“…and i’m from Pakistan”
When we, Pakistanis say this to people outside of Pakistan, dozens of images and ideas cross their minds. An instant link of terrorism, child abuse, gender discrimination, extremism, religious radicalism, early marriages and poverty is made with the name of Pakistan. These stereotypes, don’t define Pakistan. Let’s discuss some of these stereotypes today. Let me share with you truths about my country that you don’t get to hear. The stories that aren’t told. The Pakistan that you did not know existed.
All around the globe, people tend to
think believe that Pakistan feeds terrorism. They believe that Pakistan is the root of it all, that we promote terrorism, and Jihad and guns, and killing. Without realizing, that Pakistan alone, has suffered far more from these attacks, than any other country in the world. From 2003-2015, over 59000 people have died due to acts of terrorism in Pakistan. “We are not the oppressors, we are the oppressed.”
The other major stereotype, is that all men in Pakistan are controlling and that Pakistan is a patriarchal country ( I won’t deny this, because it’s a feeling I’ve experienced living here, from time to time as well) I was lucky enough to have an encouraging father, who every single day would encourage me to do what boys my age were doing, and motivated me to it better than them. Never have I been discouraged on the basis of being a girl.
Countries in the West believe that
Pakistani women women living in the remote areas of Pakistan, are told that they can not be visible, and are told that their very existence is a source of shame. But that too, isn’t entirely true. Here, in Bahawalpur, a TFWC (Troops Family Welfare Center) comes under my dad, so my mother there goes to check how the girls are doing from time to time. During my summer break, I accompanied my mother on a few of her trips to this welfare center. Girls of ages 13-19 come here to learn embroidery, sewing and knitting. When I listened to them talk, and heard their stories, I was astounded. These girls talked with such confidence, such self-assurance, and poise. They were the bosses of themselves. One of the girls,Faiza, who was 13 at the time, told me that her parents were thinking of setting up her 15 year old sisters’ engagement, because they no longer could financially support her. Faiza knew that her sister could not get married at 15, because her sister was the only one in her family who was getting proper education, and therefore, all of us decided to do something to stop her marriage. The girls started making small dresses for little babies, and asked me to sell them. Every month, we’d collect almost 4000 for the dresses we made. At the end of my Summer Break, 3 months later, we had 8000 rupees in total. I felt so happy. Not only because we collected money for her parents by doing the right thing, but because we just broke a stereotype; that girls in Pakistan can’t. That they just can’t live, exist, survive. We did it, we proved that we could, did, and will. Another lady, who lived near my house here, was truly an inspiration for me, for all the social work, and all the times she helped people, and changed lives of complete strangers. I can’t even write half the stuff she has done here, she really deserves a separate post (which I shall write, after I have asked her if I can haha) Women like her and girls like Faiza make me believe and trust in the women of Pakistan.
Pakistan is not the Pakistan that the West sees and portrays. There is a lot more to Pakistan if you look closely.