Words of Wisdom From Northern Pakistan
Half the Sky is a movement dedicated to raising awareness to women’s issues around the world such as sex trafficking, forced prostitution, gender based violence, female genital mutation, and many others. My friends and I have started a chapter here at Wayne State where we work to raise awareness regarding these issues by conducting presentations in local high schools and to different groups. We also make efforts to alleviate the situation in our own city by volunteering our time to non-profit organizations dedicated to helping high-risk women and girls.
I was volunteering at Alternatives For Girls where I met a young Pakistani woman by the name of Benish Irfan. I was so excited to meet a fellow Pakistani who was visiting Detroit and immediately welcomed her. She is from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), in Northern Pakistan, an area where woman are unfortunately very mistreated. She began to tell me what brought her to Alternatives For Girls; she was doing an internship here, and is CEO of a non-profit organization called Woman’s Concerns Organization. Moved by her efforts, I invited her to come speak to Half the Sky and BuildOn (WSU student orgs) about her story and organization. Her speech left everyone in tears. Benish is from a village in FATA and issues like gender-based violence and honor killings are the norm there. She herself said that we all have heard about what Malala Yousufzai has been through, but in FATA “there are so many Malalas”. She started her non-profit simply because she was tired of seeing this injustice and wanted to help her own people. The girls she trained and help protect, she has known her entire life. The part that left everyone in tears was when she talked about a girl who was her neighbor that was kidnapped and raped by her cousin and his friends. When she was able to return home, her family thought that no one would marry her because she had lost her innocence. As a result, her brothers and father electrocuted her to death because they felt that she was the cause of the loss of the family’s honor. In tears she states, “These are not stories for me, this is my reality”, she said, “she had so much potential – but was killed by her own family for no absolute reason and her potentials were put to an end”. Benish stressed to us so many times, “You are so lucky to have this opportunity to receive an education so easily. You are really very lucky, we do not have this”.
Listening to her for this one hour gave me so much. There are girls like myself in Pakistan and so many other places around the world that have so much potential to learn, become educated and successful in their lives, and they are just longing for opportunity. I have abundant opportunities at Wayne State University to be the best student I can be. I hope to become very successful one day and reach my full potential, in honor of all the girls who are not able to reach theirs.