Recently, the #MeToo movement reached the shores of Pakistan, fueled by the anger against rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl in Kasur. The incident triggered some of Pakistan’s top celebrities to come out and share their experiences of sexual abuse as children. Freiha Altaf was one of the first to take to Twitter to share her ordeal and soon after Maheen Khan and Nadia Jamil shared theirs. Following the furor, Frieha has launched her own homegrown campaign called #MaiBhi that she is separating from the now well-known #MeToo.
“I am working with a human rights organization and we decided that #MeToo may be global but it doesn’t have a certain Pakistaniat to it. When I came out as a victim and survivor, so many people messaged me privately to say that the same happened to them.” She explains, “It’s great that people don’t have to put themselves out there but can do it in a safe place on social media. The unfortunate thing, however, is that in Pakistan politicians and celebrities have a lot of following but among the celebs, there are very few using it to do something for social issues.”
According to Frieha, #MaiBhi can be #MeToo but it goes over and above that as a pledge that I will also do something and not just be a silent observer. “I haven’t done as much as I should have but this pledge is the start of taking action. I don’t think if Zainab’s case is solved the problem is solved. We still don’t know why so many of these problems go unreported and I feel Shehzad Roy is the only celebrity that has really worked for social causes. Besides him, Ahsan Khan has been actively talking about child abuse but you generally don’t see the same kind of work from celebrities that you do from activists in our country. #MaiBhi is a pledge to do more,” she laments.
These days Frieha, along with others from the industry, is in California for CalPak’s fundraiser. CalPak is an organization that promotes education in the underserved communities in Pakistan through an alliance of Californian Americans and Pakistanis and is now in its third year.
“CalPak is about fostering education and that’s the crux of everything so I partnered with them as Catwalk’s CSR initiative, Catwalk Cares,” she says.
Now that the PR maven and former model has partnered with them she aims to make this an ongoing project. This year’s event will feature Ali Xeeshan, who has been the most actively involved in social causes through his collections. Joining him are Sania Maskatiya, Saadia Mirza, Huma and Amir Adnan and Zainab Chottani with Ahsan Khan talking about his efforts against child abuse.
The performances at this year’s Lux Style Awards are also going to be under Frieha’s watch and she has decided to officially launch the #MaiBhi campaign there. “Since the idea is to involve celebrities in tackling social issues, the LSAs are an ideal platform,” she says. The awards do hold the industry’s attention and receive plenty of media airtime so here’s hoping that the campaign is able to highlight such social injustices.