August 12th, 2013

Disability is not absence of ability

published in the spokesman-Monday, 10 June 2013 00:0

Published in Opinion-The Spokesman

Dr.Rakhshinda Perveen

A Pakistani society where disabled people (from all sexes and classes) can claim equitable space in public and professional lives is yet a distant dream. As such there is no one universal definition of disability but a widely accepted one interprets disabled person as the one who on account of an injury, disease or congenital deformity is handicapped to perform certain tasks, undertake gainful employment or profession and hence includes persons who are visually and auditory impaired and physically and or mentally disabled.
What needs to be clearly understood is that the disability is not the absence of ability. It is a social construction by the self styled custodians of power and prestige. Thus it remains as one of the most misunderstood human conditions and positions in unjust societies like ours that have little if any respect for powerless, disadvantaged and unprivileged communities. According to the World Programme of Action concerning disabled persons the consequences of deficiencies and disablement are particularly serious for women. Generally women are subjected to social, cultural and economic disadvantages, making it more difficult for them to take part in community life.
Thus it is apparent that being physically challenged or disabled is not amusing anywhere in the world. However, just as being poor in Pakistan and being poor in Europe, US, or other developed parts of the world has a much different connotation and cost it remains an undisputed statement that being disabled in Pakistan constructs a special set of problems that too with class and gender variations due to inherent ability of our social and governance systems to create access to architecture and attitudinal barriers and complicate simple issues and vice versa.
Heartrending- could be the politest word that can be used to comment on casual approach towards information about disabilities and disabled country in a country that has faced severe natural disasters in last 7-8 years.
The dearth of data rather absence of data in public records about disabled people also reflects insensitivity towards the issue of disability at the State level. In humanitarian settings (I have personally witnessed it when I was in many of the affected areas after earthquake in 2005 and floods in 2010 and 2011) the absence of age and sex disaggregated information further jeopardize the quandary of disabled people.
This melancholy translates into anxiety when empathetic researchers and development practitioners find outsized mismatch in the legislation and policy frameworks for the disabled and the prevailing truth or ground realities. In the wake of the United Nation’s year of Disabled in 1981, Pakistan enacted the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance 1981 for the benefit of disabled persons.
Pakistan also has a National Policy for Persons with Disabilities (2002) and National Plan of Action (2006). The country signed Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and its Optional Protocol on 25 September 2008; and Ratified Convention on 5 July 2011.The Pakistan Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 and the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 2008 are currently being formulated (Pakistan 2009). In 2012 the Sindh assembly has passed this bill.
According to the official records this legislation primarily provides guidelines and sets out implementation policies, including those previously adopted by NGOs. The Ordinance established the National Council and Provincial Councils whose main tasks are to formulate and implement policies. Oversight rests with the National Council. The primary focus lies on government administered disability assessment, job referral system, employment exchange, and training/rehabilitation programs partly funded through a tax levied on employers for not meeting the hiring quota. Covered are employers with more than 100 employees. The provisions of the Ordinance govern employment and rehabilitation, training, funding, and administrative processes.
In actuality disabled people are not only subjected to subtle forms of discrimination and stigmatization at individual and collective levels but there are unabashed kinds of unfairness towards the people with disabilities.
One does not need to conduct an in-depth research study to identify these inequalities and injustices. All one needs is to just take a pause and look around with compassion and understanding. One will find that here are roads with no special arrangement for them, traffic signals do not support visually impaired, nearly all buildings even in big cities including many academic institutions, technical and aid agencies do not have provision of ramp, most of the web sites by the public, private and nonprofit organizations are not disabled friendly.
In a society that was systemically made retarded in terms of intellectual growth in the dark regime of the military dictator Zia and that is currently characterized by terrorists, bigotries, educated ones in leadership positions reluctant to revisit centuries old traditions and power structure supporting religious interpretations there are rare if any avenues of entertainment in public spaces. In a stifling scenario where the rich and mighty can follow any code of conduct in their private and public lives; where the poor have yet to be entitled to any entertainment and middle class have yet to reclaim morality in the pleasure it becomes almost unimaginable that the disabled especially those from poor and middle classes in general and women and girls in particular experience extra brunt on mind, body, heart and soul.
Amidst the mushroom growth of no profits only a handful of NGOs are trying to ease out the difficulties of disabled people in Pakistan. Gender, over the years has evolved as funding puller thematic area but gender perspectives in the area of disability with the consciousness of local realities are yet to be cracked in Pakistan.
Broadly speaking the usual level of vigilance even among the duty bearers on International normative framework on women and girls with disabilities is much less than the required.
As a perpetual awakened dreamer activist as well I hope and pray that our media would give due importance to long neglected issues of people with disabilities and that too with gender sensitivity and responsiveness. This cannot happen in vacuum. Not only those in the corridors of power have to internalize the fact that they are public representatives and that too of an economically poor nation and not fashion icons but also a paradigm shift in the editorial policies is needed. Enthusiastic young journalists must be trained to frame the right questions and dare to go beyond in-depth analysis of appearance and accessories of women legislators.
The need of the hour is to take speedy steps for including the disabled people and their issues in mainstream development initiatives and discourse rather than legitimizing their traditional exclusion in socio-economically and political realms within the hollow context of special needs for special people. It is needless to emphasize the urgent need of legislation on mainstreaming the rights of the disabled people.

