Advocacy and grassroots activism to combat gender-based violence with Tahira Kaleem
A conversation with Tahira Kaleem about her work as a social activist on grassroots initiatives, advocacy, and legislation projects.
Ruam Chuay’s interview series, Sparking Conversations, shines a spotlight on advocates and changemakers in our community who to work to create a safer world. We hope to inspire and share ways you can make a difference in your community.
We’re so pleased to share this interview with Tahira Kaleem. Through her work, she’s been improving lives by helping people gain access legal rights and civic education.
She started her journey in social activist in college. Now, 7 years later she continues to contribute to many projects to fight women’s rights and transgender rights in Pakistan.
While there are many challenges doing this type of work, especially in conservative environments, she forges ahead. Tahira also volunteers for many organizations dedicated to eliminating gender-based violence and is committed to addressing all forms of violence.
Here’s her story!
Executive Director at Enlight Labs
Introduce yourself! Tell us a little bit about your background and work.
I am a social activist who has worked on women’s rights, transgender rights and civic education for the past seven years. During my work, I have supported women accessing legal rights, worked on women-related legislation and advocacy for women rights at a grassroots level. I have started my volunteer work during my graduation at university, where I joined volunteer societies for countering corruption, abuse and drug use at campuses.
Since then I am a member of many volunteer platforms such TransAction alliance KP, Elimination of Violence Against Women Alliance, Gender-Based Violence Sub-Cluster, Feminist Fridays, Women Action Forum, WAAK (Pashtun Women Alliance).
I also write prose and open verse about Woman emotions, sexuality, and taboos.
Why did you choose to pursue a career that helps people the way you do? What motivated you?
As my first volunteer project with the British Council called Active Citizen, I worked with rural women on creating livelihood opportunities for them. With no resources and very meager skills, we were able to reach women and girls in three districts, trained them on honey bees and mushroom raring and the importance of medicinal plants in their localities. With the help of a public organization, we succeeded in donating honey bee boxes and mushroom seeds to 30 families. It gave me the motivation to work more for women who not just face economic abuse but more forms of violence which need to be addressed.
Were there any challenges you faced while addressing social issues in your line of work?
While working on women rights, their freedom, and power of decision making, especially involving in legal cases where there is always a risk of getting harmed by opposing parties. Also talking about sexual and reproductive health rights is a sensitive issue and we face challenges of not delivering open messages into communities. It is also very challenging to talk about customary practices against a woman to which sometimes are very close people are subjugated and it is very tiring to address a single such case of violence.
What is one thing that you think is important for people to recognize when it comes to interpersonal and gender-based violence?
The misuse of power and authority in any form from any gender is needed to be recognized by all individuals in public and private spheres. People can easily point out violence by others but when it comes to self-realization we never make ourselves accountable for misuse of power.
What is one thing you think people can do to have healthier relationships?
It takes no effort to respect the wishes of our counterparts, mates and close ones. As we cherish our dreams and guard our self-esteem so do others and we need to accept people around us as equal living beings as much we are.
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