Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation
The following are personal testimonies from WELDD women who attended workshops hosted by Shirkat Gah in Pakistan, and found from there the inner courage to stand up to their unfortunate circumstances. Badrai, Amina, and Parveen managed to take life be the reigns, and refused to suffer as silent victims. Through the Women Friendly Spaces and everything they learned under WELDD, these women were able to take these experiences and turn them into life changes.
Badrai (WELDD Leader from Marghuzar, Swat):
“After my mother’s death, my father remarried and immediately had me and my young sisters married off too. We were 13 years old at the time. My sister’s husband was excessively violent. He once hit my sister so severely that her arm broke. I had attended various trainings under WELDD at Shirkat Gah, and the sessions regarding women’s rights came flooding back into my head. I called my sister and had her file an appeal in the court. Her husband got jailed and she then filed for a divorce. It was difficult because there was no concept of marriage registration – we did not have any notion of such a thing when we got married, so there was no alimony either. We insisted on marriage registration and alimony when my sister was getting married the second time, and were successful. My sister is now living a very happy married life.”
“I got married on January 1, 2012. I was not happy with my marriage as I was suffering from domestic violence. I was both physically and verbally abused all the time. My husband had extramarital relationships with women. I tried to talk to my parents many times but got no support in return. I finally left my husband to live with my parents for a whole year. Then I joined the WELDD trainings and learnt a lot about women’s rights and how to attain them. I told my parents that I wanted a divorce. I told them that we had been separated for quite a long time, and since there was no relationship between us, what is the point of being married? Now, since November 20, 2013, the divorce case has been filed. Hopefully the divorce will be finalized soon.”
“Ten years from today, my father had an affair with a married woman. The woman’s family called on the panchayat [tribal judicial bench] when I was three years old, which ruled that I should be married to the nephew – who was 18 years old back then – of the woman in question. Ten years later, when the marriage was to be consummated, I refused to get married. I did not receive anyone’s support in the matter. I visited Shirkat Gah’s WFS (Woman Friendly Space), where I had attended WELDD trainings on women’s rights, and asked them for support. After successive intervention visits, my ex-husband gave in and divorced me.”
Farida Shaheed, Executive Director of Shirkat Gah, talks more about the Women Friendly Spaces here, explaining how “women need public discursive spaces…that give them the ability to plan and strategise for the future. That is what we have done--we have set up Women Friendly Spaces across Pakistan."