The writer is a gender and social development expert based in Is

Disability is not absence of ability

August 12th, 2013

Disability is not absence of ability

Monday, 10 June 2013 00:00
Written by The Spokesman
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The Spokesman
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Dr.Rakhshinda Perveen

A Pakistani society where disabled people (from all sexes and classes) can claim equitable space in public and professional lives is yet a distant dream. As such there is no one universal definition of disability but a widely accepted one interprets disabled person as the one who on account of an injury, disease or congenital deformity is handicapped to perform certain tasks, undertake gainful employment or profession and hence includes persons who are visually and auditory impaired and physically and or mentally disabled.
What needs to be clearly understood is that the disability is not the absence of ability. It is a social construction by the self styled custodians of power and prestige. Thus it remains as one of the most misunderstood human conditions and positions in unjust societies like ours that have little if any respect for powerless, disadvantaged and unprivileged communities. According to the World Programme of Action concerning disabled persons the consequences of deficiencies and disablement are particularly serious for women. Generally women are subjected to social, cultural and economic disadvantages, making it more difficult for them to take part in community life.
Thus it is apparent that being physically challenged or disabled is not amusing anywhere in the world. However, just as being poor in Pakistan and being poor in Europe, US, or other developed parts of the world has a much different connotation and cost it remains an undisputed statement that being disabled in Pakistan constructs a special set of problems that too with class and gender variations due to inherent ability of our social and governance systems to create access to architecture and attitudinal barriers and complicate simple issues and vice versa.
Heartrending- could be the politest word that can be used to comment on casual approach towards information about disabilities and disabled country in a country that has faced severe natural disasters in last 7-8 years.
The dearth of data rather absence of data in public records about disabled people also reflects insensitivity towards the issue of disability at the State level. In humanitarian settings (I have personally witnessed it when I was in many of the affected areas after earthquake in 2005 and floods in 2010 and 2011) the absence of age and sex disaggregated information further jeopardize the quandary of disabled people.
This melancholy translates into anxiety when empathetic researchers and development practitioners find outsized mismatch in the legislation and policy frameworks for the disabled and the prevailing truth or ground realities. In the wake of the United Nation’s year of Disabled in 1981, Pakistan enacted the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance 1981 for the benefit of disabled persons.
Pakistan also has a National Policy for Persons with Disabilities (2002) and National Plan of Action (2006). The country signed Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and its Optional Protocol on 25 September 2008; and Ratified Convention on 5 July 2011.The Pakistan Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 and the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 2008 are currently being formulated (Pakistan 2009). In 2012 the Sindh assembly has passed this bill.
According to the official records this legislation primarily provides guidelines and sets out implementation policies, including those previously adopted by NGOs. The Ordinance established the National Council and Provincial Councils whose main tasks are to formulate and implement policies. Oversight rests with the National Council. The primary focus lies on government administered disability assessment, job referral system, employment exchange, and training/rehabilitation programs partly funded through a tax levied on employers for not meeting the hiring quota. Covered are employers with more than 100 employees. The provisions of the Ordinance govern employment and rehabilitation, training, funding, and administrative processes.
In actuality disabled people are not only subjected to subtle forms of discrimination and stigmatization at individual and collective levels but there are unabashed kinds of unfairness towards the people with disabilities.
One does not need to conduct an in-depth research study to identify these inequalities and injustices. All one needs is to just take a pause and look around with compassion and understanding. One will find that here are roads with no special arrangement for them, traffic signals do not support visually impaired, nearly all buildings even in big cities including many academic institutions, technical and aid agencies do not have provision of ramp, most of the web sites by the public, private and nonprofit organizations are not disabled friendly.
In a society that was systemically made retarded in terms of intellectual growth in the dark regime of the military dictator Zia and that is currently characterized by terrorists, bigotries, educated ones in leadership positions reluctant to revisit centuries old traditions and power structure supporting religious interpretations there are rare if any avenues of entertainment in public spaces. In a stifling scenario where the rich and mighty can follow any code of conduct in their private and public lives; where the poor have yet to be entitled to any entertainment and middle class have yet to reclaim morality in the pleasure it becomes almost unimaginable that the disabled especially those from poor and middle classes in general and women and girls in particular experience extra brunt on mind, body, heart and soul.
Amidst the mushroom growth of no profits only a handful of NGOs are trying to ease out the difficulties of disabled people in Pakistan. Gender, over the years has evolved as funding puller thematic area but gender perspectives in the area of disability with the consciousness of local realities are yet to be cracked in Pakistan.
Broadly speaking the usual level of vigilance even among the duty bearers on International normative framework on women and girls with disabilities is much less than the required.
As a perpetual awakened dreamer activist as well I hope and pray that our media would give due importance to long neglected issues of people with disabilities and that too with gender sensitivity and responsiveness. This cannot happen in vacuum. Not only those in the corridors of power have to internalize the fact that they are public representatives and that too of an economically poor nation and not fashion icons but also a paradigm shift in the editorial policies is needed. Enthusiastic young journalists must be trained to frame the right questions and dare to go beyond in-depth analysis of appearance and accessories of women legislators.
The need of the hour is to take speedy steps for including the disabled people and their issues in mainstream development initiatives and discourse rather than legitimizing their traditional exclusion in socio-economically and political realms within the hollow context of special needs for special people. It is needless to emphasize the urgent need of legislation on mainstreaming the rights of the disabled people.

