The Global Neighbourhood for Innovation’s (GNMI) organised a seminar in Karachi on Friday to discuss, ‘Credibility, risk and legislative significance of the #MeToo movement in Pakistan.’ The event was part of GNMI’s project Lab Kushai which is a collaboration with Pakistan-US Alumni Network and the US Embassy. Lub Kushai project is launched as an innovative forum to create an open dialogue on gender sensitive reporting, challenges and opportunities, with the help of opinion leaders.
The discussion hosted many notable personalities as panellists including, TV legend Sahira Kazmi, Film and TV star Sana Fakhar, news anchor and media personality Uzma Alkarim, TV anchor Masood Raza, MPA Nusrat Sahar Abbasi, news anchor Mubashir Hashmi, Tasneem Ahmar of the Uks Research Centre, Singer and motivational speaker Ayesha Adil, and news anchor turned magazine editor Qurat ul Ain Iqrar.
Acting public affairs officer at the US Consulate in Karachi Stephan Valen said that harassment is an issue of human rights, security, health and economics, which in turn affected the society. He said:
“As half of the planet comprises women, they have the right to be treated equally. Harassing people is not normal and we need to create that awareness that society is not normal with such kind of issues existing within it. When [you] allow women to step up, your entire country steps up because when women succeed, society and nations succeed.”
MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi said, “A woman possesses a third eye through which she can sense how one sees them and what someone’s tone suggests. But it is seldom that she will do anything about it. The weaker ones would even choose to ignore, bury a matter completely or sweep it under the rug rather than come out and confront or raise a voice against such wrongs.”
Producer, director and actor Sahira Kazmi was of the opinion that it is pertinent to educate and make one’s children aware of the different forms of sexual harassment. She said:
“First they should know about it from parents, then schools, too, must explain such things to their pupils along with the media doing its bit about spreading awareness about the issues, people’s rights and also the laws such as the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace bill and other laws.”
About harassment at the workplace, Sahira Kazmi said:
“There are other things too that come into play such as jealousy of women who are excelling at their work. Professional jealousy also exists. So it is important to hammer gender equality in children from the start. Tell them that men and women are equal.
GNMI Founding President Najia Ashar, while talking about the project Lub Kushai, said:
“The goal is to increase the women’s voices into the mainstream media by providing them with a space to connect with the civil society because the movement had become pale in our society. Not only women but men were also a target of gender inequality as there had been cases of harassment with men. It was high time we raised our voices against any such cases.”
Broadcast journalist Uzma AlKarim shared her opinion:
“It is important it is to communicate to the harasser that what he or she is doing is ‘unwanted’ and ‘unwelcome’ because when you do file a complaint against them, you are also asked whether you told them that what they were doing was undesirable.”
Pointing at the issue of victim-blaming Sana Fakhar said that when a woman complained against harassment, she was seen as the one with the problem.
Tasneem Ahmer said:
“Victim-blaming is one of the major reasons that most of our women do not report their assault cases, and those women who want to speak out are being stopped by their families. It is extremely important to break the wall of silence to eliminate gender disparity.”
Broadcast journalist and magazine editor Qurat ul Ain Iqrar shared:
“I have seen girls being given difficult shifts at news channels or being harassed about transport. Such pressures also hurt their performance at work and with that, she also starts losing her confidence.”
TV and news anchors Mubashir Hashmi and Masood Raza also spoke at the event.