If I’m disrespected, I deserve it.
If I am abused, it’s my fault.
If I’m 30 and single, there’s something wrong with me.
If I’m not fair-skinned, I’m ugly.
If I’m divorced, I’m tainted.
If you leave me, I’m ruined.
If I leave you, I’m still ruined.
If I do something for myself, I’m selfish.
If I want more, I’m ungrateful.
If I live alone, I’m available.
I am free but I’m still in chains.
Because I am a woman.
For years, I was told I am “crazy and abnormal” for wanting an education and career after marriage and kids. I was not treated with respect, because I didn’t “deserve it”. I was abused, because I provoked it. I was told that it is my duty to be quiet for the sake of the family, and if I was a good woman, that’s exactly what I would do.
For years I went on thinking that maybe I really do deserve it, maybe this is what normal is. I tried my best to change myself and be happy with what I was getting. But there was always a tiny voice that said NO.
I went through months of counselling to muster up the courage to take charge of my life, worked around the clock, studied and took care of my children. But in all that, I felt alone. All I wished for was someone who would hold my hand and tell me it’s okay. Someone who would not just hand me a brochure or give me scripted advice over the phone. Someone who would actually understand what I’m going through, the cultural effects I face, someone who would guide me what to do and where to go. Someone who would say, “I did it, you can do it too”. Today, I want to be that “someone” for someone else.
Last year, when I shared my story in the Tribune, I got a phenomenal response from women all over the world. In a few hours, my Facebook was flooded with messages from women thanking me for giving them hope and courage.
One young woman, a 25-year-old Canadian citizen, contacted me, asking me for help. After completing her undergrad from Waterloo, she went to Pakistan and got married, only to be abused by her husband and his family for months. Now back in Canada with her newborn baby, she was terrified of being hurt again, but even more terrified of leaving. Talking to her, I felt like I was talking to myself five years ago. I saw the same helplessness, the same fear, the same lack of understanding and support. I met her and talked to her for hours, offered her as much support, motivation, courage and guidance as I could. A few weeks later, she told me that she had applied for a post-grad program and was determined to take charge of her life.
Her words to me:
“I had completely lost my sense of self in the midst of all this. But after meeting you, I found it again. Thank you for being a strong role model in my life.”
I couldn’t stop my tears of happiness at the time. Today, she has not only completed her program, she has also found a job and is raising her daughter independently. Some of the best moments of my day are seeing her happy pictures on my FB newsfeed.
I kept thinking, if I could help just one person change their life for the better, it was all worth it. But what if this can be done on a larger scale? That’s when I started exploring, talking to people, writing my book… just thinking of ways I can implement this idea.
And today, that little idea is finally coming to life. Everyday, I am getting more and more support from people who want to get involved and speak up.
“Because I am a woman”
An initiative to provide personal guidance, mentorship, support, care and empowerment to women going through all sorts of challenges in their lives. Some of those challenges are so unique to our society that no one else can understand them. But together, we can understand and support each other. Most of all, we can all empower each other to stand up for ourselves, and improve our lives. Everyone deserves the opportunity to chase their dreams and live a life of dignity and respect. Everyone.
Let’s all raise our voices against the societal norms and prejudices that exist all around us. Let’s all support each other to live a life we all deserve. Let’s break free!
Please join us at our first event on May 24th. We really need your support.
Please like our Facebook page for the video and details on how to register. It’s completely free! https://www.facebook.com/becauseiamawomancanada
I am very grateful to Councillor Sue McFadden for providing us with a venue and resources. Also, a big huge thanks to my wonderful team, which is growing everyday! Annie, Ayesha, Basma, Arubah, Pranamee, Wasah, Kinza and Saarah. To my wonderful friends who are helping me promote this event.
And most of all, I am incredibly grateful to CPPA for their incredible support. You make me even more proud to be a Pakistani!
Each one of us can make a difference. But together, we can make change.
This blog post has been written by Samra Zafar. Click here to learn more about Samra.