The writer is a gender and social development expert based in Islamabad
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to be or not be

July 28th, 2013

published in the spokesman on 27 July 2013
Dr.Rakhshinda Perveen

Let me begin with a confession right at the onset- for the first time in my twenty years of work and activism on different dimensions of gender and as someone who always advocate the inclusion and acknowledgment of women and girls in nontraditional sectors I am clearly confused now.

The origin of this confusion lies in my diverse experiences in South Asia and training in some European academia in the areas of peace building and conflict resolution . However, the symptomatic manifestation of my ‘clear confusion” owes its existence to an excellent story by Reuters about Pakistan’s first combat-ready woman fighter pilot, 26 years old Ms.Ayesha Farooque.

When I read the story I instantly felt very proud of her and the influx of newsfeed on my face book pages that shared the link of this story made me convinced that this is the epic of empowerment for a woman in Pakistan in general and specially for women/girls from humble backgrounds in our class studded society where absence of merit is normative. This was followed by the photos of the first Afghan woman pilot in their Air force.

My analytical mind refused to remain in the suddenly emerged ecstatic state not only because my piercing eyes noticed that a good number of the comments on social media were focused on the tender appearance of woman fighter pilots but also because of the flight of my inquisitive mind in some harsher terrains of analysis.

What I comprehended is that our bold and brilliant daughter Ayesha is now trained to carry out active combat missions in her Chinese-made F7PG fighter jet, a variant of the Soviet MiG21. What does this entail? In times of need she would be supposed to demonstrate her feat and use the aircraft to perform ground attack missions and also undertake the point air defence. She and rest of her four colleagues (who are currently being trained) would be given the task of attacking like their male counterparts. This is their job and they are supposed to be trained to deliver with passion and determination. So this denotes that being trained as combat pilot is not about looking great in uniform and attracting media- it is serious work.

Do I need to remind that if these women pilots are ever required for performing their duties it would be most probably against an enemy country so by no means it would be a ‘friendly match”.

