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

Published: April 24, 2015
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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.