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A Story of Pakistani Women Persevering

January 20, 2011 2:19 am

By Anisah Hashmi

What happens to the survivors of natural disasters when they disappear from breaking news reports? Most people forget about them and we collectively move on to other headline news.  But the need for long-term solutions in the wake of disaster does not disappear.  Aware of this reality, activist and filmmaker, Nausheen Dadahboy resolved to find solutions.

The magnitude of the 2005 Pakistan/Kashmir earthquake deeply moved Nausheen to fly halfway across the world simply, as she puts it, “to help people.” There, she discovered Ruqiya and Khalida, two women whose lives fell victim to tragic circumstance when they found themselves paralyzed in the aftermath.  Forced to give up dreams of marriage and starting lives outside the home, these women have had to redefine their roles as women in a society that expects them to be homemakers and caretakers.  While Ruqiya is limited by her disability, Khalida turns hers into an opportunity to live and work in the city.

Over the span of five years, Nausheen filmed these women through the most difficult time of their lives: the recovery period. She broke all boundaries with her documentary subjects and dedicated her time to helping Ruqiya and Khalida salvage their futures. “I organized Khalida’s surgery in Karachi and Ruqiya’s wheelchair broke so we got her a new one…I don’t think you can really get to know [your subjects] unless you are that involved,” she said.

With this film, Nausheen hopes to reveal a different kind of narrative that concerns the lives of ordinary Pakistanis outside of the discourse on terrorism, corruption and political instability. These narratives have obscured the suffering of the poorest Pakistanis and shrouded their faces from public view. “It’s easier to hate a group when they’re not human,” she reflects. “If we can just humanize them, reveal a face that people can respond to…People will say that could’ve been my daughter or my sister.” She hopes that she inspires this kind of empathy through her film.

Currently Nausheen is working to raise funds for the launching of her film. By February 2nd, she must collect $10,000 in order to present her project. Additionally, Nausheen is collaborating with Spinal Cord Injury Project for Pakistan Earthquake Rehabilitation (SCIPPER), which sponsors the medical care of 33 men and women who were injured during the earthquake, some of whom have been abandoned by their families. They are trying to build a community housing center and Nausheen’s film will be used as a tool to raise awareness and funds for SCIPPER.

“The wider context is that these kinds of disasters effect people for a really long time. Obviously we need to respond in the emergency phase, but we also need to think of long-term relief efforts. We need to give them the tools to rebuild themselves, so they’re not dependent on outside aid all the time.”

To find out more about Nausheen’s project, click here.

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