It’s time to meet Sadia Khatri!
Sadia is pushing against the entrenched problems of sexual violence in Pakistan through her initiative ‘Girls of Dhabas‘. To quote directly from their Facebook page:
‘Girls at Dhabas is an open community of women and non-binary folks who wish to occupy public spaces on their own terms and whims, who promote and archive their participation in public spaces, and who build community by learning from shared experiences. ‘
I absolutely love this interview with Sadia, even if it is too short for my liking! She talks simply and eloquently about what she sees as the core social problem in India: gender segregation. She indicates that she has personally suffered abuse as a child and that she now chooses not to be a bystander against acts of violence and control against women.
In particular I love this message from Sadia:
‘We must watch out for each other because we live in a society that just turns a blind eye and lets incidents of violence against women and girls go unnoticed.’
It makes so much sense that if your safety is threatened every time you step out on the streets, you are less likely to walk out there in the first place. As story after story of violence against women pile against each other across India, Pakistan, and let’s face it, Australia, the US and EVERY OTHER SOCIETY, how are we surprised that women and their children slowly remove themselves from public spaces as the fear seeps into the lives of people?
Girls at Dhabas shouldn’t have to exist. Women and girls everywhere should be able to walk with confidence through public spaces, knowing that they can enter public bathrooms and street alleyways without fear of attack. But this isn’t the case right now. It may not be the case for a long time, or even ever. But if everyone just withdraws back into their homes the problem can only ever get worse, never better.
Sadia is showing the confidence and strength that is essential in the leading voice of a movement such as this. It means that other women around her don’t need to share the public spotlight (in terms of social media or potential backlash) but they subsequently benefit, ultimately achieving Sadia’s goal and energising her community. So whilst Sadia is knowingly and willingly putting herself in a position of potential compromise, rather than criticise her for ‘tempting fate’ by being too bold, we should offer deafening support of what she is doing across all social media platforms and all other avenues.
Sadia is a stunning example of a human being who refuses to stay silent while others suffer, even when she has suffered herself. I found this a lovely, uplifting initiative to read about and look at the photos on Tumbler/Facebook/Insta… Check them out if you have time.
I want to do this next inspirational human justice. So I want to outline a few things here, some that I have said in previous posts but that are important for this.
- I am Australian. I am a white, heterosexual female who would comfortably be described as upper middle class.
- I grew up in a loving family. It was not without stress. It was not without tension and hardship. But it was loving. It was safe. I was provided for and my community provided a safe environment for me to grow, play and explore.
- I have been fortunate to travel to many countries and seen a variety of cultures, but they have (for the majority) been safe for me to travel to either independently or with my husband. On those occasions that it was genuinely unsafe for me to be alone (because of my gender, my race, or my general ‘otherness’) I was safely watched and cared for by friends and hired help.
- As a result, I have not personally experienced much of what Sadia Khatri has either personally experienced or is otherwise working to stop others from experiencing in her community and country more broadly.
- I will ALWAYS make every attempt to write courteously and without assumption about what people outside of my lived experience do or don’t consider as social, political, religious or community priorities.
- My view of the world (and as such, my writing here) is impacted by my background. It is also impacted by my belief that every person should have dignity, privacy and safety in their lives that can be relied upon.
- I also believe that access to medicine, hygiene products/practices and education to be of extreme importance and understand that this is achieved in different ways in different communities and cultures.
Thank you to the following sites: