By: Misbah Baig
A famous actress once said “I found that ultimately if you truly pour your heart into what you believe in , even if it makes you vulnerable , amazing things can and will happen.” That actress is Emma Watson. From GenZ’s perspective, she is a feminist icon. Why? Because she freely discusses woman rights and speaks out about what she feels is wrong. Ever since I was 10 , I looked up to her and wanted to do the same for the woman of my society but the problem, How? Well, I had no answer for that. Growing up I saw all these protests, gender equality movements through the screen and couldn’t be a part of it , why? Because I was raised in a society where women for centuries were taught to live in fear, that they are always one step behind men , constantly being judged by the eyes of society and what they would say. Everyday, the walls were too big and I felt alone and too small to break them down. I believed that women in my society were now too comfortable in their cages that they never thought of getting out . That is where Saheli Circle comes in, a knight in shining armour. The day when I walked in the doors of their office, my mind was blank. All I knew at that time was that it was some kind of session and I was late, super late. I saw my hostel-mates there and I quickly joined them. There were 3 facilitators who met us warmly and proceeded to tell us about their program and what they hoped to achieve.
Saheli Circle is a safe zone where women can fully and freely express themselves through their talents and activities. Safe zone was what caught my attention then. What is a safe zone? What does it mean for girls my age? Who are in need of these spaces? My questions were slowly answered through the process. A safe zone for girls is where they can groom themselves without the fear of being judged or banned. It is a common believe that young girls in rural or remote areas are the ones in need these safe spaces but girls living in big cities or are more privileged also require such safe spaces because as a human being, alive and functioning, everyone needs a safe space where they can freely express their emotions , feelings and opinions without being pointed at.
After absorbing all this information, I really wanted to join the program but sadly due to timing issues, I wasn’t able to join but I got to witness everything in process. Many of my seniors from school were thrilled to experience it. They would have their sessions 3 days a week and everytime they would return from their sessions, they would be really happy and would tell us about all the engaging activities they did for the day. Over time , I watched these young girls florish themselves into a better, open-minded, creative, smart and bright versions of themselves. They worked together and brought new ideas and expositions to the table everyday. The girls who once we’re so conflicted to make basic decisions and took steps without looking twice were now making big decisions not only for themselves but helped others too in their decisions and they now handled every situation with an open mind and taking care of everystep they took. Even with the changes I witnessed in them, I went and asked them if they personally felt any changes.
“I went from being a person whose life was rough and all over the place to a person who is much more organized when it comes to my decisions, thoughts and life choices. I feel much more relaxed and confident now when I make them.” said Rifat Zahra, who’s one of the oldest participants in the program. Another Saheli said “I learned about more things I was capable of doing and how I could excel at my skills. I was the kind of person who was never fond of being around others just because I was scared of being judged if I express myself but now that I found a place where I feel safe about myself, I now enjoy spending time with people and try to learn more about them. I’m more open to the world now.”
The experience brought alot of changes in these girls and made them confident women who are now ready to face and lead the new world. The program ended with the Sahelis creating documentaries , podcasts and social media posts with their ideas and what they learnt over the course. The main theme was the challenges and experiences of women around them. Every single Saheli worked day and night to make these projects a success and poured their soul into their work which was showcased infront of the assistant commissioner of Hunza on the 5th of December. He appreciated their work and encouraged everyone to bring forth such stories and talents.
And that way , the first session of Saheli Circle ended but it is not the end but just the beginning, to give young and talented girls a safe space, where they can express themselves to the fullest and break the invisible walls society built around them. I personally am very excited to join the program this year and unlock my full potential and meet other girls like me and work together with them to create a tomorrow which is safe of everyone and not just one gender.