Ms Haseen Musrat Interview

When the panel Razia Sultana Joenjo & Advocate Ali Palh announced the initiative of interview in whatsup Group of Women Rights & Sexual Minorities (mostly women, Transgender etc) appreciated and welcomed the initiative and gave a big hand to our guest Haseen Musrat, a women rights defender working with Women Action Forum (WAF). Some members sent flowers, signs of claps and other sign to show respect love and excitement.

In feedback, participants of the group shared that they enjoyed Haseen Musrats’ responses and her way of engaging participants in an interesting discussion. Haseen during two to three days whats up interview shared lot of knowledge her experience to the participants who are also working on human rights.
Interview started with interesting question of Razia Sultana Jonejo herself.

Razia Junejo:  Asian women’s suffer a lot emotionally and mentally in family relationships, do you provide mental health awareness training to your staff or women who come for help. And would you please tell us how you got involved with this organisation, some background on WAF and why you chose to work in this field?
WAF is a non-profit/non-funded, right base organisation and it was emerged in the era of the dictator Zia. Since then, it has been 35 years of its existence, and it has a strong voice of its own when it comes to protecting women’s rights. The main propose of WAF’s is to work towards peace, justice and equality, it is not part of any political party but WAF has a political point of view and they believe in brining change in society through a political process.  The WAF was known in Hyderabad on 5th of April, 2008. Haseen has a government job in the education department; she joined WAF in 2008 by accident, as it was not something that she thought about beforehand. She told us that when she attended first meeting she was inspired by Arfana Mallah and Amar Sindhu. She was also convinced by the feminist ideology and she heartedly joined in. They don’t have funding to run specific mental health training however they provide lectures in various of other topics

Kami Sid: I would like to know some information about women protection bill in addition and your organisational work.
Haseen was very optimisms about the women protection bill; however, she feels more work is needed: She pointed out that it is disappointing that no criminal act is included in the bill. She demanded from the Prime Minister to make it more useful by acknowledging its weakness. I personally feel that now that protection bill has been introduced, the government should fund organisations like WAF to do some ground work with individuals, such as, providing information on alternatives respite homes where a break can be taken from their day-to-day difficult life situations. Furthermore, counselling can be provided but isn’t. Recently, Dawn newspaper reported that when a man is arrested after a complaint from his wife, he divorces her. This is a terrible situation for uneducated women as they have no financial support for themselves or their children. The government should create safe homes for women to learn skills needed in the work trade, even if it is basic, so they can provide for themselves.
Erum Shah: It seems that majority of frontline WAF members are university level teachers, poets, writers and members from development sectors, why is that we don’t see people from other backgrounds, such as; students and working class women.
Haseen reassured that students and people from other backgrounds were also welcome to join WAF. This is an open forum and has different cheapters in different provinces such as Islamabad, Hyderabad, Karachi, Queeta, Lahore, Sukkr, and Shahdad Kot. This is not an NGO type organisation and does not run any specific projects for specific members.

Sabira:  What is the procedure to join WAFs? I am interested to join, please let me know when it would be organised.
Haseen: Sabira you can join WAF by attending three regular weekly meetings. I will inform you about our next meeting soon.
Ali Palh : Can a man also join WAF?
Haseen: No, Ali men cannot join WAF.
Razia Junejo: Why men can’t join? Men can also be feminist and they can also place role in women’s empowerment and equality.
Haseen: Razia, all over country this is WAF’s Principal/princple that no man can join WAF.
Razia Junejo: This is a disappointing, how are you going to bring change when men cannot be educated to change their ways?
Haseen: So women can express her feeling easily in front of other women. Also to provide space for women. I cannot say more on this. It is a big debate , we always face it. But it is the decisions of all chapters.

Kami sid:  What about Transgender,( Male/Female) can they join? Kami Sid is activist working on rights of transgenders
Haseen: Good question Kami, this is something will be discussed in our national convention.
Razia Junejo: Do you face gender discrimination?
Haseen: Yes Razia, on many occasions, I was on receiving end of gender discrimination. The gender discrimination is present in every institution. Men and women both do this not only in family settings but also in work place, in general gatherings.

Ali Palh: How do you feel when you are discriminated against? And how do you feel when you get favours whilst other get discriminated.
Haseen: Ali, discrimination is everywhere,  men are in always on the frontline, women are not given their fair due, and they are still not considered as  intellectual beings.

