KARACHI: The research, resource and publication centre on women and media, Uks, which also works as a media monitoring, analysis and advocacy group, launched its 23rd annual diary here on Friday.

Each year, the Uks diary, a labour of love, focuses on a different theme, and this year’s theme quite appropriately happens to be ‘Women of Pakistan: Builders of a Post-Pandemic Nation’.

“Women, who are traditionally ‘seen’ as the ‘weaker sex’, are not expected to be the ones to rebuild nations after calamities of any kind. The fact that it is women who come forward to restore and are determined to build back better could not have been tried, tested and proven any better but during the global pandemic that is Covid-19. From front-line workers, who quickly stepped forward as soon as the pandemic hit us, to the women facing financial difficulties and isolation with the risk of domestic violence and exploitation, we have seen women emerge tough, determined and strong,” said director Uks at the Diary 2021 launch.

The diary examines pandemics from different angles. And it is not just about Covid-19 in Pakistan, but AIDS also. It was recalled at the launch how the government here woke up late to HIV/AIDS. It could spread though reuse of injection needles and from mother to child too but because of the issue of its spreading through sexual contact, it was a huge taboo to even speak about it in the 1990s.

Women of Pakistan: Builders of a Post-Pandemic Nation is a diary as well as a relevant publication that reminds one of the resilience that can be seen in people while fighting the current pandemic. Uks calls such women, who are not willing to ever give up, ‘sheroes’ because they have that extra something that proves them even better than heroes. For giving inspiration two such ‘sheroes’, who were able to turn negatives into positives, were invited as chief guests at the diary launch.

Sarah Saifi, who runs a women-centric digital films production house called Drama Queen, says that she wanted to tell the stories of strong women. “I have always been dramatic and hyper but hated it when my school fellows labelled me ‘drama queen’. But then after studying film-making and production, I decided to call my first venture by the same name that once used to get to me,” she laughed.

The second ‘shero’ was Maria Mushtaq of Wellness Food Processing Pvt Ltd who managed to change her fortunes in five different ways in 2020, the year others would like to forget about. “Since my friends and I noticed that there were too many taxes on pet food, I started my own pet food business in March. Today, we have 60 stores in Karachi, Hyderabad and Islamabad. Then since I had taken on the responsibility of educating three kids, I couldn’t give up and kept pushing myself to earn. So I started making dumplings and have now a frozen foods business as well,” she said.

And that’s not all. Maria also started planting organic vegetables for selling on a portion of spare land her friend happened to have in Malir. As her fifth positive thing in 2020, she later even married the gentleman and as a result of that owns the farm now.  

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2021

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