Stories about women

With ‘Motorcycle Girl’ and #GirlsOnBikes, Pakistani women take a spin at reclaiming public spaces

Adnan Sarwar, the famed director cum musician of the biographical sports film Shah (2015), is back to mesmerise filmgoers with another biopic – Motorcycle Girl. This time, he dramatises the life of a young Pakistani woman whose real life motorcycle adventures were highlighted across the globe, and played a significant role in breaking the stereotypes surrounding women in a conservative society. Although, Sarwar’s directorial debut Shah, based on life-story of Olympian boxer, Hussain Shah, who won the bronze medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics, received mixed reviews upon its release in Pakistan, his latest venture has been much anticipated. Produced by Jami, ...

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When you don’t wear makeup to work and get asked, “beemar ho?”

I rarely wear makeup to work. Most days, I wear none. Not even BB cream, or eyeliner, or even a basic sort of lipstick. I don’t wear makeup, and I get asked about it, every single day. “Kya hua, kisi se larayi hui hai?” (What happened, have you had a fight with someone?) “Thori si lipstick tou laga lo, acha lagta hai.” (Put some lipstick on at least, it looks nice.) “You don’t want people to think you don’t care about your appearance.” “Listen, women should put some effort into their looks. Istarah achi image thori jaata hai.” (Otherwise it doesn’t present a good image.) “Dekho; presentation ...

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“Dua karo iss dafa beta ho” – Is being a ‘beti’ really the curse it’s made out to be?

Being the fourth daughter my parents were blessed with, I always used to ask them if they had ever wished I had been born a boy. I spent a lot of time wondering if, after having three girls, they were disappointed to see yet another daughter instead of a son. To my relief, my parents always responded to this question with a resounding ‘no’. Rather, they would get surprised and question me instead on the kind of nonsense that fills up my brain with questions such as these.   It is true that I have never felt loved any less by ...

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Dear Pakistani women, a menstrual cup will not make you “lose your virginity”

Menstruation – the one time of the month that most girls and women dread. The number of visits to the bathroom increases, while the prospect of wearing white has never seemed more frightening. Home remedies and the odd paracetamol sound like the ideal solution; if only we weren’t preoccupied with the agony of abdominal pain that comes along with the package. Also part of the package is making sure that our bathrooms, handbags and coat pockets are well stocked with sanitary pads. However, this is a privilege only afforded to women on one side of the world. On the other ...

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To the women of Pakistan: Get out there, march and reclaim your space!

For this year’s International Women’s Day, Pakistani women from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad have decided to stick it out together, get out on the streets of their respective cities, and march to reclaim their space in the public sphere. The event, called the Aurat March, is planned and organised entirely by a diverse group of women belonging to different ethnicities, classes and sections of our society. The march itself is not linked to a particular organisation, nor is it initiated or funded by any political parties or groups, and all women (and men) are welcome! #AuratMarch 4pm 8th March 2018. ...

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International Women’s Day: What if women started getting paid for household work?

“So do you work or are you just a housewife?” I remember being asked this question many times by people I was meeting for the first time. I also remember asking other women the same insensitive question, simply because I too, like so many of us, had been conditioned to only value work that gets remuneration in return. Looking back, the years during which I took a hiatus from work as a journalist, because I was looking after a home and my family, were the years I perhaps worked the hardest. Even physically. Imagine for a moment that the women all around us ...

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When charitable organisations don’t believe in only giving anymore and barter sex for food

This year is definitely a year for women. At the start of 2018, the careers of Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes (now deceased), Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey (although the allegations were from men) decimated due to sexual assault allegations. It seems the propensity for women to come forward and report indecent behaviour by powerful men is now on the rise.  Now it seems every faucet of life, from sporting events and Larry Nassar’s incarceration, to Hollywood and now the world of charities and NGOs, is slowly turning on. Recently, atrocious allegations were revealed by news outlets of the use of prostitutes by ...

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The silence of the taboo: Why must I put my sanitary pads in a brown bag?

I was one of the most excited women in the newsroom when I heard Bollywood was making a movie tackling the taboo around menstruation called PadMan. As someone who detests censorship to the core, I thought perhaps now that the pad will be up on the silver screen, I will no longer be shamed for talking about periods openly, or for refusing to use the brown bag. But excitement didn’t last very long. Lo and behold! The Central Board of Film Censors banned PadMan in Pakistan. The details in the news were mind-blowing, a lot like how it feels when the uterus explodes and ...

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Why are Iranian women protesting against the hijab now?

Religious freedom has been a pipe dream for years now, especially for women, who are subjected to male dominants in this society. A major portion of the woman population has embraced this situation as a norm and continues to cultivate it within the minds of their young girls as well, others, however, have not. They have strived and fought for basic rights, such as education, health, the right to vote and the liberty to go out unaccompanied. While the tide of feminism and many socialist organisations have washed part of the misogyny that exists in numerous societies, there is still ...

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#MeToo: I am older, wiser and more determined than the little girl who was forced to hold an imam’s genitals – but not safer

The first time it happened, I was seven. An imam in our neighbourhood mosque held me, taking my hand, wrapping my fingers (they were still tiny) around his genitals, then massaging it. I was so small I did not know what it was that was in my hand. I had never seen it before and I certainly did not know what it felt like.  “Do you like it?” he asked again and again, until someone came to the room, and he quickly let go of me. Later, I told my mom about this peculiar incident, and she wept for weeks and months over ...

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