Kanwal Aijaz: What kind of challenges do women face in this field, where they are working to promote women rights?
Haseen: there are many challenges, such as, harassment, social norms, a house environment is very challenging for an activities as well, outside of the house they face security issues. An activist not only create space and fights for their own rights for themselves but for others as well. 

Ali Palh: The general perception of a feminist is people thinking they destabilise their families or they become the reason of marriage breakups.       
Haseen: a feminist activist only challenges the patriarchal system and encourages equality. The main thing that destroys the family is hate and violence within it. 

Kanwal Aijaz: Who provides funding to WAF?
Haseen: The WAF is not funded by anyone; we members collect some fee for within ourselves towards training.  

Erum Shah: If WAF was about to demand a bill, what do you think that would be and is there any need for a bill?
Haseen: Erum we do demand for new legislations, we also played important role in the Harassment bill. Whichever legislations that comes through the Sindh assembly will always have our participation. We have also written a letter to the Prime Minister.
Erum Shah: Haseen, don’t you think WAF should have a website?
Haseen: Erum for this we need money that we don’t have. We visit around the different part of Sindh with our own money, such as Larkana, Sukkur, Shikarpi, Mithee, Tharparkar, Daddu, Johi, Badin, Chachroo, Tando Mohammad khan
Samani Abro: Haseen, I don’t think launching a web page for information will cost you that much? I think it is great idea.
Ali suggested that WAF could also have blogs, as they are free.Nasira Abid suggested Ali Palh help them make a site. Ali agreed to support them, as WAF’s members are always supportive to RightsNow.
Samani Abro: Haseen, I believe even though middle class women are getting financial security, they think on same page as you, but why they can’t join practically because the image of feminism is still not understood well. How can you work on it to create more awareness?  
Haseen: I believe not only middle class women but upper class also struggle for their rights. They are economically empowered but not socially. 
Erum Shah: It is considered bad in our society because it challenges men’s authority. I think feminism in Pakistan’s context specially is presented in a way where men are always presented as ‘bad guys’ generally. I think when we talk about these issues we generalize the discussion on men.
Haseen: feminism is a movement for women’s civil rights, feminist challenges the main institutions of society, such as family, society, government, religion. Challenges come from every direction. Moreover, it is imperative that we challenge the discrimination against women from all part of the society such as in education, politics, and individuals rights. 

Samani Abro:  Yes, I agree with you Haseen, but sometime family support women to stand and play their part whatever way in  society. I think that with a positive drive, minds can be changed so we don’t need to challenge them. Men are a equal part of society and they need to learn some new ways of doing things and unlearn old traditional things. All this should be done with positive influence.

Erum Shah: I agree with you Samani, however, in society where intolerance is at its heights, we can only hope for positive influences. I believe all is possible with education.

Samani Abro: Of course, it is possible only with education. However, it needs constants effort of patience and positivity. This chauvinistic behaviour has been around as part of our culture for decades. They will change with time.

Haseen: Samani, you are right that a family does support change but we are talking generally here, even though having support, gender based discrimination still happens.  

Erum Shah: Do we have feminist word in Sindhi or Urdu?

            Haseen: Nari wad


Samani Abro: discrimination also takes place against women by women. For example a mother favouring her son by giving him a better meal than her daughter. This teaches men from a young age that they are better than women.
Haseen: this kind of thinking represents the patriarchy. we must challenge this issue with awareness, and it can be changed by being educated. Now, WAF running a movement called ‘Stop Killing Women’. It is also working towards on legislation, such as violence and other important issues relating to women.

Through this interview, we got an understanding of challenges that activists who work in this field face. However, they still are working by being committed towards its cause by making safe spaces for women to develop their identities their lives.
We also asked personal questions to know more about Haseen as a person:
How would you describe yourself?
I would describe myself as a writer, activist and educationist.
What angers you?
The thing that angers me the most is discrimination and liars.
What colour do you like?
My favourite colours are orange, white and purple. Colours that are light and fresh.
What are your favourite dishes?
Kareela and fish
What are your strengths?
My ideology and activism, which help me to become a productive member, is society. I have learnt the importance of advocating women’s rights.
What kind of personality do you like?
I like confident people who have determination and positive attitude to life.
Lastly, do you believe in love in first sight?
No I do not. We can have a strong attraction to their features but not love.
We really appreciate Haseen Musrat for taking time to speak to us. She taught us a lot about what work is being done in Pakistan to protect women and what work needs to be done still. As Haseen pointed out: women are still not considered as intellectual individuals.
We wish the best for Haseen and WAF to encourage Women’s rights.

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