KARACHI: In coordination to the U.S Consulate’s 16 Days Activism Program, a session ‘Hear Me Too’ was conducted with a group of women at the Lincoln Corner addressing the issue ‘Why Women Don’t Speak’ when they come across any kind of harassment, especially sexual harassment.
Women attendees were from diverse backgrounds and were willfully present to speak and exchange on the topic – Why Didn’t I?
Safia Dost Mohammad, a Professional Psychologist shed light on the kinds of harassment women come across every day and yet don’t speak or challenge it. Taking it forward, she emphasized how positive self-talk can help women boost their confidence, personality and self-esteem to fight against any violence, abuse or harassment.
A group of 12 women discussed how they faced harassment in their primary years and never addressed it. However, have later witnessed personality clashes, confusion, self-doubt and low self-esteem for years.
An experienced digital marketer, having worked in Pakistan and the Middle East shared how her boss exploited her at the age of 18 by showing her a condom. She wasn’t aware of the product shown, all she realized was that the conversation wasn’t comfortable. The daunting part is that the person belonged to her own family. She still regrets the moment she chose to stay quiet while the memory haunts her even today.
Her quest is why men in Pakistan are more liberated and can get away with all their nonsense? Why parents don’t talk about good and bad touch with their children?
Another woman shared her story of an abusive marriage and how she was being exploited by her male colleague when she was on a verge of ending her relationship with her husband. Upon seeking help from one of the female colleagues, the victim had to go through the repercussions caused by the same male colleague as for why she dared to speak about it to anyone in her team.
Anne Vasquez, General Services Officer of the US Consulate says, It’s not just the women in Pakistan who shy away from speaking but it’s everywhere in the world. The #metoo movement is just a year old in the US and India. However, its time when women must speak and support each other.
After 10 years, I deeply regret the moment I didn’t react to the harassment even when it was obvious in all its truth. She often thinks why women don’t react and what stops them from speaking up, added Zahra Hajyanizr – works at the US Consulate.
Harassers tend to create a safe environment before they act or try to achieve their goals, says the psychologist. Therefore, it is very important to pay extra attention as to why and what changes are happening around.
The underlining issue that many of the attendees talked is about the ramifications of the voice if they had raised any. Had they been taken seriously? What proofs did they have? How would have the family reacted about the accusation against a close relative? Had their allegations affected their future?
Another girl discussed how she got engaged to the guy who used to sexually harass her in her childhood. She wasn’t able to bring the ugly secret to the table and had to tie the knot. However, she decided to break up with her fiancé before their wedding as she couldn’t tolerate the fact any further.
Many believe that the gender biased upbringing in Pakistan contributes to the unnecessary tolerance towards harassments. Girls are being taught to be more ladylike, humble and confined whereas, men are all open to make their independent choices in life.
The most jaw-dropping fact discussed by the panel is that women are expected to ignore and humour general harassment like catcalling, unwanted personal remark and humble body-rubs. It’s time when the bigger part must be addressed in each family – men must be taught to offer equal rights and respect to women at all levels.
The discussion ended on a healthy note; it’s never too late to stand against any kind of harassment. Whether it be mental, sexual, social or financial, harassment has to be taken seriously and addressed with the right volume in return.
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