Around the globe women have been used as instruments of wars. There is documented evidence that men in Uniform have raped unarmed civilian women in war and conflict situations. In many cultures and subcultures women have been used as a commodity to settle dispute. In times of disasters women and girls have been traded off. The women in military face sexual assaults within their units. Researchers at Iowa University US found that 79 percent of participants reported experiences of sexual harassment during their military service; 30 percent of the women reported an attempted or completed rape. The unfair saga of disempowering and dishonouring fair sex is endless but it requires an empathetic eye to register and recognize this all.

What is the degree and duration of empowerment for women in the military and that too in combat ones? I am not aware of set of rules regarding women in frontline in military of Pakistan but my desk review could not find any committee on gender perspectives like the one NATO has. I could not find any data regarding national and international laws of dealing Muslim and Pakistani women combats if they become prisoners of war.

The queries about patriarchal culture, resistance by men and even women against skilled and brainy women, ego shocks, gender subordination etc.etc. are not in my radar as these are yet to be answered and in some cases raised even in civilian setups of traditional sectors.

Pakistan is an interesting country-a country riddled with contrasts and contradictions-a country that has Nuclear power but no electricity a country that has filthy rich rules but empty treasury a country where a woman was elected twice as the Prime Minister but where a vast majority of women are still illiterate, economically disadvantaged and victim of male friendly interpretations of laws ,culture and religion the inclusion of women in a nontraditional sector like combat military without guarantying social security and enabling environment could be too costly in non-monetized terms.

I do not have any position on this issue as yet and that is why I began by declaring myself clearly confused.

In a futile attempt to end my confusion I tried to look for answers through examining policies and practices in US where women make up 14% of the 1.4 million active military personnel. It was only in 2013, that Pentagon revised its policy and lifted the ban on combat positions for women. When the ban was intact I found the following opinion very realistic.

“The nation’s pride in our military women does not justify assignments in direct ground combat, which involves more than the experience of being in danger, or even the risk of ambush….. At times, we have no choice about sending young men to war, but we do have a choice when it comes to sending young women. Changing that would be a mistake…” this was the opinion of Ms.Elaine Donnelly, President, Center for Military Readiness a US based independent, nonpartisan public policy organization that specializes in military/social issues and advocates high, single standards in all forms of military training and sound priorities in the making of military/social policies in a New York Times story in 2007.

Now that the ban is over a story carried out by the army times in US quoted an official as saying thatChanging the policy will cause few problems. A few troops won’t like it, but most have seen women deployed and accept it already. It’s likely to have the same effect as the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the policy that allowed gays and lesbians to serve but required them to hide their sexuality.”The effect of that?” the official said. “A big zero.”

Writer is a gender expert and an activist

My sheroes from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

July 11th, 2013

My sheroes from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Friday, 05 July 2013 00:00
Written by The Spokesman

