ok so this one part of was funny that said “90%” of pakistani women face abuse. my foot. let me ask u, being a woman, have u faced abuse yet? women here r treated like queens and raised by sugar daddies, such as myself, buy hey, u dont see my complaining because I know my privileges and I know what the reality is like. You however dont. I remember getting off from work from new job and going to the bus stop simply because I like diversity of people in a bus cramped together and to me there is nothing more exciting than being part of a great team so yeah I took the bus. Anyway, these group of sweet men would constantly offer to drop me home but eventually I told them no thank you because of the reason I just gave and they stopped. Im sorry to say, if you think that is abuse and harassment then god help u. Pakistani men are always trying to offer a helping hand to those who need it. Since your views are stemming from hatred towards men, you would call it abuse. I however call it humanity.

    Take your western propagandas elsewhere please.Recommend

  • Zafar

    Well the TTP has threatened everyone in Pakistan who opposes their ideology, they have attacked our schools and killed our children … no one is safe from them … what makes her so special? Her little notes? or her head injury?Recommend

  • Zafar

    You seem to care enough to reply ….. I love the way Indians are infatuated with us. Keep spreading the love!Recommend

  • siesmann

    Becuase you insist on her coming to Pakistan,where TTP has specifically said they will kill her.You will understand when you stop hating her.Recommend

  • Gulsha Rauf

    My beloved TTp! oh you got to be kidding me!! If only Malala stayed here in Pakistan then it was a good thing to talk about security or no security. Lets talk about the facts not the probabilities and the fact is that Malala didnt stay here. If she had decided to stay here, security was not an issue! The govt would have done a lot for her. Period.Recommend

  • Ameer Khan

    Oh wow; I didn’t think it was possible to show so much ignorance in so few words.Recommend