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First HUM Women Leaders Award Celebrated At Karachi

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The inaugural edition of HUM Women Leaders Award held at the Governor House, Karachi, honoured and celebrated 11 iconic women from Pakistan and abroad and a dynamic man for their contributions and achievement in the fields of diplomacy, finance, social work, healthcare, adventure sports, human rights, journalism and women’s rights.

The awards ceremony was also attended by the dignitaries like Dr Arif Alvi, President Islamic Republic of Pakistan, HE Paul W Jones, US Ambassador to Pakistan, honourable consul generals, Governor Sindh Imran Ismail, other celebrated personalities and crème de la crème of the entertainment industry of Pakistan.

The event started with a note of thanks by Sultana Siddiqui, President HUM Network Limited to the President and the honourable guests for gracing the special evening. While addressing the attendees, Ms Siddiqui said, “The reason for this event is that we recognize the contributions made by women in society the world over, celebrate their stories, share the lessons they learned after crossing each milestone, and most importantly inspire the younger generation to go beyond these milestones.”

During her speech Ms Siddiqui also made a special announcement of Women Leadership Initiative Fund of HUM, collaborated by Charter of Compassion, which will be given to the award recipients to seed social initiatives for girls and women in the country. It will be one million rupees annual seed money and HUM and CFC will coordinate and facilitate the group in developing and implementing initiatives that are agreed upon by them.

Following Sultana Siddiqui, the US Ambassador to Pakistan Paul W Jones while addressing the attendees said, “United States is committed to giving equal opportunities to both men and women. Empowered women play a vital role in a country’s social and economic development.”

Chief Guest of the event, Dr Arif Alvi President of Pakistan said on the occasion, “From one fourth quota system for women in medical and engineering colleges back in the 80s to almost 80 percent representation of women in these institutions today, our nation has come a long way but only 10 percent of these women make it to the workplace. This needs to be changed. We have witnessed that when given the opportunity women work twice as hard as men.”

The first set of awards was hosted by actor Mira Sethi.  

The first award was presented to mountaineer Samina Baig, Pakistan’s first female mountaineer in recognition of her tremendous achievements in adventure sports and for her efforts towards gender equality, climate change and women empowerment, presented by Hina Bayat. The second award of the evening was given to Jalila Haider, the first female attorney of Hazara community by Sania Saeed in recognition of her selfless devotion and outstanding work to women and children’s rights with local communities. Barrister Khadija Siddiqi received her award from Mahira Khan in recognition of her bravery and determination to stand tall against a powerful and corrupt opposition and unsupportive society. The next recipient was Narges Abyar, the acclaimed Iranian film director who received her award from Madiha Saeed and Zeba Bakhtiar in recognition of her contributions for highlighting the plight of women and children caused by society, war and radicalism, and featuring female characters that rejected the gender norms expected of them.

The first segment of the awards was followed by a special performance of singing sensation Sajjad Ali and Zaw Ali, who enthralled the audiences with their soulful voices.

The second segment of the awards, hosted by Sanam Saeed commenced with Dr Fouzia Saeed receiving her award from the Italian Consul General Anna Ruffino and Javed Sheikh in recognition of her exemplary services for promotion of Pakistani culture, women’s issues, courageous stand against sexual harassment and commitment to women’s advancement. Ace actor Bushra Ansari was next to receiving her award from Asima Haq and Bunto Kazmi in recognition of her years of contributions to television and cinema. The next award was given to Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland and a forceful advocate for gender equality, women’s participation in peace-building and human dignity. She was unable to attend the event due to work commitments and addressed the attendees via a video message. Dr Seemin Jamali received the award in recognition of her outstanding services in the public sector and medical profession by Duraid Qureshi, CEO HUM Network

The second segment was concluded was ended with a choreographed act of Hania Amir.

