February 11, 2019: The Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi hosted an event for the BBC titled, The Conversation at the G&T auditorium main campus. The event comprised of a panel discussion and esteemed panellists included Pakistan's football captain Hajra Khan, award winning actress Mahira Khan, pioneer comedian Faiza Saleem and lawyer and internet activist Nighat Daad. The panel discussion was moderated by Kim Chakanetsa where the panellists probed into the challenges, frustrations and joys of being a woman in Pakistan.
The format of the recording followed a question answer manner in which the students in the audience put forth their questions and the panellist would then discuss the issue at hand. Kim began the recording by introducing the point of discussion which was to understand what it means to be a woman in a place like Pakistan which has stark contradictions from individuals like Benzair Bhutto and Malala Yusufzai to issues on gender parity, educational challenges and societal pressures.
Points of discussion included comments on lack of public spaces available for women, stereotypes associated with women within the country, moral policing and fat shaming, generalization regarding desi marriages, mental health and intersectional feminism.
Initiating the conversation, Faiza Saleem said, "I may be breaking boundaries but I am still expected to look a certain way". She discussed the issues women face in the comedy industry where a man is considered to be funnier than his female counterparts. She shed light on the culture of body shaming that is done by relatives even if a woman is successful.
Nighat Dad who is the pioneer of the first cyber harassment helpline in Pakistan discussed that around 60 percent of the people that call for help comprise of women facing blackmail and dealing with sexual assault issues. She addressed the audience and highlighted the necessity of speaking up about mental health issues and cautioned them about the safe usage of social media and the internet.
Adding on to the discussion of mental health, the 25-year-old star athlete Hajra Khan opened up about her experience of dealing with mental health and how she manages to balance work with trainings. She also emphasized the importance of feminism and having male allies who stand up for women when they are being berated. She said, "Whenever I come across a man criticising women I tell him to woman up!"
Mahira Khan discussed the challenges she faces being a woman in the industry and commented on the importance of the Me Too movement. She said that "A conversation has begun about sexual harassment which has enabled women to fight the decayed, old and rotten justice system of the patriarchal society".
The discussion ended with Kim posing a question to each of the panellist regarding whether they think it is a good time to be a woman in Pakistan today. The unanimous answer seemed to be that women have progressed tremendously over the last 10 years, as now women are moving away from the role of being silent bystanders to taking up a more active role and demanding their rights, as well as supporting other women.