This is part of a limited, annual, series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things in order to give back to Pakistan.
It’s hard enough being a woman, if one has to navigate the challenges of this gender in a country like Pakistan, which isn’t too conducive to women being a part of active public life, it becomes doubly troublesome to be a thinking, living, breathing woman. Not even online spaces are safe enough for women to actively engage without having to worry about constant harassment or even serious threats of real-life violence.
In an environment where it’s extremely challenging to navigate being a woman in the public space, this Facebook group offers a safe environment for Pakistani women to come together and share it all
Kanwal Ahmed started Soul Sisters Pakistan, an exclusive-to-women platform on Facebook in 2013. It now has almost 30 thousand members today and together they’re fighting misogyny, sharing their troubles, discussing tips on parenting, makeup and relationships, and engaging in some cheeky discussion, without a worry about having to censor themselves for fear of public ridicule, or men hijacking their conversations.
“I conceived the idea of a women-only group back in August 2013. At the time I was living in Riyadh, away from my family and had been married for a couple of years. I found that there was no space on the internet, for Pakistani women to be able to share their thoughts, their problems, seek advice or even network with other Pakistani women living close by. Safe to say, the group started on a whim and has only grown in leaps and bounds since then. It has its own little blog that features top stories shared on the closed group and has already gathered a good audience from around the world,” tells Kanwal about the journey her Facebook group has taken to evolve into a much larger community that it is, today.
The aptly names group, Soul Sisters Pakistan, provides women with a platform to come together and engage in productive activities, beyond just their digital discussions
“Within Pakistan this group was the first of its kind and inspired many more – which is great. Since people can post anonymously on the group and share their views or problems. There’s always the security of being able to discuss deepest secrets without having to disclose your identity. In the past four years, Soul Sisters Pakistan has steadily carried out mini charity drives to help individuals and organizations. Our most recent one was on Eid Ul Fitr, where money was collected to be donated to the Edhi Foundation. Other than that we have bi-annual meet ups to give women the chance to network, make new friends and just have fun – given the lack of women-centric events in Pakistan these are always a hit and sell out in minutes. Other than that, the group is a source of help for women every single day,” shares Kanwal.
Women from all walks of life come together, helping each other with their knowledge and navigating the world as a community because of this group
The group has an excellent network of lawyers – always ready to give out legal advice, psychologists and therapists – only a message or comment away, and experts in various other fields always ready to help out.
As Kanwal puts it, “Soul Sisters Pakistan is a community effort. It’s the strong, amazing women who comprise of it that make it what it is.”
However, for a forum of this size, there have been and are struggles everyday
According to Kanwal, one of the main issues is teaching people to be careful of what they post. Because, regardless of the fact that the group is closed, this is the internet and anything on it can spread like wildfire. The second struggle is to help people break free of the patriarchy.
“Sometimes I find women themselves pass the strangest, anti-feminist statements. And I’m not saying it’s their fault. This is a product of internalized misogyny – we were raised this way. Stereotypes we have been subjected to since we were kids – such as “women are each other’s enemies” – are the reason we have grown up wanting to put each other down. It’s considered the norm – only the natural thing to do. Soul Sisters Pakistan, is completely against that. I strongly believe in supporting other women and bringing out the best in them. This is the reason we regularly feature new female bloggers on the SSP Blog to promote them and give them a platform to have their voice heard,” says Kanwal while talking to MangoBaaz about her blog that draws its content from the group and help reach it to the world out there.
Soul Sisters Pakistan has unofficially a movement, now. It is the reason so many women have woken up and realized their worth, their rights and who they need to be. It’s a safe digital space that is helping women navigate their lives outside, in the physical world in a much better way, with more confidence.
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out “14 Days, 14 Stories“.
Cover Image Via: Kanwal Ahmed