Published in Opinion

ByDr.Rakhshinda Perveen
Today I am going to introduce two girls from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who have become my heroes since 2012. Those of you who are conversant with them should take my introduction as reintroduction. They did get attention in the press but for a very short period. Neither their magnitude of miseries nor the degree of their resilience was duly acknowledged. Their real strengths were never put in the right perspective. They never caught the attention of the international community and they are not in the limelight for reasons, best known to the movers and shakers in the industry of media, politics, child rights & women rights based non profits and donors including UN agencies. I am sharing their stories with an integration of empathy and facts.
My first shero is ‘Wajeeha’. She is living with courage and every day she demonstrates self esteem. She is now 11 years old. She lives in one of the most conservative areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that is known as Tangea, in district Charsaddah and works’ though International laws do not allow her to work. I read about her in esteemed English daily as the country’s first female rickshaw driver implying that she drives a vehicle with six persons aboard. She has to remain culturally correct as well so she drives while wrapping herself in a chaddar/shawl. Is not it ironical that she was showcased as the youngest Pakistani and probably only rickshaw driver (as if she is doing this as a show to be acknowledged by the Guinness book of world record?). Her father a Frontier Core veteran lost his both legs while fighting against militants in Swat and who somehow decided to buy a 3-wheeler rickshaw instead of contacting any foreign and or local media to fight with his new circumstances. She was 9 years old then and she decided on her own to support her father and her family.
She goes to school as well and like world renowned Ms.Malala Yosufzai (age 16 years), our girl from Swat, a Nobel peace prize nominee- who has made us all anti Taliban Pakistanis proud, this little wizard too is a lover of education. Her name is ‘Wajeeha’ literally meaning beautiful. Indeed you are a beautiful person within and without. I hope and pray for a beautiful life for you in future.
Following are some verses by renowned feminist Pakistani poet Ms.Kishwar Naheed from her poem ‘we sinful women’. “It is we sinful women who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns, who don’t sell our bodies, who don’t bow our heads, who don’t fold our hands together.”
Meet Ms.Uzma Ayub from Krak of Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Karak is said to be the single district in Pakistan which is inhabited by only one tribe of Pashtun, the Khattak. Karak is one of the most literate districts in the province and the Khattaks are considered most literate and most liberal among Pashtuns. I am refraining from drawing any iota of attention towards PTI and its chief Minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as my story is about Uzma.
At the tender age of 15, she was abducted and gang- raped allegedly by policemen. She got pregnant and I learnt through e-activism that “she wants to retain the child, pro-life advocates won and instead of observing a confidential therapeutic abortion, all tycoons of private TV Channels adopted an unwritten policy of turning their cameras to the pregnant victim. A strong imagination is needed to visualise the journey of this girl and her poor family in the given contexts of conservatism, absence of rule of law and culture of victim-bashing. Despite threats she managed to seek legal aid. But it had cost her 24 years old brother got killed in outside premises of the court in 2011 on 10 December (ironically the international human rights day). She gave birth to a girl in 2012 and that time she became camera delight and her nightmare was then newsworthy. Finally she failed to seek justice from the court because the ‘DNA” did not match with the alleged party and it is obvious that Justice is blind and works through evidence. According to a published report by Equality Now, ‘The court found that the DNA test results of Uzma’s baby did not match the men implicated in the gang-rape. In addition, it ordered Uzma to undergo multiple lie detector tests and found the results inconclusive.”
This however is not relevant how evidence is provided, lost and or manipulated. My several queries directed at many concerned human rights activists, ending violence against women and girls forums remain unanswered or the responses were unsatisfactory (at least my limited pragmatism could not accept those answers). Following initial ceremonial gestures from the civil society and public sector no attention is being paid to this courageous but unfortunate girl. This girl is my shero because she is a super “failure.” Mukhtaran Mai of Jatoi, Southern Punjab, Pakistan and the internationally recognized victim turned survivor of gang rape also could not seek justice from the court but at least she made the world wept for her and sought material and monetary support. But my sheroe is……!
My civilian salutes to both of you .You are among the very few genuinely bravest kid girls, I happened to know. Even though, to me courage is something that is within and it does not need support of media, facebook likes, NGOS’ support, street activism and ceremonial gestures etc.etc. I still get puzzled and pessimistic on fathoming your suffering.
I have taken a risk of being misjudged by certain liberals by quoting Ms.Malala Yousufzai and Ms. Mukhtaran Mai, but I have done it with the hope to command the attention of those who matter so that my sheroes may get some relief if not compensation, foreign Visas, etc. though I understand that the probability of earning personal attacks is much higher than the former. However, I would not hide my failure to understand the difference in the fate of victims? I do not want to involve God in such matters but does this mean that one has to be “lucky” even in mishaps and tragedies especially if someone is from a society that is characterized by silence on violence and selective activism and a State that has yet to assign priorities to such issues and ensure that adequate laws, effective systems and incessant rule o law are in place?

The wirter is a gender expert
and activist

’A non-diplomatic outlook published in the spokesman Wednesday, 10 July 2013 00:00

July 11th, 2013

Dr.Rakhshinda Perveen-’A non-diplomatic outlook

published in the spokesman Wednesday, 10 July 2013 00:00

Dr.Rakhshinda Perveen-’A non-diplomatic outlook

Published in Columnists

Women: the name is ‘peace-building’

