Breaking Social Taboos in Pakistan

Khalida Brohi is a social entrepreneur leading the Sughar Women Program which is an initiative of PDI, a national organization in Pakistan. Sughar aims at ending the custom of honor killing by promoting beautiful traditions and by providing socio-economic empowerment to tribal women. At the age of 22, Khalida is a dedicated entrepreneur and winner of the Young Champion Award by University of Singapore, an Unreasonable Institute Fellow and the winner of the fellowship award by YouthActionNet®

Last year in summer I was in Boulder, Colorado for the Unreasonable Institute, a ten week institute also called a crash course for social entrepreneurs. For the initial weeks I was still trying to get over my cultural-shock + anxiety and confusion of being away from my home, away in America! The name of this country sometimes didn’t fit properly in our mouths back from where I am, where girls need to whisper names like these in each other’s ears because talking about or going to a foreign country is a social taboo for a girl.

My anxiousness hadn’t last much when after one of introductory community pitches of Unreasonable Institute I met Erin Weed. Handing me a copy of the GFB book she with great energy and enthusiasm said, “Hey! I would love to get to know more about you, we should hang out sometime!” In that very moment, I wasn’t exactly thinking about what she was saying…I was just awed at her poise, at her confidence and how she controlled herself. And once again waves of images flooded my mind of my friends back home and of my cousins who wouldn’t speak looking someone in the eye, who were supposed to be lean, shy and modest to be called good woman and who weren’t at all supposed to decide on meeting with someone may it be a female or a male. It was another social taboo.

All at once I figured that my cultural shocks aren’t finished yet, there is more to come and when one day Erin came zooming in her car and took me and Trina (another Unreasonable Fellow from India, doing some awesome work at Kranti) to the Flat Irons for a quick lunch and discussion about what we do and what she does at Girls Fight Back.

Finding out more about Girls Fight Back was like opening up doors for me to a new world, where women and girls weren’t objects, they were “human”, real tough humans and where they could defend themselves from violence and abuse! I was excited! I was actually overjoyed and had exclaimed that very moment, “I want to join you as a speaker”! For a while, with my silk Pakistani pink frock and bead-laced scarf around my head I felt my cheeks flush with the idea of kicking butt. But Erin had known that I could, and with her belief and my passion to bring back to Pakistan a part of Girls Fight Back for women and girls in local communities facing violence, abuse and harassment not only at homes but in public places, public transport, at workplaces and at recreational places.

My plans for bringing GFB to Pakistan integrated well with what we do at Sughar (English translation: Skilled and Confident Woman) where we provide women socio-economic empowerment via entrepreneurship, and social empowerment is the name of being able to defend oneself from violence!

So at this fantastic occasion of GFB 10th birthday, I thank Erin and GFB for helping us bring GFB to Pakistan and for giving us an opportunity to reach out to other girls and women in Pakistan which need to become girls who do fight back!  Happy Birthday!

Note from Erin: Khalida is the human embodiment of optimism. I often think of her contagious laugh as we drove around in my Beetle convertible last summer, with her gorgeous scarf blowing in the breeze! She will be a famous international leader someday, mark my words…oh wait, too late, she already is! Seriously Khalida, thank you and Trina for bringing our mission to women across the world. It’s a dream come true…

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