The last segment of the ceremony hosted by Mira Sethi and Sanam Saeed together began with the first award presented to the only man awardee of the night, Omar Aftab, a globally recognized campaign strategist for women’s and child health, economic and social development and his work for social justice and human rights, presented by Masarrat Misbah. Zubeida Mustafa was next to receive her award from Governor Sindh, Imran Ismail for her contributions in the field of journalism and her in-depth investigations and campaigns on education, health care, women empowerment, children and human rights. The next award was given to Dr Shamshad Akhtar in recognition of her illustrious career in the male dominant field of finance where she became the first woman in Pakistan’s history to serve as Governor State Bank by the first lady Mrs Samina Alvi. The last award of the night was presented to Maleeha Lodhi for her brilliant diplomatic career and contributions in giving Pakistan a positive profile at the UN as Pakistan’s former Ambassador and Permanent Representative by President Hum Network Sultana Siddiqui.

The programme concluded with a special performance by Hadiqa Kiyani.

A special obituary package, paying tribute to all the iconic women of the past who have made a mark with their resilience and tremendous success, and are a source of inspiration for women and men around the world was also screened.

The awards ceremony will be televised on International Women’s Day on HUM globally. HWLA aims to recognize and honour the contributions and achievements of iconic women from Pakistan and around the world who are change makers in their respective fields and a symbol and source of hope, courage, determination and inspiration for women across the globe.

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Raaz-e-Ulfat Very Well Relates to a Pakistani Girl Living in a Strict Household

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Raaz-e-Ulfat is one of the latest dramas that has instantly struck a chord with masses owing to its relatable story-line and amazing performances by the remarkable cast. For the uninitiated, what exactly is the plot?

Putting it briefly, Mushk Iftikhar dreams of exploring the world outside her conservative house. She accomplishes her dream life to some extent when she comes across a friend in her university who introduces her to the colours of life. Though, little does Mushk know that Sehba secretly envies her simplicity and innocence and wishes to ruin her life.

Mushk’s life is somewhat a true depiction of most Pakistani girls belonging to strict households, and hence the show has become more interesting and connecting for the younger lot in Pakistan.

You can’t move a bone without your parent’s permission

Yes! Parent’s approval is mandatory in everything you do. You can’t study, sleep, eat, choose a career, go out, come late, etc. as per your own will. You can only breathe on your own… rest will depend on your parents’ will. Poor Mushk is in the same boat.

Privacy is a luxury you can never afford.

Mushk has got no private space in her house. She shares a room with her sister, like how it is usually in most households. Even when she is on a call with a friend, someone comes to inquire about the whereabouts of the caller. Privacy is indeed an out of the world thing for Mushk and others like her.

You have to be responsible like a grown-up, but you can never act like one.

Like Mushk, most Pakistani youth, particularly girls, are expected to grow up and take responsibilities but are not allowed to think that they have grown up in a literal way. Hence, you are always a bachi/ bacha who is bound to live by what your parents say.

Marriage is your ultimate goal in life

You dream about marriage and your khuwabon ka shehzada because that’s what your parents aim for you on completing your studies.

 

Modern Friends Are A Big No!

You cannot stay in touch with rich and modern friends as they are supposedly some spoilt kids who will definitely leave a bad influence on you.

 

 Dating someone is a big struggle!

Going out on a date is a real struggle yet you want to experience it despite knowing that if your parents find out, you are gone for life.

 

Since the very first episode, Raaz e Ulfat has turned every local TV drama trope on its head to offer a refreshingly new insight by subverting all the typical clichéd plot-lines of most local dramas, bringing forth such nuances that make the entire watching experience oh so relatable and befitting for people around us.

 

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Bunyad Foundation: Countering cerebral health issues with Mindcamp

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Mental health, despite holding paramount significance, is largely ignored in third world countries. With societal progression, the rise of the middle class, and a certain ‘tilt’ or ‘shift’ towards westernization, issues associated with mental health have started to exacerbate. According to recent studies, one of the biggest reasons behind suicidal tendencies or suicide itself is mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and other traumas, different phobias, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and other related disorders.