The role of women in peace building, as a subject matter is quite in vogue these days, especially among the political and civil society. However, it has yet to be settled that whose cup of tea is it and whose constituency is it? Conventionally, the focus and connected multidimensional themes of it remains confined to the certain academic institutions and are also made visibly invisible by the iron curtains of security related military and semi civilian institutes.
What is peace? What is peace building? What are and should be the acceptable and ethical rules of engagement? Who are or should be the stakeholders? Should this be donor driven and or donor dependent or should it arise from grass roots with an innate sense of ownership while partnering with international community of experts and technical and aid organizations? Whether or not these larger than life queries are fully and satisfactorily answered it remains a fact that a substantial number of players in political, International donors, UN and Non profits systems are currently functional and operational in Pakistan on the very issue of peace building.
Barring few exceptions of genuinely interested and specialist ones a particular breed of ‘connoisseur’, have surfaced as self styled custodians of the complex spectrum of peace building within the country as well as in specific connection with India and Afghanistan. Alongside it appears that a concealed lash subsists between the merely passion driven ones and perpetually power hungry groups (I have simply classified the broader categories of players).
Notwithstanding the loopholes, biases and oversights the positive aspect of this entire state of affairs is that a number of socially conscious and amply qualified women and feminist men with specialization in various branches of learning of media, research, disasters and development are taking the lead.
A very effective instrument that is being used by a credible international organization, Search for Common Ground’s Pakistan office is working on the issues of peace building through youth and media. Amongst notable local organizations the Peace, Education and Development (PEAD) foundation is employing a series of policy dialogues with different layers and levels of stakeholders. Engaging the parliamentarians has also been observed in various initiatives. It is wished that 100 new faces in the current assembly and re- elected old ones would not focus on excursions in foreign tours but would really concentrate on their capacity building in connection with such initiatives where a considerable amount of resources is allocated to exposure visits of parliamentarians (high profile aka well connected and agenda setting TV anchors are also included in the list).
While these and other related efforts are result oriented but just as it took women rights movement to reap some of the fruits of their struggle in the form of seven pro women laws only in the last seven to eight years it would take at least sometime for establishing the connection of women in Pakistan with peace building.
Striving for intra or inter regional peace can never be successful, if it is viewed from a military lens only and efficacy of people to people prism is not apprehended. People to People contacts clasps small and medium sized traders especially women entrepreneurs (there are eight registered women’s chambers in Pakistan with an approximate membership of over 2,000 women entrepreneurs and business owners). One does not need to be an expert to forecast where the future of foreign policy lies or what is the magical glue that binds people and ultimately the states? Yes it was, it is and it would remain the economical ties.
And let me further unpack ‘People to People’, it includes poorest of the poor, slum dwellers, women farmers and laborers, youth from rural areas and urban middle classes.
This qualification should not be equated as exclusion of the technocrats and elites of different leagues.
The inclusion of non-elites and lesser children of God would facilitate transfer of empathy and put real issues like poverty, lack of health, education, livelihood opportunities and basic minimum needs at the centre of the stage. Hopefully, it would compel the earthly authors of our destinies to admit that peace is the only inevitable condition that needs to be fulfilled before channeling development funds and erecting development programs and projects in public, private and voluntary sectors.
It may initiate the deconstruction of victimhood and inherent folly of the patriarchal mindsets and structures of power to deny the inclusion of women in healing war torn societies and the outcome hopefully would see women as effective negotiators and decision makers too.

The writer is a freelancer

My Body MY BOUNDARIES

May 31st, 2013

Why  do we need “religion” in womens’ issue?
Is abortion halal is contraception halal
is dna test credible in a rape case ask council of Islamic ideology
I do not need even Ghamdi and likes to advocate
my case it is my body my life my control my ownership-
religious scholars pro or anti women start thinking about issues other than women like sales of arms does Bible,

,Quran   etc. endorse it? Like IFIs—– how legitimate r these institutions  are.

It is

My body

My boundaries

i do not need clergy to solve my issues

to determine my choices

ps: I believe in a God/Divine who is not at all bothered about womens’ chastity.

HerStory by Dr.Rakhshinda Perveen (5 April 2013) Islamabad, Pakistan

April 15th, 2013

HerStory by Dr.Rakhshinda Perveen (5 April 2013)
Islamabad, Pakistan
I am a perpetual dreamer -an awakened dreamer. My HerStory begins with me. I am a woman, a divorced mother, mother of an intelligent daughter , a woman rights activist, a gender practitioner, a teacher, a media person, a violence victim turned survivor and I also work with non profits as an empathetic professional and leader who believes in power and relevance of vision, participation and ethics.
———————————————————————————————————-
In 1999 ( that was literally the last century) when I returned from Amsterdam with a good degree in Public Health from KIT and a flattering rating of my thesis “Men: partners not masters-towards gender equity in family planning in Pakistan” I was “high’.

