The conversations on Soul Sisters Pakistan aren’t always soulful.
Soul Sisters Pakistan has been on the forefront of women-centric groups in Pakistan. While now there are countless groups by women and for women, it was Soul Sister Pakistan by Kanwal Ahmed that started the trend. And with SSP, having been around for 6 years, with over 174,000 members, there is bound to be some members who are unhappy.
While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of women who love Soul Sisters Pakistan for the platform it has provided them with, there are also some who have either left the group or were forced out of it and are sheerly disillusioned with the sisterhood it claims to provide.
I just left Soul Sisters Pakistan voluntarily. Man that group hurts my brains. I will do a full rant on it soon, for now im just so fed up of the neanderthals on it that i need a break. pic.twitter.com/97sf6VuwWO
— Bissmah Mehmud (@bissmahmehmud) May 30, 2019
With a group that has over a 5,000 people waiting list, where approval can take months to process it is a pretty bold to move to voluntarily leave the group.
Bissmah took to Twitter to express her grievances. She took issue with what she thinks is the overall ‘regressive’ mindset of the group.
Meri par naani ke bhi zyada progressive khayalat they. And im not exaggerating my par nani was actually alive in my lifetime and I've known her. What an amazing hardworking woman she was too may she RIP…but i digress. Soul Sisters Pakistan is for cave dwelling women.
— Bissmah Mehmud (@bissmahmehmud) May 30, 2019
And of course, other women weren’t far behind.
COMPLETELY BASHING ME about shaming people and god knows what?And IMMEDIATELY disabled comments so I couldn’t reply and she could just…get lots of likes??
Among other things, this was the last straw.
May I suggest joining “soul bitches”. They’re all SSP rejects and rebels. 😂
— h (@bananapeppersx3) May 30, 2019
I was waiting for someone to say this, I was once their victim.
— AR🥊 (@ARfrom1947) May 31, 2019
I almost gave up on the thought that probably I’m the only one who thinks otherwise. Glad to see there are others who disagree too.
— Wadeiray Ki Beti (@kukoominkoo) May 30, 2019
But of course, there were also those who thought that having a differing opinion to the majority made for a healthy and interesting debate.
Sometimes I see a lot of frustratingly conservative/backward opinions on SSP as well. But don’t you think the point of the group is to have such conversations & share diverse opinions so that ppl engage in healthy debate & learn from each other?
— Noormah Malik (@MalikNoormah) May 30, 2019
And I talked to a member of the group, Ayesha Izhar, who stated the following:
“The people present on SSP are from various backgrounds and have different opinions. Some of them have regressive opinions but since we educate each other through dialogue, the group is very beneficial in having constructive discussions and changing our opinions by having a broader understanding of things going on in our society. SSP is a huge platform, you can control what people think or write, you can only contribute positively.”
So it’s not all doom and gloom.
And we can’t ignore the fact that there are always two sides to a story and the founder of the group, Kanwal Ahmed replied to these concerns herself.
Hi guys! I'm sorry to see you feel this way. I've had a team manage the space for the past 5 months and I would be happy to chat about how we can work towards making it better. It is 174000 VERY DIFFERENT women so it is obviously pretty hard, but please know we try our best.
— Kanwal Ahmed (@kanwalful) May 31, 2019
And when we reached out to Soul Sisters Pakistan to ask about what they had to say about women alleging that they felt the group had too much of a regressive mindset in general, this is what they had to say:
“Soul Sisters Pakistan is currently at 174000+ members. And they all come from very diverse backgrounds. We are moderating 3.5 million+ interactions per month and have a team of 3 people who work via the SSP handle to ensure that an SOP [standards of practice] can be followed when dealing with conflict on the group.”
The statement went on to say, “We try our best to ensure that problems/debates be handled with positive discourse. And unless the comment/opinion has the potential to harm someone or is advice that can lead to trouble – comments are not removed. Having said that SSP has been around for 6 years and while there have always been ups and downs, the intention that drives the community has always been positive.”
And that seems to hold true. Kanwal Ahmed, the founder of the group has been recognized for her efforts continuously and even Facebook recognized her work with SSP and selected her from Facebook’s first Community Leadership Program. She got a $50,000 grant to carry out a community-based initiative. Which is how Kanwal started her popular video series, Conversations with Kanwal.
And it’s understandable; you can’t completely control the mindset of over 174,000 women. And you can’t exactly be held responsible for what members are saying either.
But the women who are claiming that their comments have either been deleted or their posts have been policed or censored; that’s quite concerning. Only approving posts and comments which further a specific narrative doesn’t make for much ‘debate’ or representation.
In fact, splinter groups like Soul Bitches and many more formed because of the reason that a lot of women felt the same way about Soul Sisters Pakistan; it was too regressive and judgemental.
According to the Tribune, women who wanted to post about issues with boyfriends, their lovers or even talk about alcohol would often find that their posts were not approved or that women on the group gave them religious lectures or tried to shun their behavior. And these complaints have been public since 2016, making it clear that a lot of women have the same concerns in 2019 as well.
When we reached out to Bissmah, who started the entire conversation, she had a possible solution in mind:
“When selecting moderators, you should pick women from diverse backgrounds, even if they represent 5% of the population. Just because someone is a minority of any kind doesn’t mean they can’t have a say in general matters. We are all human and forums like SSP seem to be moderated by women of very similar views which is why when someone wants to contribute with dissenting views, either those posts aren’t approved or comments seem to mysteriously disappear.”
She went on to add, “As for their claim that they don’t want to discuss religion on the group, I feel that’s one main aspect through which women’s lives are controlled in Pakistan and it ABSOLUTELY needs to be discussed so women are more aware of when religion is being conveniently used by those around them to oppress them or manipulate them.”
And honestly, these suggestions make sense and hopefully will be heeded.
What do you think about women calling Soul Sisters Pakistan too regressive? Let us know in the comments below.
Cover Image Source: naturalingredients-asia.com/@bissmahmehmud via Twitter.com