If we travel a few years back in time, mental health issues were unheard of in Pakistan, in fact, someone found complaining or discussing a mental health issue was either given a particular look or called out for being ‘overly-sensitive’. But over the past few years, things have changed drastically. Now, there are more and more people suffering from mental disorders and psychiatric consultations have increased considerably over time, but even now, a certain amount of people hesitate to seek psychiatric consultation.

The onslaught of Covid-19 has further aggravated the situation throughout the country, with people reporting severe cases of depression and anxiety amid continued lockdowns. It is pertinent to mention here that, although, the issues mentioned are usually associated with urban areas, but the situation in rural areas of Pakistan isn’t much different. Alarmingly, unlike popular opinion, that villages are happy-go-lucky people, even the village dwellers are unknowingly harnessing several mental disorders in this modern age.

In order to facilitate the underprivileged living in less developed, far-flung areas, the Bunyad Foundation in collaboration with Mind organization, has started organizing bi-monthly mind-camps in Hafizabad. The purpose of these camps is to provide free-of-cost facilities to underserved communities. Under these free camps, patients are provided free consultation, medicine and an intervention plan; that too free of cost.

Shaheen Attiq-ur-Rahman, Project Lead and founder of Mind Camp Bunyad, told us that, ‘rural folk suffers from the same mental disorders as more privileged people but often the intensity is greater. Most of the people do not have access to basic medication for relief. Since a lot of unhealed psychiatric disorders can lead to physical ill-health, rural folk face a double burden. At Mindcamp Bunyad, our mission is to give suffering villagers a chance at peace and to ease their task in life’.

It took some time, the involvement of Key Opinion leaders and sustained efforts to convince people to seek help for mental disorders and now there’s better awareness about these issues. In addition, the organization has been carrying out these activities for the past 9 years, by engaging experienced and trained mental health professionals, even in extreme weather, just for the betterment of the society. However, now, the number of mental health professionals offering services has dwindled, in fact, the patient-to-doctor/mental health professional ratio is discouraging.

In order for the unabated and unrestricted continuation of these services, and in order for better, sustained facility provision to the patients; financial backing is imminent, without which such a great initiative gradually might have to retreat. To facilitate the imperative service, Bunyad Foundation is playing a major role.

Get in touch with them to see how you can help.

For donations, please donate here.

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Quiet Women: on Surrealism, Beauty and the Female Voice

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Lahore based poet, editor and columnist, Afshan Shafi launched her first full-length poetry collection, ‘Quiet Women’ last month. Stocked at Readings, the collection is a unique all-female collaboration featuring the illustrations of acclaimed artists, Samya Arif (Pakistan), Marjan Baniasadi (Iran) and Ishita Basu Mallik (India).

TS Eliot award nominee and winner of the Forward Prize for Poetry, Vahni Capildeo termed ‘Quiet Women’ as one of the ‘new poetries emerging in the twenty-first century which are characterized by a ferocity that spans yet exceeds love and outrage, involvement and observation’.

 

 

‘Quiet Women’ is an exploration of form and linguistic artistry, propelled by a sense of creative freedom espoused by the surrealists and abstract artists. Inspired by the creations of both Eastern and Western female artists and writers this book is a tribute to women and the power of their collective voices. Afshan Shafi has studied English Literature and International Relations at The University of Buckingham and Webster Graduate School London. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Blackbox Manifold, Poetry Wales, Flag + Void, Luna Luna, Clinic, 3 am magazine, Ala Champ Magazine, and others. Her poems have also appeared in the anthologies, Smear (edited by Greta Bellamacina), The New River Press Yearbook and Halal if you hear me ( edited by Fatima Asghar and Salma Elhilo). Her debut chapbook of poems ‘Odd Circles’ was published by Readings (Pakistan) in 2014. For her work as a poet, she has been interviewed by Arte Tv (France) and Words Without Borders. As part of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan she has appeared on BBC (World), The Times (UK), and in The Economist’s culture magazine. She has also served as a poetry editor for “The Missing Slate” and is currently a senior contributing editor at Pakistan’s leading literary journal “The Aleph Review”. She also serves as an editor-in-chief for the online Pandemonium Journal, which is a platform for emerging creatives from Pakistan and abroad.

