Stories about girls

Man behind ‘Red-brick blocks’

The efforts of Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, famous not only for his street politics and outspoken nature, but also for his generosity towards educational institutions for girls in Rawalpindi, are laudable. The logic behind the presence of a Sheikh Rasheed Block at almost every school or college for girls in the constituency of NA-55 is not known to many, especially since these blocks aren’t found in any colleges for boys. Sheikh Rasheed won in the elections held this year. Sheikh Sahib mentioned at a prize distribution ceremony at Viqar-un-Nisa Post-Graduate College for Women a few years back that his colleague(s) brought several ...

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A dire need to end teen smoking

While informally talking to a World Health Organization (WHO) official in Islamabad during a seminar, I was told that Pakistan is among the few countries that have taken no serious measures to implement its own legislation to restrict tobacco consumption. She said that despite convincing sessions with Pakistani authorities, no positive measures have come forth to curb the practice of smoking. Instead, the WHO has received reports of increasing number of female smokers in Pakistan, which mainly include young girls at school level, especially those studying in private schools. Teen smoking is a complex phenomenon, which has several causes. Unfortunately, there ...

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The legacy of UK’s Pakistani Muslim predators

On May 8, 2012, nine men, of whom eight were of Pakistani background, were convicted at Liverpool Crown Court for a range of offences including trafficking within the UK, rape, sexual assault and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child. They were part of a gang who had groomed vulnerable young girls in and around Rochdale, Greater Manchester. They were given prison sentences ranging from 4 to 19 years. Two distinct themes emerged from this trial; firstly, the perpetrators were by and large men of Pakistani heritage and the victims were young white women. On its own, there ...

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Gender disparity and education for all

Each year, the United Nations announces a different theme for International Women’s Day. This year celebrations revolve around the need to ‘Empower rural women: End Hunger and Poverty’. I only wish the world body would focus on the apparently-simple, yet not-so-easy aspiration of doing away with gender disparity in education. That would be a true celebration of womanhood – to have the right to quality, universal education. If only we could celebrate no other theme but that every year, rest assured the rest of the objectives will follow almost automatically. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvWfuQ6wQXQ&feature=related] Global education has to be our most compelling need if we are to ...

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The Islamic university where girls were raped

Today a news article in Dawn revealed the shocking case of female students and staff members forced to offer sexual favours in return for grades and demands of their immediate superiors. I do not believe that this news is “shocking” because such cases are a rarity. In fact I believe that such cases probably proliferate throughout educational institutions, or indeed in any institution where men are in a position to extract sexual favours. This case is shocking because of the International Islamic University Islamabad’s indifference to these cases and its efforts to cover it up. Further, they have tried to justify ...

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Your fake face forward

How often have you walked passed a store window, flipped through the pages of a magazine or fashion catalogue and thought to yourself: “Why can’t I look like that model?” While the fashion industry’s role in promoting unrealistic body images of women and girls is nothing new, and appears to only worsen every year, mega fashion brand H&M, the second largest retailer in the world, has taken things to an entirely new level by using images of models so perfect that they apparently do not even exist – literally. That’s right. The models themselves do not exist. That is because last year, H&M ...

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The tough New Yorkers of Lahore

I moved to Lahore from my home town of Faisalabad, to pursue higher education at the Government College University. Although I didn’t know it then, Lahore was to be my home for a very long time. My MBA years flew by when I lived in the university hostel. My needs were simple; I wanted nothing more than the 15 x 15 cubicle that I shared with a room-mate. There were no air-conditioners in the summer, no heaters in the winter, no maids to do my laundry, and no home-cooked food. Yet, I survived. Even though the winters were bitterly cold in Lahore, my room was ...

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‘No Baba, not her 18th birthday party, her wedding’

“Baba, I need to go to Mehek’s* mehndi tonight.” “Mehek’s sister?” “No, Mehek’s. As in, Mehek in my class.” My father lowers his newspaper, eyebrows raised. “Mehek in your class is getting married?” Yes, Mehek in my class is getting married. And I am cordially invited. Who gets married at 18? Apparently, a sizable chunk. I can easily produce a list of girls who have gotten married, will get married this year, or will be getting married in the next year or two. The list of girls whose possibility of getting engaged in the next year or two is exponentially higher. And this phenomenon is not ...

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Not just a child, a servant

“You are not just a child, you are a servant. You are not only a girl, you are a servant.” This statement made by Dr Ambreen Ahmed highlights the sense of insecurity, and powerlessness faced by many girls in Pakistan who are made to work while they are still very young. “I had never used an iron before and I burnt my hand the first time I was made to iron clothes,” says a girl no older than 12-years-old. This utter disregard for the safety or rights of young children who are domestic labourers is prevalent in Pakistani society. Many are made to sleep in terraces or ...

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Teacher, don’t stand so close to me

We’ve all done it when we were awkward and fourteen. The teacher was probably not even young or good looking.  But we did it for approval, for love, for a better grade, to be admired.  A student of mine alerted me to an interested phenomenon recently. There was this girl who was most sober in my class, did her work, took copious notes, wrote at college level, her glasses high on her nose, she looked like she had just stepped out of Hajj.   My student told me in reference to her: “You should see her in the Eco teacher’s class. ...

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