PESHAWAR, March 8: ‘Bal zama pe zrah de meenay aur dey, kho dunya kala pohegi’ (the fire of love is burning in my heart but alas! the world I am living in doesn’t understand me).
These are a few lines from a famous Pashto song that some young victims of domestic abuse sang at a function held in connection with International Women’s Day here at the government-run ‘Half-Way House’, a shelter home for women in crisis, on Friday.
The song originally sung by famous Ghazala Javed, who was killed last year allegedly by her husband, spoke about how women facing domestic violence feel in a violent society.
Wearing colourful clothes, the girls were just singing the song for fun but it showed how much they loved life but were forced to live in a shelter fearing for life after leaving home to avoid abuse.
The function was organised in connection with the International Women’s Day by the provincial women’s development department to raise awareness among survivors of violence of their rights, said Rakhshanda, in charge of ‘Half-Way House’.
The UN’s theme for International Women’s Day for the year 2013 is ‘a promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.’
The women in crisis, who are provided psycho-social rehabilitation, legal aid and lodging at the facility until they reunite with their families, unanimously emphasised that the society should stop violence against women, especially at domestic level, as it shattered lives of other members of the family.
18-year-old Saima (name changed on request) was among singers and residents of Half-Way House, who had just been trying to have some fun on International Women’s Day.
She is from Afghanistan and married at the age of 12.
The mismatched marriage didn’t work as she said she was afraid of her aged, abusive husband. Now that she had left home to avoid domestic violence, she is faced with death threats from her own family.
“Are we not human beings that men beat us,” asked Saima while appealing to men not to mistreat women.
Provincial minister Sitara Ayaz, who was the chief guest on the occasion, said the day was special for women, who had faced violence and still surviving in a violent society.
She said women as mothers could bring about a change if they brought up sons in such a way that they not only respected women in family but women in society, too.
“Father, brother, son and husband all these relations are sacred and women as mothers, daughters, sisters and wives have great responsibility as well as rights in society,” she said.
Despite the theme being a serious one, the function was lively as women expressed their feelings freely in songs and poetry about the women’s situation in society.
Some girls, residents of Half-Way House, in their speeches expressed how girls had been considered a burden by their families since their childhood but expressed how they could change their fortune by getting education.
Qainat said education would give women a voice and would make them strong.
Shehla, in her Pashto poetry, depicted the situation of women in Pakhtun society, where, she said, men sometimes in the name of religion and at times in the name of culture suppressed women, kept them deprived of education, freedom of movement, freedom to adopt a profession of their own choice and freedom to live life of their own.
She was of the view that without the women’s empowerment, society could not progress as women were like a wing, if it was broken, the society could never reach the heights of progress and prosperity.