I was lucky to realize too soon that the world is not waiting for likes like myself to bring the mad house in order and there is no magical wand that would transform all Cinderellas into Princess.

However, I kept this revelation to myself and with a non-ending naivety seen as my passion I started to work with communities through a newly formed an indigenous non-profit.

What happened then? At that point I recognized four biases ; age bias ( I was young), class bias ( I belong to a middle class educated family), gender bias ( I am woman and a divorced mother ) and ethnicity bias( I come from a family that faced two migrations) that can work against me and become an absolute barrier. To convert barriers into bridges I made certain transformations. At the personal level I gave up painting my face ( as a TV anchor I became used to pan caked appearance) and at the professional front I heavily concentrated on developing advocacy and coalition skills while raising self tolerance for negative criticism and organizational politics. I do not claim that visible concrete bridges came into being but even if they were hanging ones the outcomes remained in the interest of the organization that eventually emerged as a success story (my interpretation of success is beyond the idea of receiving any international award or gaining attention of the donors only).

Diagnosing a problem without sophisticated tests and identifying the issues in the complex spectrum of SRH without relying on the visions developed elsewhere was an uphill task that also earned me animosity and anonymity both.

Some immediate gains included: revival of the Urdu alternative of the word gender in development sector of Pakistan, airing a TV series on RH issues with gender lens from the state owned restrictive PTV that initiated a discourse on gender, rights and SRH in local perspectives, producing a bi lingual book on Islam and Reproductive Health, working directly with youth, adolescents and social gate keepers in some difficult and remote areas of Pakistan mostly without the funds of the international donor agencies and generating interest in the area of RH among University graduates as may be verified by the fact that some of the most prominent names among young leaders on RH and gender in Pakistan either started their careers from SACHET and or have been mentored somewhere through the fora of SACHET.

My perspective is that non elites and especially women have only two choices; either to continue to enjoy the convenience of subordination or be ready to pay the cost of empowerment. My ability to remain an awakened dreamer and readiness to evolve bring uniqueness `to my perspectives that include belief in the power of media, research based activism and advocacy, creativity , social inclusion, challenging the status quo without confrontation and social entrepreneurship.

Ps: I am still travelling on the bumpy roads of development

pre election thoughts by an activist dreamer Rakhshinda

March 30th, 2013

Our system allows the rich Not to pay taxes (thanks to no land reforms and an anti poor taxation system) and not so rich Not to contest the elections.
Even if a non elite , honest and intellectually strong patriotic Pakistani wishes to contest the ELECTIONS the cost minimalist prescription by the good doctor aka the EC (ANamount of PKR 1.5 M IN CANDIDATE’s freshly opened bank amount) and the condition of a constituency (likeelsewhere) set an invisible but unbreakable barrier for non pragmatic awakened dreamers like me.

Since dreaming, thinking and blogging are yet to be cognizable crimes or taxable entities I am doing so.

I dream I think of a country where there is a system of election in which any honest and intellectually strong person who has the ability to use empathy lens while analyzing the problems in social,economic and political contexts can CONTEST the elections with virtually NO MONEY. Where people who support such persons can cast their votes irrespective of the constituency.
I envision an assembly where the elected representatives are equally sensitive for all geographical areas and all people. where ethinicity, failth, bradri, tribe, clan becom immaterial and irrelevant.

I think while continue to dream to allocate only certain seats (say equal to the number of districts in acountry) where a man and woman preferably with personal strengths rather than with strong surnames).

i dream I think since there is NO SPACE FOR NON ELITES like me even in the so called free and fair mainstream electronic & print media I blog

VIEW : In praise of capital punishment — Dr Rakhshinda Perveen

March 2nd, 2013

Saturday, January 05, 2013

VIEW : In praise of capital punishment — Dr Rakhshinda Perveen

The death penalty in the specific social, economic and political context of Pakistan should not be seen as a desire or urge for revenge What should be the approach of the advocates and activists for women’s rights and gender mainstreaming in a society like ours where vulgar display of wealth (ill gotten wealth most often) and power are normative and where people are respected for their positions not strengths? The question has always been in my mind at different stages and phases of my career spanning over 20 years in the social development sector of Pakistan and some other countries in the patriarchal belt of South Asia.

