My life, my decision
"I stopped worrying about what people would say" - Maira Usman
In 2017, while I was still a student, I entered into a nikah with a man I did not know very well. Slowly, my then ‘husband’ started revealing his true colors to me. He thought that because I studied with boys, I must be having an affair. His paranoia riddled me with doubts about the marriage and my future. Would I be able to live with a man who had such a narrow mind, who could find fault in most anything, and who thought all the girls who studied in co-ed institutions must be of bad character? The more I asked myself this question, the more I worried.
At the end, though, this difficult question was answered once I put importance on my self and my well being. If I had gone ahead with that marriage, I would have been the one who suffered; the people who were judging me would have gone on living their own lives. So I decided to stop paying attention to what people will think if I took khulah (woman’s right to divorce).
I made my decision. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t simple. But I stuck to it.
I applied for khulah and left a man for whom his wife would not have mattered. Of course, I had to face opposition too. I was under tremendous pressure by my family to reconsider. They insisted that I would regret my determination. But my parents stood by me and with their support I stuck to my guns. I am grateful to God that I made the decision to leave behind a man who had nothing but suspicion and paranoia in his life.
Exactly a year later, my husband Usman walked into my life. Today I am happily married, and I have a beautiful son. My husband takes care of me. We have a trusting and understanding relationship.
I believe that women must take strong decisions. Fight for your rights. It is your life and you will have to live with the consequences of your decisions. Focus on what your heart and mind say to you, not on what people say. I was also quite scared when I took this decision. I also wondered what will happen. But once you take such a decision, leave it to Allah, and hope for the best.
"I set an example for my younger siblings" - Sabahat Afsheen
Once, while I was in school, a student went to the principal and complained that despite her hard work, she could not get the first position. The principal told her that she should pray that Sabahat should leave the school, because if Sabahat is there, no one else can come first.
Such was my school life. I was a high achiever. I constantly came out on the top in academics and extra curricular activities. When I was about to matriculate, I decided I would study law. But I was forced to change my decision. The kind of household I came from, one had to bend before the decisions of the men of the house. So I was coerced to take admission in FSc Medical. But as soon as my FSc was complete, my family’s conservative background once again interrupted my life and I was asked to stop studying. Unfortunately, the men in my family opposed higher education and independence for women. I was the eldest among my siblings and I had to take the brunt of the burden of such decisions. My family refused to foot the bill for my further studies.
That was the most difficult time of my life. I had to make a choice; give up my plans for my future and quietly get married like my parents wanted, or set an example for my younger sisters and brother.
I started tutoring children to pay for my education.
Soon after, I left my home to come to Lahore. My mother stood by me in this decision. I took admission in Punjab University and continued studying but for many months, I could not go back home because of the opposition there.
Finally, I graduated and got admission in Masters in Communication Studies. After a long time I finally thought my life was heading in the right path. I got a scholarship to Germany, and considering my patriarchal background, this was a huge achievement for me. I told no one in my family of this decision except for my mother and my brother, both of whom are very supportive.
When I came back, I found a great job in the research department of the parliament. I have worked with many political leaders and government servants. I have helped organize international conferences. I have worked with all the major stake holders and with international alliances. But I consider none of this to be my biggest achievement. My biggest achievement is convincing my family to rethink their attitude about education. I set an example for my younger siblings and today all of them are studying what they wanted to. Nobody forces them to get degrees they are not interested in.
As for me, I have just finished my M.Phil with a gold medal to boot. Life is good.
"I finished my education and got a job" - Sehar Saeed
The best decision I ever made was to complete my education and then find a job. In this way, I have become independent.
I believe that every woman, regardless of her circumstances, should strive to get an education.
I work in media, where there are a lot of opportunities but availing them requires hard work. It is difficult to prove yourself, but I did it. Through my work, through my performance, I got the opportunity to qualify for a fellowship. I went to the US, and there I covered the midterm elections. When I look back and see all these achievements, when I realize that I am perceived of as a motivational speaker for women, my heart swells with pride. This is my biggest achievement.
I am very satisfied with my life. I want to tell people, that however God may have created you, and whatever troubles he may be testing you with, to get out of those troubles rely on your own efforts. Do not envy others and think that you have been dealt a bad hand. Look at those who have less than you.
At a very early stage, I came to realize that I have a problem. But then I focused on people who had physical problems which were much worse than I could imagine. I got motivated to think of myself as a complete human.
All one needs is a functioning brain. If you have that, nothing is impossible.
"I refused to become dependent because of my age" - Nighat Parveen
When my husband passed away, he left behind very little for me to survive on. A small house, a motorcycle, a pair of gold earrings and a hundred thousand rupees. I was 50 years old, childless, and diabetic. But I still had my best asset with me, my will power.
At the funeral and afterwards, people advised me to sell my home and move to my sister’s house. I refused. I wanted to live in my own house. The only problem was how I would survive once the money ran out. My nephews and nieces spent weeks convincing me to not be stubborn. I couldn’t understand their objections. Yes, I was 50 years. But I wasn’t dead.
I started looking for work. Everywhere I went, I was rejected. I tried to work in a biscuit factory, but they told me I was too old. I talked to a stitching unit owner but he said I would be a liability. I was even willing to work in shops but I was told only young women are hired for the retail business.
I will not lie, by then I was getting quite dejected.
At night I would lay awake, wondering what would happen to me. I didn’t want to be a burden on my sister and her family. I could feel despair clawing at me. But I would shun it away. The next morning I would start looking for a job again.
A year was spent like this. In the meantime I had found out my husband had owed some people some money. So I sold off the motorcycle to pay them off. The money was also running out fast. I wanted to save it so that if God forbid I became unwell one day, I would spend it on my hospitalization.
Finally, my long dark night ended. I went to a cousin’s house for a week. She introduced me to a lady whom she stitched clothes for. The lady ran a day care center for children. She was looking for someone who could supervise her young staff. It seemed like a match made in heaven, and it was.
Today I am 60 years old. I am weaker, and my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. But I’m still supporting myself. I don’t need charity, not just yet.