Mahira Khan, Hajra Khan explain what it means to be a woman in Pakistan

Web Desk
February 18,2019

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KARACHI: Pakistan’s female figures in various fields discussed the role of women in Pakistan at a session held by BBC here at IBA.

The speakers were popular comedian Faiza Saleem, renowned actress Mahira Khan, young footballer Hajra Khan and activist/lawyer Nighat Dad, who participated with the Conversation presenter Kim Chakanetsa.

A large number of students attended the programme and asked questions varying from cultural stereotypes to body-shaming to cyber bullying and losing family to passion.

Faiza Saleem, the comedian who had floated pictures of her marriage earlier tackled body shaming.

"For me to be a woman in Pakistan means that I may be breaking ground in comedy but I'm expected to look a certain way to feel beautiful and worthy. I feel it's a huge part of my life and the lives of many other Pakistani women."

Explaining the term 'uncles' and 'aunties' who are notorious for body shaming, Faiza explains, "They're people who have absolutely nothing to do with your life, yet they're so concerned with how you look and how you dress and the way you are.

Unfortunately, the body shaming spills over onto her career as well. She goes on to saying that she makes it a point to go on male comedians Facebook pages and check the comments (under their videos), and they are so different from the comments she gets or other female comedians get then male comedians.

Female comedians get comments about how we look and how we dress, whereas male comedians get comments restricted to their comedy.

"I don't expect people to love my comedy, they could hate me, but don't say, 'Oh you're fat.'"

Mahira Khan dealt with cyber bullying and pressures of stardom.

Her first comment about herself is that she was the 'poster child for cyber bullying'.

She takes a sigh and goes on to saying that when she thinks about herself as someone who understands that she has enough faith and confidence in herself [and not to listen to haters].

"My only advice to you is that these people do not exist. It's not real." Is what Mahira has to say to the new generation. Against all odds she says she gets to choose to make her own choices.

As for stardom, the actor adds that "I think when you get that much love and when you are that popular, it comes with very, very high expectations. And contrary to what people think, our lives are very tough. They do not know how it feels to get into character, to get out of character and still be smiling for the cameras, no matter what has happened in your life. Your life could be falling apart but for your audience you have to put up a show. I think that is the hardest thing because the show is constantly on."

She says that It's a tough place to be in, and she's sure it's the same for everyone in such high pressure fields but the flip side to that is when you love what you do, honestly there's nothing better.

Hajra Khan highlighted the family prejudice female athletes face.

Hajra Khan is a footballer who is the captain of the Pakistan women's national team. She plays as a striker or midfielder. She became part of Pakistan national team in 2009 and leading the team since 2014.

"I may be a top level athlete in my sport but that might mean that I lose bits of my family in the process".

She says she used to be an athlete, she used to run for Pakistan.

Her father's side is a bit conservative but they also want to impose. When she turned 14 it was her mother who asked her to try out for the provincial team of Sindh.

"I hadn't played football before that but I got into a club team. Two months later I was one of the top scorers in Pakistan and made it to the national team."

After playing football for two years she took part in the South Asian Championship and the newspapers wanted to feature her.

Those papers would go to her relatives and they'd call up her parents saying, 'What's going on?'.

But unfortunately they wouldn't reply as for them she was a disgrace to the family.

"They'd ask my parents, 'How could you do this to your child?' and my dad would stand up for me and would tell them to back off."

Hajra goes on to saying that for her they didn't exist. For four years they stopped speaking to her family but her dad would tell her to just focus on what she was doing and so she did.

And at 20 she was made captain.

This is how it works for every woman in Pakistan.

Even if you want to be a doctor but choose to be a neurosurgeon people will tell you it's too difficult.

Stop dragging women down! Maybe they might just make Pakistan very proud in the years to come.


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