I am speedily isolating myself from the ‘Ivy league’ of renowned activists and donor-dependent and donor-driven non-profits in Pakistan for the past two years on recognising the blatant discord between the idealism reflected in glossy reports in immaculate English and the practice of most of the key players in the sector. Therefore I do not intend to lament such successful players, as life has taught me that it is futile to question the process and ethics as pragmatism and popular wisdom are satisfied readily and conveniently by the product and obvious tangible gains.

However, what still bothers me and despite training my mind to become almost silent, I do question the relevance and effectiveness of some emerging trends, voices and demands in civil society (precisely speaking only some selected NGOs) that are being disseminated through different channels and media forums as the collective vision of the entire civil society of Pakistan.

One such riddle is the issue of capital punishment for crimes (this is the only available word but that too is inadequate)to define the trauma, pain, stakes, notions of honour and much more associated with specified acts like rape, gang rape, incest, child sexual abuse and acid attacks.

It is indeed an excruciating experience for me to read and hear the apologetic perspectives and philosophies of some of the recognised champions of human rights, women’s rights and child rights defenders not to promote the idea of the death penalty for the perpetrators of such crimes. Although the cost (social, emotional, psychological and physiological, not only for the direct victim as well as for the entire family) of those cannot be measured quantitatively but is definitely too high.

The opponents of the death penalty for such criminals are usually very well educated and belong to the elite classes of Pakistan or international technical and aid agencies working for Pakistan on issues of violence against women, girls and children (and who are mostly perceived as secular and liberal). They suddenly fit in a humane approach in the discourse on this issue while claiming in the same breath that they are not sympathetic to the criminals. Interestingly, if not ironically, they do not hesitate in quoting the holy books like the Quran, Bible and Gita for their pro-life arguments and that too inappropriately. Since I am not a religious scholar I would not comment on the teachings of these great books on such horrific episodes but my limited knowledge of religions makes me wonder why one needs to consult religion only when it comes to disadvantaged people, especially women and girls? Why are these guides not considered when wars are waged, bombs are dropped and or manufactured, arms are sold, nations are colonised, and harsh economic policies are adopted against poor countries by IFIs and so on and so forth.

Life is not black and white. It is pertinent to comprehend the grey areas and look for the context-appropriate options. It remains a fact that the efficacy of the law as an instrument of social change that in principle entails two interrelated processes, namely the institutionalisation and the internalisation of patterns of behaviour, is an established phenomenon in contemporary times. Still it is important to keep on reminding oneself that it is imperative not to see a law for the capital punishment for the murderers and perpetrators in rape, abuse and acid attacks as a magic recipe.

The death penalty cannot and will not put an end to such abuses/crimes/offences/acts of violence. Still, I insist and urge all movers and shakers in civil society and the legislative branches in Pakistan to adopt capital punishment for rapists, acid attackers and child abusers because this law is relevant in our society that has a very complex notion of honour and poor structures of governance. The death penalty in the specific social, economic and political context of Pakistan should not be seen as a desire or urge for revenge. This law, far from being a reflection of societal realities, might be a powerful means of accomplishing reality — that is of fashioning it or making it. It will definitely set a precedent in our society where the law is not only the darling of the accused but the rule of law is nothing but a fairytale that has yet to be translated into a living reality, where poor parents of rape victims as young as six years have to ‘forgive’ the perpetrators and justice for a vast majority of the masses is a product to be dispensed only on the Day of Judgment.

The writer is a non-elite gender expert, a violence victim
turned survivor and Legislative Fellow US (2012)

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C01%5C05%5Cstory_5-1-2013_pg3_4

Newsworthy

December 1st, 2012

newsworthy

There are  many women who are

continuously wounded

everyday by the

unfairness of the society

by the bigoted mindsets

by the selective liberalism

by the stigma so cleverly wrapped up in the guises of cultural values & family honour

Everyday these over aged never married women or divorced women or abandoned wives or disabled women in Pakistani society who are tax payers as well —-who are supporting their families..are WOUNDED BY UNSEEN BULLETS
………………… NO MINISTRY NO NGO NO EMBASSY NO DONOR OUTFIT NO TV CHANNEL NO NEWSPAPER NO RADIO GIVE THEM ANY ATTENTION ANY GOLD MEDAL
Because
these
unattractive single women
R NOT NEWSWORTHY