Gender discrimination cuts across all political and cultural boundaries around the world, as we have seen and studied extensively in India. Knowing this, it was still tremendously surprising to learn how similar the situation is in Pakistan, as a recent talk in Delhi by Kiran Nazish, an eminent young journalist from Pakistan made clear.
Kiran Nazish shared her firsthand experiences at an interactive session for faculty and students of the O.P. Jindal Global University organised by Dr Keerty Nakray, aiming to promote cross-cultural understanding of Pakistani culture, history and society.
Ms. Nazish is one of the few women journalists in Pakistan who has reported from the frontlines of terror or extreme violence. She has worked in conflict-ridden areas in Baluchistan, FATA and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (formerly North West Frontier Province). Sharing her experiences, she brought alive the classroom theory on feminism and marginalisation of women in private and public spaces.
As she narrated experiences of living in a patriarchal and deeply male dominated society that has imposed rigid forms of control on women’s education, occupational pursuits and marriage, it was impossible not to draw comparisons between India and Pakistan. These realities about women’s lives resonate equally on both sides. Those born into privileged families that enjoy political and economic prowess may have different experiences than women from different backgrounds. Yet the face of patriarchy in both countries, otherwise so divided politically, seem to be directed towards taming women who step out of line.
Ms. Nazish’s own experiences highlight the dual difficulties of being a woman and a journalist. Journalists on the frontline regularly face death threats or physical and verbal assaults, although women journalists may be trusted more or seen as less politically threatening.
Asked why she chose fieldwork over the comforts of a newsroom, despite the difficulties, the answer came across clearly: it is passion and commitment to bring the truth in to the spotlight that drives her to work in one of the toughest places in the world for women.
Emotional upheavals are inevitable in a job that can entail witnessing a close friend being killed for speaking the truth, or hear traumatic stories of murder, rape or bombings. This is in addition to a highly competitive work environment wherein women are often denied promotions owing to their limitations regarding field-based assignments or late hours.
The most important point that Kiran Nazish drove home was that women often excel as they have to fight harder to find professional recognition, and therefore often take the job more seriously. She concluded on a poignant note about the hopes and aspirations of the Pakistani youth for a better political leadership to take them to the next generation of development.
My fellow students share these feelings. We believe that it is these hopes and aspirations of the youth that will erase the bitter political and religious hatred that divides us.
Avani is a second year law student, currently pursuing B.A. LL.B at Jindal Global Law School, India