 

Inspiration to write this book: 

This is my first full-length collection and is a tribute to the panoply of female artists that continue to inspire me. From the creations of Iranian artist Farideh Lashai to the work of lesser-known poets like Veronica Forrest, there is a rich engagement with the work of these female trailblazers in ‘Quiet Women’. What makes the book different is its collaborative nature. Each artist I have collaborated with in ‘Quiet Women’ possesses something unique to their perspective. Samya Arif’s illustrations are defined by their bold and stylized detail. She thinks in an opulent manner. Marjan Baniasadi, hails from Iran and has studied at the NCA and her paintings are elegant, deeply intelligent and beautiful. Ishita Basu who lives in Calcutta, India, is a poet as well as an artist and there is such a yearning and melancholy to her creations. Their art complements my writing seamlessly in the book.

 

 

On how ‘Quiet Women’ came together

 

‘Quiet Women came together over a period of two years, where my poems were being frequently accepted by European magazines for publication. I decided to put together a collection of these poems with some newer verses with the intention to collaborate with artists for the final product. The titular poem of the collection ‘Quiet Women’ deals with the notion of female silence and the policing of a women’s language and her personal choices. For one reason or the other, this notion of ‘quietude’ had been drilled into me from an early age, and as I grew as a writer I started questioning all kinds of enforced silences, which in turn led me to critically examining all kinds of oppressive practices aimed at ‘containing’ the very agency of a woman. ‘Quiet Women’ as a book, functions for me as a bridge across a myriad number of fears; these verses are bridges across patriarchal structures, restrictive artistic ideologies, and perhaps purely existential concerns

 

On the collaboration with artists for ‘Quiet Women’

 

I would say that I have been a student of the Surrealists my whole life, as I have often been drawn to the interplay of artist mediums, in which they reveled. Surreal output has always been concerned with juxtapositions and techniques like ‘collage’ and ‘frottage’, and indulgence in hybridity. For example, Surrealist collaborations include films based on poems, in the way that the filmmaker Man Ray adapted poems by Robert Desnos to his medium. Since my poems are often initiated by visual ephemera, and my imaginative focus is on delineating these visuals (triggered of course by emotion or artistic curiosity), I found collaboration with these artists to be a natural progression. Each artist was sent the poem to illustrate without any instructions, the idea was for there to be a fluidity of connection, one derived purely by imaginative means, and for the artworks to be instinctual and primal.

 

Creative influences and the impact of Surrealism on my work

 

Each poem in ‘Quiet Women’ is a tribute to the marginalised, whether that figure be that of a woman or an artist or poet. Each poem aims to counter reality with the dream and to re-engineer the accepted image of the creative as ‘outlier’. Whether in terms of stylistic experimentation, influence or tribute, this book aims to upset normative modes of thought and glorify one’s creative faculty. The founder of Surrealism, Andre Breton, spoke much of how the imagination is seen as a threat to all dimensions of order, similarly, much of my work is concerned with consistently upending language, mass-perspective and received ideas.

 

On why I enjoy poetry as a genre and as my chosen form

 

A poet often writes a poem as a postscript to an emotion. ‘High tragedy’ or ‘wondrous joy’ need not compel the writing of verse, it could be a retained sense of childlike wonder for say an owl or the precise engineering of a pistol. I feel that I write primarily to escape a powerful inborn reticence. In that vein these words by the great James Joyce encapsulate perfectly the retaliatory bent of my mind as it stitches a sentence together; ‘poetry even when apparently most fantastic is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality’.

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