Zeenat Khan
Zeenat Khan

PESHAWAR: A young woman rights activist has recently earned an international award for producing a short film titled ‘She stood against religious extremism’ for the year 2022, sponsored by US-based organisation ‘Empowerment Women Media’ (EWM).

It was the fifth annual event conducted under the EWM. The winning short film will be screened at the International Religious Freedom (IRF) summit in Washington DC in October this year.

Zeenat Khan, a resident of Malakand, was given cash prize of $3,000 in a ceremony held recently in Islamabad for participating in the ‘Women Empowerment and Religious Freedom Film competition’. She has been working on women rights and interfaith harmony for the last 12 years. She is also the founder of Gender Lens, a youth forum for women rights.

“Young women can make effective use of digital media to bring about a substantive societal change. Women and children are mostly victims of violence. They should come forward to contribute positively to society by promoting interfaith harmony,” she told this scribe.

Zeenat Khan’s film will be screened in Washington in October

Zeenat Khan said after doing Masters in journalism more than a decade ago from University of Peshawar, she decided to utilise her skills for addressing social issues related to interfaith, youth and religious minorities. It was an uphill task but she embarked upon the journey despite family restrictions.

After having settled in Peshawar, she said that she initiated a project to launch a dialogue between different religious communities to reconnect them for a peaceful community life as it was before. She said that she came to know that before the wave of militancy and extremism in the city and elsewhere in the country, religious minorities used to live a peaceful life.

“Extremism bred hatred among communities to the extent that they stopped to attend festivals arranged by next door neighbor. Mutual respect and love were replaced by hatred and animosity. I floated the idea of telling a story that should showcase the situation and it was approved by the jurists,” said Ms Khan.

Her short film is based on a true story of a young woman in a war-stricken region of Pakistan who initiates a dialogue by approaching every single religious community and holds sessions with youth and convinced them to work for peaceful coexistence.

“The remarks of EWM executive director and author of ‘The Muslims Next Door’ Shirin Taber about my short film that we were amazed to witness the creativity of Pakistani women filmmakers, such films have the potential to change the lives, mean a lot for me,” she said.

Ms Khan said that the basic theme of the short film was to promote interfaith harmony and counter sectarian violence through dialogue where influencers and youth were engaged in a friendly manner.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2022

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