Break the Stereotypes, Hurdles are only in our minds

    Maimoona Akhtar, young activist from Peshawar represents Pakistan at International Volunteer Forum Russia  

    Being raised in a patriarchal society, I have seen women equated with capital assets, such as land and wealth (Zan, Zar aur Zameen). Our society has assigned very calculative role to women, limiting them to taking care of household matters, giving birth to children and raising them. I felt the unseen boundaries stopping girls from being an active individual of the society. These intangible boundaries made me more enthusiastic to challenge the stereotypes

    I belong to Peshawar, district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. I am a girl carrying dreams in my eyes, passionate and enthusiastic about social work, travelling and my future goals.

    Playing role in my own capacity, I dream of a society where women are self-sufficient, where they are given equal roles in social management, they are respected for their contribution, where girls are getting education, and men are having ethical and decent behavior towards their counterparts, accepting the gender diversity, a society where people have broader visions and attitude when it comes to gender equality.

    Being a girl, I faced hurdles in my way of getting higher education and doing job. When I started off my struggle as youth leader, I got opportunity to become the part of discussions on peace building, Human Rights, Girls education, Volunteerism in Pakistan on platforms like USAID, International Volunteer Forum. Contributing to women empowerment in various capacities, I often question myself that despite being a youth activist and team member of change makers why I am unable to upgrade the narrative of people surrounding me?  If I really want to change the destiny of Pakistani girls who are just like me, facing the same suppression for being the part of a patriarchal society, I have to start working on behaviors right from my own house as charity begins at home. The society I live in has a typical mindset, which considers women’s honor as something like a crystal glass, which if breaks or cracks it won’t come back to its original condition. This is time to tell the world stop objectifying and comparing us with material things. We no more fits in the list capital assets and so called property of men. Women must enjoy all privileges of living a happy and independent life.

    Representing Pakistan at International Volunteer Forum, Russia

    Like many other women, I too was suppressed by my surroundings to accomplish my dreams, found no one to support and give shoulder except my mother and few friends. In my little journey, some made fun of me for my ideas of being a humanist, peace promoter and a human rights defender. At times, I felt so much pressure because many in family and outside were trying to stop me working for social cause. Their mentality was like; girls are not born to solve the problems of the society. I proved them wrong with my constant struggle and courage. I worked and gained experience in social sector with different national and International NGO’s focusing on Sustainable Development Goals in Pakistan.  Being volunteer with different NGO’s and actively working for the up-gradation of my society I got selected for the International Volunteer Forum IVF2018 at Russia, the event turned out to be a life changing moment. I convinced my parents to attend the event and confirmed my participation for the FUTURE TEAM Pakistan at the International Volunteer forum. Got visa, ticket and packed my bag for destination. I stepped out of my comfort zone and broke the unseen boundaries of patriarchy.  When I finally reached, a sentence was roaming in my mind throughout “Hurdles are only in our minds”. I was one among the 15 prestigious youth delegates from Pakistan. Our diverse group represented Pakistan having members from Khyber to Karachi.

    International Volunteer Forum 2018 hosted More than 14,000 delegates from Russia and 500 delegates from all around the world celebrated the International Volunteers Day with the President of Russia H.E Vladimir Putin. The main idea of the IVF was to promote peace, harmony, and respect between the people of different background, cultures, and creeds. I found Russians so humble and polite very helping and supportive people.

    IVF2018 Asian Group Coordinator Natalya Pakhomova said, I am proud of our group, because women participated as active as men. And male part of our group was ready to help our girls, not depriving them of the right to be active delegates. I believe, it’s really important to give the equal opportunities regardless of gender.








    Young leaders from different parts of the world shared their thoughts in different sessions of the event on women role, volunteerism and recorded their messages to encourage women of developing countries. I would like to share views of some of fellow youth leaders from across the world:

    Darya karpova, Russia:  ‘‘There is still much left to fight for, the most important thing is not to give up. Even some decades ago women couldn’t imagine that one day they would be able to participate in the political processes’’.

    Anna, Romania: ‘‘IVF 2018 was a ‘one of a kind’ event that promoted, beside fundamental human rights, women empowerment, gender equality and personal development‘‘.

    Lisa Wermelinger, Switzerland:  ‘‘It’s really important that forums are open to women and men. Forums are here to share our opinions, find solutions, Speak about the future and for that we need to have opinions of the delegates of every country and the opinion of both genders’’.

    Juan Carlos, Colombia: ‘‘Increasing tendency of women in international events will foster gender equality and solidarity. I hope that every time more women from all over the world attend and actively participate in events that aim to make this world a better place’’.

    Aishwarya Narasimhadevara , India: ‘‘Many of the societies are patriarchal, female leaders speaking at the event from such societies are serving as role models for other girls and women to overcome obstacles and to work towards achieving Gender Equality’’.

    The IVF2018 provided a big platform to youth leaders, where we interacted with the diverse background people and learned about cultures. I felt that we could change the world through connecting with each other, no matter how different our cultures and backgrounds are.


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