On the 28th of August, 2021, Afsana collaborated with Dewar-e-Ehsas to conduct our first ever “Healing Through Storytelling” event. Afsana organized this event in response to the horrors of the past few months, instances of shocking gender-based violence and cruelty, which have left an indelible mark on the women of Pakistan. An attempt to offer a helping hand to those still struggling with past happenings, the event was meant to provide a safe space for women to share their stories of persecution and seek counselling. A recording of this event can be found near the end of this post.
To offer her perspective on the stories shared, Afsana invited Ms. Ishrat Fatima to the event. Ms. Ishrat, a clinical psychologist and student counselor, is the founder of the Institute of Psychological Well Being and Research Center in Gilgit-Baltistan, and has had her story covered by Afsana before. We were honored to have her on board for the event, and appreciated the experience and expertise she brought to the discussion.
We first distributed a form for anonymous participants to share their stories through, and received five vastly different stories. These stories were read out during the event by our co-hosts (Hamza Suleman and Rabica Kashif, of the Afsana Journalism team). After each reading, Ms. Ishrat provided commentary on issues pertaining to the story in question. We can only imagine the courage it must have taken to share these stories of hurt and victimhood, and we did our best to honor the trust put in us by the participants.
With participants video-conferencing from different time-zones and continents, with variable internet speeds and availability, the organization of the event and its ultimate execution was a feat made possible only through careful planning and teamwork. There were a few internet issues that took place during the conference itself, but thanks to the preparedness of our team, we were able to work through them smoothly and maintain the focus of the event: the stories of the participants who came forth and their healing.
The stories themselves recounted heart-rending accounts of betrayal, harassment, and pain. We learnt of women who have been targeted from all corners, either at the hands of strangers in public spaces, or within the confines of their own homes. Hearing of these atrocities first-hand was, of course, a sobering reminder that Afsana’s work is far from over, and that we as a nation have a long way to go before we can consider ourselves a country that treats its women fairly. Our sincere hope is that events like this one push the dial a little further in the right direction. We hope to continue doing this far into the future, insha’Allah.
If you would like to aid us in our pursuit of a more equitable future for the women of Pakistan, please know that there are many ways to do so. Whether it be volunteer work, your Zakat, or the submission of a story for publication on our site, we appreciate and thank you for any help you can provide.
A recording of the event itself: